Samuel Adams is one of the most significant figures of the Revolutionary Era, and of American history as a whole. He was a staunch defender of his country, and of its citizens’ rights. It was through his labor that the thirteen British colonies of America were able to cooperate and gain independence as the United States. This writeup will explore Adams’s development as a leader, and his subsequent achievements.

Samuel Adams was born on September 27, 1722, into a wealthy and influential Boston family. During his school years, he excelled at rhetoric and other English studies, and was greatly influenced by the democratic ideas of philosopher John Locke, particularly Locke’s theory that citizens, if neglected or mistreated by their government, have the right and responsibility to rebel against their government. This concept, as well as the theme of liberty and support of the common man, became the basis of Adams’s beliefs and behavior in subsequent years.

After he completed his schooling, he found that he had no interest in any particular profession. His most compelling interest was, and would always be, politics; unfortunately, as he had no interest in law or business, this obsession had little practical value in his youth. His disinterest in anything other than politics made his financial standing remain tenuous throughout his life, but he persevered, often with aid from friends and family.

Throughout his career, even from the early stages, several fundamental facets of Samuel Adams remained constant. Firstly, Adams’s natural element was clearly politics. Day in and day out, he devoted his energy and thought to politics alone, often neglecting even his own health to concentrate on his favored subject. Secondly, Adams was a consummate propagandist. His words captured the imaginations of readers, compelling them to action. Given little with which to work, he used his skill to create emotional and influential essays and statements. Thirdly, Adams was zealous in his pursuit, and possessed seemingly limitless energy for the majority of his life. This enabled him to create an incredible amount of propaganda, credited to innumerable pseudonyms, pertaining to whatever issues currently concerned him. Fourthly, he and the British administration despised one another, and each often worked to make the other miserable. However, due to the previous facets, Adams had a clear advantage, able to use principle to attract a respectable number of colonists to his manner of thought.

The first British products that Adams attacked were a series of acts that damaged the inhabitants of the colonies and infringed their rights, as Adams eloquently accused in his propaganda. These included the Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Townshend Acts, and Tea Act. The Stamp Act was particularly caustic to the colonists, as it was direct and blatant taxation not applied to British citizens still in Britain. Adams was sure to harp on the injustice of the act, even going so far as to say that Britain had broken the charter with the act, and colonists could act accordingly. This is an classic example of his methods in setting the stage for American independence.

The Tea Act, passed to save the ailing East India Company, was actually beneficial to the colonists, offering reduced overall rates. However, Adams – who had by now created the independent-minded, secretive Sons of Liberty organization – argued that the act was injust, due to principle rather than practicality, and proceeded to rile colonists into a state of outrage at the act. On December 16, 1773, came the Boston Tea Party, the event for the responsibility of which Samuel Adams is best remembered. A group of colonists dressed as Indian braves emptied the entire tea cargo of a ship into the harbor. With this legendary event, Samuel Adams made a large step toward the completion of his ultimate goal.

Adams was always completely sure that, unless liberty was restored and maintained, independence would be necessary. Closer to the time of the Revolutionary War, Adams was definite that independence was required and unavoidable, and nothing could possibly change that fact. As such, he wanted to prepare the home so precious to him for war with Britain. He began by having each of the towns of Massachusetts prepare private militia. Later, at the Continental Congress, he and General Washington planned for the defense of the nation.

Adams’s assumptions of necessities were correct. As tensions constantly increased, due mainly to the flow of propaganda from Adams, relations between the colonies and Britain became progressively strained, and eventually caused the eruption of the Revolutionary War. During the war, Adams made every effort to attract allies, primarily courting the Indians and the French, both of whom responded sympathetically and chose to aid the Americans in their fight.

During the later portion of his life, Adams actively attempted to fade from public presence, longing for the peace and quiet of domestic life. However, his supporters refused to let him totally disappear. For all but the last years of his life, he continued to hold positions of importance, including the office of Governor of Massachusetts. He served his posts faithfully, and seemed to be rejuvenated in the later years, executing his duties with his trademark fervor. He continued to focus on the preservation of liberty, and applied it to such issues as slavery, a practice he thoroughly detested.

In the year 1790, the Constitution of the United States was ratified by the thirteen states. Vermont was not included, as it had recently achieved statehood with the support of Adams. In 1791, twelve amendments were ratified, and became integral parts of the Constitution. The first ten of these amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. The idea of the Bill, conceived simultaneously by Adams, Patrick Henry, and others, was constructed in order to make the entirety of the Constitution acceptable to all Americans.

With the introduction of the Constitution and Bill of Rights into law to guide Americans and their leaders, the primary objectives of Samuel Adams had been achieved. The colonies had become the United States of America, an independent nation from Great Britain. The freedom of the former colonists had been assured, as well as the rights the colonists had deserved as British citizens, but had been denied due to Britain’s policy of mercantilism with the colonies. The sacred cause of Adams had been achieved.

The opening years of the 19th century saw the energetic Adams finally begin to falter. As his body became feeble, his mind remained as sharp and active as ever. A year before his death, Adams, the “Last of the Puritans,” responded to an anti-religion article by Thomas Paine, defending the concept of organized religion with his famed skill. Only within a month of his death did his mind begin to falter, though he remained lucid at times. On October 2, 1803, at the age of 81, Samuel Adams died peacefully. He had requested a quiet funeral, but the entire nation paid respects to the man who was a legend of their time.


The legacy of Samuel Adams is a substantial one indeed: the independent status of the United States of America. Through great difficulty and hardship, the thirteen colonies of America were eventually able to break free from the overbearing mother country, Great Britain. However, Americans may not have been motivated to rise up from their subservient position, had it not been for Adams. As the driving force behind the Revolution, his relentless efforts assured the rights of American citizens through the ages. Those who take a close look into the life and obsession of Samuel Adams find that the Grand Incendiary was a dynamo, and devoted his entire life to the realization of his dream of independence for his country.


Source used: The Grand Incendiary, Paul Lewis, 1973.

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