No, Sam Adams wasn’t John Adams’ brother…
By Tom Morrow
When today’s younger generations hear or read the name “Samuel Adams,” they probably think of a popular beer, but being a Brewmeister was only a small part of this American patriot’s life.
Born in Boston on Sept. 16, 1722, Sam Adams was a statesman, political philosopher, and one of the American Founding Fathers. He was a politician in colonial Massachusetts, a revolutionary leader and one of the architects of American republicanism. Much of his thought and leadership shaped the political culture of America. No, he wasn’t John Adams’ brother. He was a “second cousin” to his fellow Founding Father and future president John Adams.
Sam Adams was a graduate of Harvard College and was an unsuccessful businessman, brewmeister, and tax collector before concentrating on revolutionary politics. In 1760, he was an influential official of the Massachusetts Colonial House of Representatives. In 1765, a decade before the war, the British Parliament passed the “Stamp Act,” which required colonists to pay a new tax on most printed materials. News of the heavy tax produced an uproar in the colonies.
Then in 1773, the so-called “Boston Tea Party” took place, which was a protest of a heavy tax on tea. The English could buy smuggled Dutch tea more cheaply than their own East India Company’s product because of the heavy taxes imposed on tea imported into Great Britain. The company amassed a huge surplus of tea that it could not sell, hence a heavy tax was placed on all tea throughout the British Empire. A group of irate colonists dressed as Indians tossed the cargo of tea from three British ships into Boston Harbor. Reportedly, it was Sam Adams who gave the signal for the “Indians” to go into action dumping 342 chests of tea from the three ships worth a total of 18,000 British pounds.
Adams helped guide Congress towards issuing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He helped draft the Articles of Confederation. After the Revolutionary War he was elected Massachusetts governor.
Adams has been portrayed as a master of propaganda who provoked mob violence to achieve his goals. Some modern scholars argue that these traditional depictions of Adams are myths contradicted by the historical record.
When compared with his cousin, John Adams, the two were totally different in their approach to the American Revolution. Sam was a firebrand for rebellion, being a master of propaganda who could manipulate mobs into doing his bidding; John was an attorney who was quite passionate in his beliefs for American independence, but instead of violence, he relied on Congressional persuasion and oratory. Albeit, John was a strong advocate of the war once the fighting began.
After the Revolutionary War, Adams joined others, including Thomas Jefferson, in denouncing the “Society of the Cincinnati,” an organization of former Continental army officers. Adams worried the Society was “a stride towards an hereditary military nobility,” and thus a threat to the Republic.
Whig Party historians challenged the “Tory interpretation” of Adams. William Gordon and Mercy Otis Warren, two historians who knew Adams, wrote of him as a man selflessly dedicated to the American Revolution. Interest in Sam Adams was revived in the mid-19th century. Historian George Bancroft portrayed him favorably in his monumental “History of the United States,” (1852). The first full biography of Adams appeared in 1865, a three-volume work written by William Wells, his great-grandson.
Sam Adams has been mistakenly portrayed as more of a firebrand than he actually was. Some historians have created a myth that Sam Adams was the Boston dictator who almost single-handedly led his colony into rebellion.”
By mid-20th century, scholars were increasingly rejecting the notion that Adams and others used “propaganda” to incite “ignorant mobs,” and were instead portraying a revolutionary Massachusetts too complex to have been controlled by one man. One historian argued that Adams, far from being a radical mob leader, took a moderate position based on the English revolutionary tradition that imposed strict constraints on resistance to authority. That belief justified force only against threats to the constitutional rights so grave that the “body of the people” recognized the danger, and only after all peaceful means of redress had failed.
In recent years, Samuel Adams’s name has been appropriated by commercial and non-profit ventures. So popular is the name Samuel Adams that few people under the age of 40 know how important he was to what is now known as “The United States of America.”
In 1985, the Boston Beer Company created Samuel Adams Boston Lager, drawing upon colonial history that Adams had been a brewer, albeit not a very successful one. His name has become a popular award-winning brand.
Sam Adams died Oct. 2, 1803, some 23 years before his cousin, John Adams.
SCAG SEZ: It seems that to become a big gun in business, you shouldn’t be fired.” – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features
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