Biography of Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

Samuel Adams.

American politician, born in Boston (Massachusetts) September 27, 1722 and died in his hometown of October 2, 1803. Leader of the independence movement against British colonial rule and one of the main architects of the independence of the American colonies.


He belonged to a wealthy family of Boston, among whose members was John Adams, second cousin to Samuel, who would become the second President of the United States. He/She studied at Harvard College (later University of Harvard) and in 1743 earned a doctorate in law with a thesis on the principle, drawn from Roman law, resistance to the Supreme authority of the State if it acted against the unity and the interests of the nation. After completing his studies embarked on various business projects, with no success, to finally tip over into political activity, which felt an early inclination at the time who was in charge of directing brewery which owned his father. After his death in 1748, Samuel inherited a capital burdened by huge debts, which only allowed him to keep modestly to his family. A year earlier he/she had begun to play offices of little relevance in the Council of Boston. In 1756, making gala again his little nose for business, Adams presented his candidature as landlord of city taxes. In an era of political and economic crisis, it was unable to meet the fiscal quota established, accumulated a deficit of eight thousand dollars, who would subsequently serve his political enemies accuse him of embezzlement.

During the following years, the deterioration of relations between the American colonies and Great Britain produced a profound change in the political conceptions of Adams. It was one of the first politicians in Massachusetts in defending an attitude of toughness against the governmental and tax claims of the metropolis, that made him the principal collaborator of James Otis, leader of the radical or Patriot Party in the province. From 1763, successive British Governments tried to assert its control over domestic politics and trade in the colonies with a series of measures aimed at increasing the economic benefits that the Empire obtained from their colonies across the Atlantic and which caused a growing discontent among the population and the American ruling classes. These measures include hardening of monopolies that weighed on colonial trade, the de-linking of the officers of the colonial administration of the bodies of the provinces, as well as the strengthening of the British military presence in them.

Since his studies about natural law, Adams had developed a mature legal and political thought, which applied with boldness to the conflicting relations between the colony and its metropolis. Their thoughts, expressed in pamphlets and newspaper articles, caused a great commotion in the moderate political means of Boston and put him in charge of colonial opposition to the interference of London in the provincial government. It was chosen to draft the resolutions of the representatives of Boston at the General Assembly of the colonies, which may 24, 1764, firmly rejected the law of sugar and molasses, by which the British Parliament sought to impose a series of very unfavorable to American producers and traders tax. In September 1765 this Parliament declared unconstitutional the law of the Timbre (Stamp Act), which Adams had denounced vehemently before the camera with the argument, neatly used since then, the inability of the Parliament to establish tax rates without having the representativeness of the American population. The rejection of the law of the ring followed a series of popular riots that Adams was one of the instigators in the shade.

September 27, 1765, he/she was elected Deputy by Boston to the Massachusetts House of representatives. In it he/she showed Adams his skills as orator and political agitator. Under his leadership, the camera soon became legitimate spokesman for the aspirations of the colonies against the authoritarian politics of London. He/She was responsible for drafting the collective response of the Assembly to the discourse of the British Governor Bernard, and October 29, 1765, filed with this fourteen resolutions in which defined "fair rights of the subjects of his Majesty in this province". This document contained the core of the political thought of Adams: 1) the incorporation into the British Constitution of a declaration of the natural rights of the individual; 2.) the recognition of equal rights for the North American colonists; 3 °) the exclusivity of competence of the representative bodies of the provinces in terms of tax legislation; 4 th) the impossibility that the interests of the colonies were adequately represented in the Westminster Parliament according to the model of representation until then admitted; and (5) the exclusive right of elected bodies to represent the political will of these colonies. In the hard controversy that followed the presentation of its nineteen resolutions, Adams advocated goal immediately, to extend the legislative competence of the provincial assemblies until a total autonomy in tax question, but maintaining the recognition of the British Crown as top link of the imperial union.

In 1766, to renew its mandate in the House of representatives, Adams was appointed Secretary of the same, taking care since the drafting of reports, manifestos, and requests that the Assembly rose to the Governor and to the Crown. Their written officers, which was widely disseminated, exercised a great influence on the political mood of the province. In 1767 was a new crisis, adopting the Westminster Parliament Townshend laws on imports of sugar, tea and other products, which were received with indignation in the colonies. The Patriots, led by Adams and Otis, in Massachusetts conducted a systematic campaign of opposition to new taxes and decreed, with the support of retailers from across the country, a closed boycott of imports of such products from Great Britain.

The 11 February 1768, the Massachusetts House of representatives approved a circular letter, drafted entirely by Adams, which urged the rest of the provincial assemblies to unite in a common front against the London Government. He/She replied by sending to Massachusetts, in September of that year, two regiments of regular, whose entry in the province did not but increasing opposition from settlers. A few months later, Adams took over the leadership of the radical Liberals in the province and, during the next year and a half, headed the political protests against the presence of British troops and participated in the Organization of the ongoing popular demonstrations demanding their withdrawal. The clashes culminated in the so-called "Boston massacre" of on March 5, 1770, when British soldiers caused five deaths among a group of protesters. Soon after, the forced withdrawal of the British troops and the repeal of most of Townshend (except that taxed tea) rates temporarily calmed the situation in the province.

From these years, Adams's political thought was drifting towards more radical positions. In date as early as 1774, if not before, he/she publicly advocated independence as the goal to be followed by the American Patriots. During the period of peace which followed the repeal of the laws of Townshend (1771-1772), Adams was the only political leader to maintain a posture of systematic criticism of the policy of Great Britain, arguing that this had not abandoned their claims and varied substantially its relations with the outlying provinces. In his journalistic writings, attacked unambiguously to officials, judges and other colonial authorities, earning the enmity of conservative gov. Thomas Hutchinson, who accused him of trying to break by all means the loyalty of the province with respect to the Crown. In addition to a bold polemicist, Adams was a superb Organizer, and participated in the creation of numerous committees and committees of opposition to British politics. These committees would later become effective instruments of agitation and organization against the British. They include the Foundation in 1772 of the Boston Committee of correspondence, responsible for the coordination of actions with the rest of the province and of the colonies and which, during the war of independence, would play a decisive role in the Organization of the resistance of Massachusetts.

When, in 1773, the Government presided over by lord Frederick North awarded to the British East India Company the effective monopoly of the trade of tea with the American colonies Tea Act (), Adams worsened their dialectical attacks against the Crown. The tension culminated in the so-called "party of the tea" Boston, of December 16, 1773, when the crowd protesting against the new impositions threw into the waters of the port cargo of tea from British ships. Although Adams was not personally present at these events, it was undoubtedly one of its main instigators. The British Government responded with the adoption of a series of measures, known as coercive laws, causing widespread insurrection of the city and the expulsion of colonial authorities in Boston during the summer of 1774. The power vacuum was occupied since then by the committees of correspondence, which organized a real revolutionary Government. During the final session of the provincial Assembly of Massachusetts, which was held in Salem on June 17, 1774, Adams prevented the reading of the message of dissolution from Governor Thomas Gage until the Assembly had adopted resolutions that both representatives of the province for the meeting of the first Continental Congress, which was held in Philadelphia.

Elected member of the Congress for Massachusetts, Adams defended the need to undertake radical measures against Great Britain. The first Congress Provincial of Massachusetts, which Adams presented a proposal to organize the Defense armed of the province against an eventual war reaction of the Crown was held in Salem in October 1774. In April 1775, he/she was appointed to represent Massachusetts in the second Continental Congress. Shortly thereafter, Governor Gage sent a detachment of troops to reduce the settlers who had rebelled in the city of Concord. On their way, British troops passed next to the farm of Lexington where refugees Adams and his John Hancock coreligionist were. In principle, was thought to be the purpose of Gage stop both pro-independence leaders, but the British troops left behind Lexington without stopping. Days later, however, Gage made an offer of forgiveness to the rebels, which did not include Adams and Hancock.

Pursued by the British authorities, Adams got however exercise its political activity in the Continental Congress until its dissolution in 1781. Both he/she and his cousin John Adams were the first to propose to the Assembly the breaking of all ties with Britain and, on July 4, 1776, voted in favor of independence. During these years his charisma was overshadowed by the presence at the intercolonial meeting other leaders as bright and bold as it. Their political influence would decline rapidly, due to its rigid opposition against attempts to create a strong Government of intercolonial, which hampered an effective mobilization of the military resources of the colonies during the critical time of the war of independence.

Upon his return to Massachusetts in 1781, Adams had great difficulties to recover their public position, obscured by the success of his old protégé, Hancock. He/She joined the State Senate and, in 1779-1780, took part in the Commission that drafted the Constitution of Massachusetts. In 1788 he/she was a member of the State Convention that ratified the Federal Constitution of the United States. In principle, Adams opposed the ratification, because of their fear that the Magna Carta handed over powers to federal agencies, but finally abandoned its opposition to committing the federalists to support a series of constitutional amendments which matizarían the content of the text, including, by inspiration of Adams, a full Bill of rights. Once the major parties reached national projection, setting up the American two-party system, Adams joined the ranks of Democrats Republicans, predecessors of the Democratic Party. In 1789 he/she was appointed Lieutenant Governor by Hancock, where he/she served until 1793, when the death of that allowed him access to the post of Governor, at the advanced age of 71 years. After four years in office he/she retired from public life, plagued by health problems. He/She died at the age of 79.


BEACH, S. Samuel Adams: The Fateful Years, 1764-1776. 1965.

MILLER, J. C. Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda. 1936.