Adams, Samuel

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Adams, Samuel,

1722–1803, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Boston, Mass.; second cousin of John Adams. An unsuccessful businessman, he became interested in politics and was a member (1765–74) and clerk (1766–74) of the lower house of the Massachusetts legislature. As colonial resistance to British laws stiffened, Adams spoke for the discontented and replaced James OtisOtis, James,
1725–83, American colonial political leader, b. Barnstable co., Mass. A lawyer first in Plymouth and then in Boston, he won great distinction and served (1756–61) as advocate general of the vice admiralty court.
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 as leader of the extremists. He drafted a protest against the Stamp Act in 1765 and was one of the organizers of the non-importation agreement (1767) against Great Britain to force repeal of the Townshend ActsTownshend Acts,
1767, originated by Charles Townshend and passed by the English Parliament shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. They were designed to collect revenue from the colonists in America by putting customs duties on imports of glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea.
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. He drew up the Circular Letter to the other colonies, denouncing the acts as taxation without representation. More important, he used his able pen in colonial newspapers and pamphlets to stir up sentiment against the British. His polemics helped to bring about the Boston MassacreBoston Massacre,
1770, pre-Revolutionary incident growing out of the resentment against the British troops sent to Boston to maintain order and to enforce the Townshend Acts. The troops, constantly tormented by irresponsible gangs, finally (Mar.
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. With the help of such men as John Hancock he organized the revolutionary Sons of Liberty and helped to foment revolt through the Committees of Correspondence. He was the moving spirit in the Boston Tea PartyBoston Tea Party,
1773. In the contest between British Parliament and the American colonists before the Revolution, Parliament, when repealing the Townshend Acts, had retained the tea tax, partly as a symbol of its right to tax the colonies, partly to aid the financially
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. Gen. Thomas Gage issued (1775) a warrant for the arrest of Adams and Hancock, but they escaped punishment and continued to stir up lethargic patriots. Samuel Adams was a member (1774–81) of the Continental Congress, but after independence was declared his influence declined; the "radical" was replaced by more conservative leaders, who tended to look upon Adams as an irresponsible agitator. He later served (1794–97) as governor of Massachusetts.


See writings ed. by H. A. Cushing (4 vol., 1904–08, repr. 1968); biographies by J. C. Miller (1936, repr. 1960), S. Beach (1965), W. V. Wells (2d ed. 1969), and N. B. Gerson (1973).

Adams, Samuel


Born Sept. 29, 1722; died Oct. 2, 1803. American political figure and one of the organizers of the struggle for liberation during the War for Independence in North America of 1775–83 (the American Revolution).

In 1743, Adams issued a thesis in which he developed the idea of the “legality of resistance to higher authorities.” Adams was a leader of the revolutionary organization Sons of Liberty. He established a committee of correspondence in Boston (1772) that became the model for other such committees throughout the British colonies, these becoming the embryos of local revolutionary power. After the war for independence, Adams advocated the adoption of the Bill of Rights and the abolition of slavery. From 1794 to 1797 he was governor of the state of Massachusetts.


The Writings of Samuel Adams, vols. 1–4. Edited by H. A. Cushing. New York, 1904–08.

Adams, Samuel

(1722–1803) , politician, Revolutionary leader; born in Boston, Mass. (second cousin of John Adams). After studying law, he failed at several business enterprises, then devoted himself to politics. One of the first and most outspoken colonists to oppose British laws and policies, in the Massachusetts legislature (1765–74) he promoted corresponding with other colonies' leaders, wrote newspaper articles criticizing British rule, and composed and circulated a declaration of colonists' rights. He helped organize the Boston Tea Party (1773) and by 1774 was advocating open resistance to Britain. He served in the First and Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. At first he backed George Washington as commander-in-chief, but he criticized what he thought was an overly cautious pursuit of the war. Regarded as too radical by many, he resigned from Congress in 1781 but supported the Federal Constitution of 1787. He was governor of Massachusetts (1794–97).