Samuel Adams

 

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Samuel Adams

Adams, SAMUEL, American patriot; was born in Boston on September 27, 1722; he graduated from Harvard College in 1742, and was honored with the degree of LL.D. in 1792. The tendency of his mind was shown when, at the age of twenty-one, receiving the degree of A.M., he proposed, and took the affirmative on, the question "Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved?" He published a pamphlet at about the same time entitled Englishmen's Rights. He became an unsuccessful merchant, but a successful writer; and gained great popularity by his political essays against the administration of Governor Shirley. Stern in morals, a born republican, and with courage equal to his convictions, Samuel Adams was a natural leader of the opposers of the Stamp Act and kindred measures of Parliament, and from that period (1765) until the independence of the colonies was achieved he was a foremost leader of the American Patriots. He suggested the Stamp Act Congress, and was a continual object of dread and hatred to the colonial governors. He proposed the first Committee of Correspondence in Massachusetts in 1772; and, when General Gage besought him to make his peace with the King, he replied, " I trust I have made my peace with the King of kings. No personal considerations shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country "

In 1774 he was the chief in maturing the plan for a Continental Congress; was a member of it; and served in that body most efficiently from that time until 1781.

As early as 1769 Mr. Adams advocated the independence of the colonies, and was one of the warmest supporters of it in the Congress. When debating on the Declaration of Independence, Adams said: "I should advise persisting in our struggle for liberty though it were revealed from heaven that 999 were to perish, and one of 1,000 were to survive and retain his liberty. One such freeman must possess more virtue, and enjoy more happiness, than 1,000 slaves; and let him propagate his like, and transmit to them what he has so nobly preserved."

Mr. Adams assisted in drafting the State constitution of Massachusetts (1779), was president of his State Senate (1781), member of his State Convention that ratified the national Constitution, lieutenant-governor (1789-94), and governor (1794-97). He sympathized with the French Revolutionists, and was a Jeffersonian Democrat in politics in his latter days. The purity of his life and his inflexible integrity were attested by friends and foes. Hutchinson, in a letter to his government, said he was of "such an obstinate and inflexible disposition that no gift nor office would ever conciliate him." His piety was sincere, and he was a thoroughbred Puritan. Without fortune, without a profession, he depended on moderate salaries and emoluments of office; and for almost fifty years a daily maintenance, frugal in the extreme, was eked out by the industry and prudence of his second wife, whom he married in 1757. He died in Boston, October 2, 1803.

Paul Revere's Midnight Ride to Warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock

Samuel Adams and John Hancock were regarded as arch-rebels by General Gage, and he resolved to arrest them and send them to England to be tried for treason. A key part of his scheme, in sending out the expedition to Lexington and Concord (April 18-19, 1775), was the seizure of these patriots, who, members of the Provincial Congress, had tarried at Lexington on being informed of Gage's intention to arrest them on their return to Boston. They were at the house of Rev. Jonas Clarke, and Gage thought to surprise and capture them at midnight. The vigilant Warren, learning the secret of the expedition, sent Paul Revere to warn the patriots of their danger. Revere waited at Charlestown for a signal-light from the sexton of the North Church, to warn him of the forward movement of the troops. It was given, and on Deacon Larkin's swift horse Revere sped to Lexington.

Paul Revere

At a little past midnight he rode up to Clarke's house, which he found guarded by Sergeant Monroe and his men. In hurried words he asked for Hancock. "The family have retired," said the sergeant, " and I am directed not to allow them to be disturbed by any noise." "Noise!" exclaimed Revere; "you'll have noise enough before long; the regulars are coming out!" He was then allowed to knock at the door. Mr. Clarke appeared at a window, when Revere said, "I wish to see Mr. Hancock." "I do not like to admit strangers into my house so late at night," answered Mr. Clarke. Hancock, who was not asleep, recognized Revere's voice, and called out, "Come in, Revere, we are not afraid of you." The warning was given; the whole household was soon astir, and the two patriots awaited the coming of the enemy. When they approached, the "arch-rebels" were persuaded to retire to a more secure retreat, followed by Dorothy Quincy, to whom Hancock was affianced (and whom he married in September following), who was on a visit at Mr. Clarke's. When Adams, from a wooded hill near Clarke's house, saw the beginning of the skirmish at Lexington, he exclaimed, with prophetic prescience, " What a glorious morning for America is this!"

In a proclamation (June 12) in which he denounced those in arms and their abettors to be "rebels and parricides of the Constitution," and offered a free pardon to all who should forthwith return to their allegiance, General Gage excepted Adams and Hancock, who were outlawed, and for whom he offered a reward as " arch-traitors." Immediately after  the " Boston Massacre" a monster meeting of citizens of Boston was held in the Old South Meeting-house, and appointed a committee, consisting of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, William Molineaux, William Phillips, Joseph Warren, Joshua Henshaw, and Samuel Pemberton, to call on Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson and demand the removal of the British troops from Boston, by presenting resolutions to that effect adopted by the meeting. Adams submitted the resolutions. The lieutenant-governor and Colonel Dalrymple were disposed to temporize. Hutchinson said he had no power to remove all the troops. Adams proved that he had, by the terms of the charter. Still the crown officers hesitated. Adams resolved that there should be no more trifling with the will of the people. Stretching forth his hand towards Hutchinson, and in a voice not loud but clear, he said: " If you have power to remove one regiment, you have power to remove both. It is at your peril if you do not. The meeting is composed of 3,000 people. They are become very impatient. A thousand men are already arrived from the neighborhood, and the country is in general motion. Night is approaching; an immediate answer is expected." This was the voice of the province—of the continent. Hutchinson grew pale; his knees trembled; and Adams afterwards said, " I enjoyed the sight." After conferring together in a whisper. Hutchinson and Dalrymple promised to send all the troops to Castle William, in Boston Harbor.

Samuel Adams Refuses to be Bribed

Mr. Adams was early marked as an inflexible patriot and most earnest promoter of the cause of freedom. When Governor Gage sought to bribe him to desist from his opposition to the acts of Parliament concerning taxation in America, he sent Colonel Fenton on this errand. The latter said to Adams that he was authorized by Gage to assure him that he (the governor) had been empowered to confer upon him such benefits as would be satisfactory, upon the condition that he would engage to cease his opposition to the measures of government. He also observed that it was the advice of Governor Gage to him not to incur the further displeasure of his Majesty; that his conduct had been such as made him liable to the penalties of the Act of Henry VIII., by which persons could be sent to England for trial for treason, at the discretion of the governor of a province; but by changing his political course he would not only receive great personal advantages, but would thereby make his peace with his King. Adams listened attentively, and at the conclusion of the colonel's remarks he asked him if he would deliver a reply exactly as it should be given. He assented, when Adams, rising from his chair and assuming a determined manner, said, after repeating the historical words already quoted, "No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell Governor Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."

Samuel Adam's Protest against Taxation.

—On May 24, 1764, Samuel Adams addressed the following protest to Royal Tyler, James Otis, Thomas Cushing, and Oxenbridge Thacher:

Gentlemen,—Your being chosen by the freeholders and inhabitants of the town of Boston to represent them in the General Assembly the ensuing year affords you the strongest testimony of that confidence which they place in your integrity and capacity. By this choice they have delegated to you the power of acting in their public concerns in general as your own prudence shall direct you, always reserving to themselves the constitutional right of expressing their mind and giving you such instructions upon particular matters as they at any time shall judge proper.

We therefore, your constituents, take this opportunity to declare our just expectations from you, that you will constantly use your power and influence in maintaining the valuable rights and privileges of the province, of which this town is so great a part, as well those rights which are derived to us by the royal charter as those which, being prior to and independent of it, we hold essentially as free-born subjects of Great Britain.

That you will endeavor, as far as you shall be able, to preserve that independence in the House of Representatives which characterizes a free people, and the want of which may in a great measure prevent the happy efforts of a free government, cultivating as you shall have opportunity that harmony and union there which is ever desirable to good men, which is founded on principles of virtue and public spirit, and guarding against any undue weight which may tend to disadjust that critical balance upon which our Constitution and the blessings of it do depend. And for this purpose we particularly recommend it to you to use your endeavors to have a law passed whereby the seats of such gentlemen as shall accept of posts of profit from the crown or the governor, while they are members of the House, shall be vacated agreeably to an act of the British Parliament, till their constituents shall have the opportunity of re-electing them, if they please, or of returning others in their room.

Being members of the legislative body, you will have a special regard to the morals of this people, which are the basis of public happiness, and endeavor to have such laws made, if any are still wanting, as shall be best adapted to secure them ; and we particularly desire you carefully to look into the laws of excise, that if the virtue of the people is endangered by the multiplicity of oaths therein enjoined, or their trade and business is unreasonably impeded or embarrassed thereby, the grievance may be redressed.

As the preservation of morals, as well as of property and right, so much depends upon the impartial distribution of justice, agreeable to good and wholesome law; and as the judges of the land do depend upon the free grants of the General Assembly for support, it is incumbent upon you at all times to give your voice for their honorable maintenance, so long as they, having in their minds an indifference to all other affairs, shall devote themselves wholly to the duties of their own department and the further study of the law, by which their customs, precedents, proceedings, and determinations are adjusted and limited.

You will remember that this province hath been at a very great expense in carrying on the war, and that it still lies under a very grievous burden of debt; you will therefore use your utmost endeavor to promote public frugality as one means to lessen the public debt.

You will join in any proposals which may be made for the better cultivating the lands and improving the husbandry of the province; and as you represent a town which lives by its trade, we expect in a very particular manner, though you make it the object of your attention to support our commerce in all its just rights, to vindicate it from all unreasonable impositions and promote its prosperity. Our trade has for a long time labored under great dicouragements, and it is with the deepest concern that we see such further difficulties coming upon it as will reduce it to the low ebb, if not totally obstruct and ruin it. We cannot help expressing our surprise that when so early notice was given by the agent of the intentions of the ministry to burden us with new taxes, so little regard was had to this most interesting matter that the Court was not even called together to consult about it till the latter end of the year; the consequence of which was that instructions could not be sent to the agent, though solicited by him, till the evil had gone beyond an easy remedy.

There is no room for further delay; we therefore expect that you will use your earliest endeavors in the General Assembly that such methods may be taken as will effectually prevent these proceedings against us. By a proper representation we apprehend it may easily be made to appear that such severities will prove detrimental to Great Britain itself; upon which account we have reason to hope that an application, even for a repeal of the act, should it be already passed, will be successful. It is the trade of the colonies that renders them beneficial to the mother country; our trade, as it is now and always has been conducted, centres in Great Britain, and, in return for her manufactures, affords her more ready cash beyond any comparison than can possibly be expected by the most sanguinary promoter of these extraordinary methods. We are, in short, ultimately yielding large supplies to the revenues of the mother country, while we are laboring for a very moderate subsistence for ourselves. But if our trade is to be curtailed in its most profitable branches, and burdens beyond all possible bearing laid upon that which is suffered to remain, we shall be so far from being able to take off the manufactures of Great Britain, though it will be scarce possible for us to earn our bread.

But what still heightens our apprehensions is that these unexpected proceedings may be preparatory to new taxations upon us; for if our trade may be taxed, why not our lands? Why not the produce of our lands and everything we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our charter right to govern and tax ourselves. It strikes at our British privileges, which, as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our fellow-subjects who are natives of Britain. If taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary slaves?

We therefore earnestly recommend it to you to use your utmost endeavors to obtain in the General Assembly all necessary instruction and advice to our agent at this critical juncture; that while he is setting forth the unshaken loyalty of this province and this town—its unrivalled exertion in supporting his Majesty's government and rights in this part of his dominions—its acknowledged dependence upon and subordination to Great Britain, and the ready submission of its merchants to all just and necessary regulations of trade, he may be able in the most humble and pressing manner to remonstrate for us all those rights and privileges which justly belong to us either by charter or birth.

As his Majesty's other Northern American colonies are embarked with us in this most important bottom, we further desire you to use your endeavors that their weight may be added to that of this province, that by the united application of all who are aggrieved, all may happily obtain redress.

Samuel Adam's on the Rights of Colonists

Rights of the Colonists.—On Nov. 20, 1772, he made the following report:

AS MEN.

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First, a right to life. Second, to liberty. Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.

All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please, and
in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to and enter into another.

When men enter into society it is by voluntary consent, and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact.

Every natural right not expressly given up, or from the nature of a social compact necessarily ceded, remains.

All positive and civil laws should conform, as far as possible, to the law of natural reason and equity.

As neither reason requires nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience.

"Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty," in matters spiritual and temporal is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the laws of nations and all well-grounded and municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.

In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind. It is now generally agreed among Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical mark of the true Church. In so much that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are, excluded from such toleration are those who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live. The Roman Catholics, or Papists, are excluded by reason of such doctrines as these: That princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those that they call heretics may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion on government, by introducing, as far as possible into the states under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty, and property, that solecism in politics, imperium in imperio, leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.

The natural liberty of man by entering into society is abridged or restrained, so far only as is necessary for the great end of society—the best good of the whole.

In the state of nature every man is, under God, judge and sole judge of his own rights and of the injuries done him. By entering into society he agrees to an arbiter or indifferent judge between him and his neighbors; but he no more renounces his original right, thereby taking a cause out of the ordinary course of law, and leaving the decision to referees or in-different arbitrators. In the last case, he must pay the referee for time and trouble. He should also be willing to pay his just quota for the support of the government, the law, and the Constitution, the end of which is to furnish indifferent and impartial judges in all cases that may happen, whether civil, ecclesiastical, marine, or military.

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.

In the state of nature men may, as the patriarchs did, employ hired servants for the defense of their lives, liberties, and property, and they shall pay them reasonable wages. Government was instituted for the purpose of common defense, and those who hold the reins of government have an equitable, natural right to an honorable support from the same principle that "the laborer is worthy of his hire." But then the same community which they serve ought to be the assessors of their pay. Governors have a right to seek and take what they please; by this, instead of being content with the station assigned them, that of honorable servants of the society, they would soon become absolute masters, despots, and tyrants. Hence, as a private man has a right to say what wages he will give in his private affairs, so has a community to determine what they will give and grant of their substance for the administration of public affairs.

And in both cases more are ready to offer their service at the proposed and stipulated price than are able and willing to perform their duty.

In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or of any number of men, at the entering into society to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights, when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defense of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are life, liberty, and property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right of freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.

AS CHRISTIANS.

These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law-giver and head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.

By an act of the British Parliament commonly called the Toleration Act, every subject in England, except Papists, etc., were restored to, and re-established in, his natural right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. And by the charter of this province it is granted, ordained, and established (that is, declared as an original right) that there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God to all Christians, except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within, such province or territory. Magna Charta itself is in substance but a constrained declaration or proclamation and promulgation in the name of King, Lords, and Commons, of the sense the latter had their original, inherent, indefeasible, natural rights, as also those of free citizens equally perdurable with the other. That great author, that great jurist, and even that court writer, Mr. Justice Blackstone, holds that this recognition was justly obtained of King John, sword in hand. And peradventure it must be one day, sword in hand, again
rescued and preserved from total destruction and oblivion.

AS SUBJECTS.

A commonwealth or state is a body politic, or civil society of men united together to promote their mutual safety and prosperity by means of their union.

The absolute right of Englishmen and all freemen, in or out of civil society, are principally personal security, personal liberty, and private property.

All persons born in the British American Colonies are by the laws of God and nature, and by the common law of England, exclusive of all charters from the Crown, well entitled, and by acts of the British Parliament are declared to be entitled, to all the natural, essential, inherent, and inseparable rights, liberties, and privileges of subjects born in Great Britain or within the realm. Among these rights are the following, which no man, or body of men, consistently with their own rights as men and citizens, or members of society, can for themselves give up or take away from others:

First. The first fundamental positive law of all commonwealths or states is the establishing the legislative power. As the first fundamental natural law, also, which is to govern even the legislative power itself is the preservation of the society.

Secondly. The legislative has no right to absolute arbitrary power over the lives and fortunes of the people; nor can mortals assume a prerogative not only too high for men, but for angels, and there-fore reserved for the Deity alone.

The legislative cannot justly assume to itself a power to rule by extempore arbitrary decrees; but it is bound to see that justice is dispensed, and that the rights of the subjects be decided by promulgated standing, and known laws, and authorized independent judges; that is, independent. as far as possible, of prince and people. There should be one rule of justice for rich and poor, for the favorite at court, and the countryman at the plough.

Thirdly. The supreme power cannot justly take from any man any part of his property without his consent in person or by his representative.

These are some of the first principles of natural law and justice, and the great barriers of all free states, and of the British constitution in particular. It is utterly irreconcilable to these principles, and to any other fundamental maxims of the common law, common-sense, and reason, that a British House of Commons should have a right at pleasure to give and grant the property of the colonists. (That the colonists are well entitled to all the essential rights, liberties, and privileges of men and freemen born in Britain is manifest not only from the colony charters in general, but acts of the British Parliament.) The statute of the 13th of Geo. H., c. 7, naturalizes every foreigner after seven years' residence. The words of the Massachusetts charter are these: " And further, our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby, for us, our heirs and successors, grant, establish, and ordain that all and every of the subjects of us, our heirs and successors, which shall go to and inhabit within our said Province or Territory, and every of their children which shall happen to be born there or on the seas in going thither or returning from thence, shall have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects within any of the dominions of us, our heirs and successors, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever, as if they and every one of them were born within this, our realm of England."

Now what liberty can there be where property is taken away without consent? Can it be said with any color of truth and justice that this continent of 3,000 miles in length, and of a breadth as yet unexplored, in which, however, it is supposed there are 5,000,000 of people, has the least voice, vote, or influence in the British Parliament? Have they altogether any more weight or power to return a single member to that House of Commons who have not inadvertently, but deliberately, assumed a power to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties, than to choose an emperor of China? Had the colonists a right to return members to the British Parliament, it would only be hurtful, as, from their local situation and circumstances it is impossible they should ever be truly and properly represented there. The inhabitants of this country, in all probability, in a few years, will be more numerous than those of Great Britain and Ireland together; yet it is absurdly expected by the promoters of the present measure that these, with their posterity to all generations, should be easy while their property shall be disposed of by a House of Commons at 3,000 miles distant from them, and who cannot be supposed to have the least care or concern for their real interest, but must be in effect bribed against it, as every burden they lay on the colonists is so much saved or gained to themselves. Hitherto many of the colonists have been free from quit rents; but if the breath of a British House of Commons can originate an act for taking away all our money, our lands will go next, or be subject to rack rents from haughty and relentless landlords, who will ride at ease while we are trodden in the dirt. The colonists have been branded with the odious names of traitors and rebels only for complaining of their grievances. How long such treatment will or ought to be borne is submitted.

 

 

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