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Samuel Adams – America’s First Politician – Lesson


Portrait of Samuel Adams (Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

The man who inspired an American Revolution.

Many people do not realize that Samuel Adams, while not one of the country’s first presidents, is still a Founding Father. He may not be the most famous member of the Adams family, but some believe that without his strong opposition to England’s control over the colonies and his powerful belief in freedom, there wouldn’t have been an American Revolution at all.

Born September 27, 1722, Adams is considered America’s first politician. He was a native of Boston, which became a center of revolutionary thought. In 1774, a Bostonian wrote from London, saying, “The character of your Mr. Samuel Adams runs very high here. I find many who consider him the first politician in the world.”

Mr. Adams was a great politician, but not so great when it came to business. For example, when he worked as a tax collector, he didn’t keep accurate accounts. He tried many businesses but ended up bankrupt. However, he excelled as a fighter for America’s independence and became considered “the man of the Revolution,” as Thomas Jefferson described.

Samuel Adams – “Truly the Man of the Revolution”

So, what did Adams do to become such as important part of America’s independence? It all began when he attended Harvard College and started reading the works of John Locke. A philosopher in the Enlightenment, Locke stressed that all people should have certain rights and that governments should not exist without the people’s consent. Inspired, Adams started publishing articles urging Bostonians to protect their freedom. He also joined the Loyal Nine, a group of activists. This group later became the organization known as the Sons of Liberty.

Adams’ publications became much more popular when the British tried to impose a series of taxes in America. He argued that this violated the colonists’ rights since they were being taxed without having someone in the British Parliament to represent their needs. The 1765 Stamp Act was one tax that he resisted, saying it was an attempt “to destroy the liberties of America with one blow.”


British loyalist captured and humiliated, being feathered by a group of Sons of Liberty. Engraving by Vernier. (Photo by: Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

While Adams served as an official in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, this was not where his true strength lay. Instead, it was his intensity, outspokenness, and commitment to the colonists during town hall meetings where he really made a difference. He was adamant, encouraging people to fight back against British rule, while continuing to write articles insulting the Crown and even asking Bostonians to boycott any goods coming from England.

During one town meeting, Adams demanded that British troops be removed from Boston. This happened after British soldiers killed five colonists when they fired into a mob. He was able to secure that removal and boost his reputation.

The Revolution Begins

In 1773, British Parliament passed the Tea Act, which tried to force the colonists to purchase their tea from only one source: the British East India Company. The law also taxed the colonists who bought the tea, while reducing the Company’s tax bills. Many Americans were upset with this, and Samuel Adams organized the people to try and stop the shipments. In one well-known incident, a group of colonists dressed as Native American warriors boarded the British ships, dumping the tea into the sea. This became known as the Boston Tea Party. While Adams didn’t attend the “party,” it’s thought he helped organize it.


Boston Tea Party (Getty Images)

Adams’ resistance was hurting the British Empire, costing it money and loyalty. In 1775, a force of soldiers attempted to arrest him. However, American spies found out about the plan, and militiamen confronted the British. This started the Battles of Lexington and Concord – the first clashes of the Revolutionary War.

Agreements and Disagreements

Adams didn’t just help in resisting British rule, he also played a role in creating the new nation. A delegate to the Continental Congress, he was among those who signed the Declaration of Independence. He also helped draft the Articles of Confederation. However, he wasn’t such a fan of the plan to create a US Constitution.

At first, Adams was an anti-Federalist. This group did not believe in ratifying the Constitution because they feared it would give the government too much power. The Federalists, on the other hand, believed in a strong central government. In the end, the two groups agreed to ratify the Constitution as long as a Bill of Rights was added. Adams, however, didn’t attend the Constitutional Convention and he never signed the document.

Founding America bannerInstead, he returned to his home of Massachusetts and got involved in state politics, eventually becoming governor.

Fun Fact

Samuel and John Adams (the second president of the US) were cousins. Sometimes, people confused the two. Once, John arrived in France and was treated as a hero because they thought he was Samuel. He tried to convince everyone otherwise, but they didn’t want to believe it. He said, “Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written.”