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Samuel Adams – A Life by Ira Stoll

Ira Stoll

Reviewed by:
On March 19, 2010
Last modified:September 17, 2022


Ira Stoll's biography of Samuel Adams covers the tremendous contribution of this oft overlooked and unheralded founding father. Unlike McCullough's tome on his more lauded cousin, John Adams, Stoll's book is relatively short.

Ira Stoll’s biography of Samuel Adams covers the tremendous contribution of this oft overlooked and unheralded founding father.  Unlike McCullough’s tome on his more lauded cousin, John Adams, Stoll’s book is relatively short.  Nevertheless, it covers Sam Adams amazing story quite thoroughly and from an angle that is substantially different from other books I’ve read recently.

In this book, the events leading up to the American Revolution are covered in such a way as to make clear the leading role that Massachusetts had in setting the stage for independence.

In reading Samuel Adams – A Life, the reader is once again struck by the seemingly inordinate number of passionate, patriotic, self-sacrificing heroes that America was blessed with … exactly when they were needed.  Of these Samuel Adams is surely one of those who played a critical and early role.  Like Benjamin Franklin, he wrote voluminously.  Like Thomas Paine, with whom he was acquainted, sometimes his pen was acidic.

Regardless of his passion and energy, Samuel Adams was a man of integrity and deep religious conviction.  The following is a list of his accomplishments:

  • Author of the 1764 “Instructions of the town of Boston” one of the earliest calls for protest against taxation w/o representation
  • Author of numerous articles in the Boston Gazette publicizing the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party
  • Creator of the Committee for Correspondence of Boston
  • Drafter of the 1772 statement “Rights of Colonists”
  • Member of the First and Second Continental Congress
  • Signatory of the Declaration of Independence
  • Helped draft the Massachusetts constitution – in many ways the blueprint for the US Constitution
  • Key force in getting ratification of the US Constitution by Massachusetts
  • 5 years in the Massachusetts Senate
  • 4 years as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts
  • 4 years as governor of Massachusetts

He was one of the earliest of the founding fathers to call for independence.  He put his life in jeopardy and held fast to his beliefs, fully aware of the costs.  Throughout, he had an unwavering faith in the justness of the cause to which he dedicated his life.

I am not more convinced of any thing that it is my Duty, to oppose to the utmost of my Ability the Designs of those who would enslave my Country; and with Gods Assistance I am resolved to oppose them till their Designs are defeated or I am called to quit the Stage of Life.

These are words to live by.

His biggest concern is that Americans would fall prey to immorality and lose that which made their cause righteous.

I have long been convinced that our enemies have made it an Object, to eradicate from the Minds of the People in general a Sense of true Religion & Virtue, in hopes thereby the more easily to carry their point of enslaving them.  Indeed my Friend, this is a Subject so important in my Mind, that I know not how to leave it.  Revelation assures us that ‘Righteousness exalteth a Nation’ — Communities are dealt  with in the World by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe.  He rewards or punishes them according to their general Character.  The diminution of publick Liberty will not long survive the total Extinction of Morals.

He clearly believed that character matters.  The treason of Benjamin Church came as no surprise to Adams (George Washington intercepted a secret letter from Church to British General Thomas Gage.)  Here is what Adams had to say about it:

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.

Consider contemporary traitors like Aldrich Ames and Ronald Pelton or Daulton Lee.  Once again, the serious student of the founders will be amazed at how relevant to the events of today are the thoughts and ideas put forth by these extraordinary individuals.  Stoll’s book does a great job of bringing this often under appreciated founder the credit he deserves.


1 Schooled { 03.19.10 at 4:27 pm }

You mean Ronald Pelton…Robert Pelton is the adventurer fella

Consider contemporary traitors like Aldrich Ames and Robert Pelton or Daulton Lee


martin Reply:

Thank you. You are, of course, correct. I appreciate your taking the time to point it out.


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