Rebel, patriot and politician Samuel Adams helped organize protests against the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Tea Act of 1773 and developed a base of resistance that would eventually lead to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Samuel Adams’ Early Days
Born in Boston on Sept. 27, 1722, Samuel Adams attended Boston Latin School and added his name to the school’s list of distinguished alumni. By age 14, Adams was enrolled at Harvard College, where he was greatly influenced by British philosopher John Locke’s writing on people’s “natural rights to life liberty and property.” Upon graduating in 1740, Adams attempted several unsuccessful ventures, including working in his father’s brewery.
In 1756, Adams was appointed to his first public office, tax collector. Although the nature of his job might have made him a likely British collaborator, Adams actually used his legal knowledge and growing network of important friends to develop a base for a political career in the Boston community.
Adams’ Notable Accomplishments
Samuel Adams’s skills as an organizer first became apparent in 1764, when Adams publicly opposed the Sugar Act. The Stamp Act, passed by British Parliament in the following year, inspired Adams to form the Sons of Liberty; their intense protests eventually led to the Stamp Act’s repeal. However, the British government continued to impose heavy taxes on the American colonies, and growing local resentment eventually led to the Boston Massacre. This catalyzing event gave Adams the confidence to publicly encourage unified resistance against the British.
In 1773, the increased tea taxes defined by the Tea Act brought colonial rage to a boiling point. That November, Adams gave the go-ahead to a group of some 50 organized men who raided the British merchant ship the Dartmouth, dumping the ship’s tea cargo into Boston Harbor. Actions similar to the Boston Tea Party were later carried out in other colonial port cities.
Adams left his position on the Massachusetts General Court (1765–1775) to become a member of the Continental Congress, where he would serve until 1781 as a representative in the 13 Colonies’ first unified government. Samuel and his cousin, John Adams, were among the first members of the Congress to call for total colonial independence.
Under his friend and colleague John Hancock, Adams served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (1789–1793), before he got his own chance to govern the state, which he did until 1797.
The Rest of the Story
Samuel Adams retired from political life in 1797 and lived out the remainder of his life in Boston, where he died on Oct. 2, 1803.
Adams once wrote, “Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.” Living by these principles earned him the nickname “The Father of the American Revolution.” His name is immortalized in American history as one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.