Samuel Adams

“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.”

“He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country. There is seldom an instance of a man guilty of betraying his country, who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections.”

“We cannot make events. Our business is wisely to improve them.”

“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.”

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”

“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

“Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”

“Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.”

“It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”

Born as the son of a church deacon in 1722, Samuel Adams understood from a young age the authority private citizens could hold over politics once properly mobilized. His second cousin and future President John Adams were often referred to as the Adams' brothers, or simply as the Adams'. Adams' father, also named Samuel, frequently used his position as preacher to organize large numbers of associates into groups to lobby local Boston politicians and officials on specific issues, with young Sam frequently accompanying him. Adams entered Harvard at the age of fourteen, ostensibly to study theology and later take up his father's career, but life in college also exposed him to the ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke, who held that certain rights and liberties were inherent to humanity, and that government should reflect that truth. 

Following college, he began the study of law, but soon gave in to family pressures and took a position as a clerk in the counting house of Thomas Cushing, one of the colony's leading merchants. Adams was not a success in business and worked for Cushing only a short time before beginning his own short-lived venture. Despite his lack of success at business (failing as a brewer and tax collector and wasting an inheritance), Adams displayed true genius in politics.

Adams was prominent in organizing protests over the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765). His continued outspoken criticism of English policies did much to foment public unrest, which erupted into violence in the Boston Massacre in 1770. Adams worked with "committees of correspondence," which exchanged ideas with dissidents in other colonies for opposing British programs.

Adams' real first foray of active resistance came in 1773, when Parliament passed the Tea Act, allowing the British East India company to sell tea from China in American colonies without paying taxes apart from those imposed by the Townshend Acts. Samuel Adams played a prominent role of planning and executing the famous Boston Tea Party, when American Patriots, some disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company.

The Boston Tea Party fueled the tension that had already begun between Britain and the colonies and what ultimately led to the Revolutionary War. As a delegate to the Continental Congress, Adams acted as both a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as a framer of the Articles of Confederation, the governing laws of America before the Constitution. After the war, Adams went home to Boston and again flirted between business, writing and politics as a career. After serving as Lieutenant, then Acting Governor for John Hancock, Adams was elected 4th Governor of Massachusetts in 1794. Though elected for four years, he decided to retire early in '97 on account of his health, which also caused the end of his writing career. Samuel Adams passed away in 1803 and remains to this day in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.