Samuel Adams: Ringleader of the American Revolution
Part 2: Voice of Independence
In 1765, he was elected as Boston's representative to the Massachusetts legislature. From this position, he exercised enormous influence on nearly every piece of legislation that came out of that office. He was on every committee and attended every public function. He wrote many published arguments against the British actions. In short, he was the public face of the legislature.
His publicity made him a target of Great Britain. Knowing that he was poor, British officials tried to bribe him. He refused utterly. (British officials tried to bribe him several times in later years, with promises of wealth and land, but he refused every one.) He continued to make a name for himself for the next few years and then saw a tremendous opportunity in the 1790 Boston Massacre. Adams realized that his fellow Americans were in no position to fight the British Army at that point. Like others, he was outraged at the deaths of the six Americans killed that day; but he saw the bigger picture and successfully convinced the Massachusetts governor to remove his troops from the city of Boston for a time, to avoid further hostilities. These actions gained him respect from both sides, and his favor increased.
The author of the idea of a colonies-wide congress, he himself attended the first Continental Congress, as a delegate from Boston. He was at the second Continental Congress as well and at all times argued for independence from Britain. He signed the Declaration of Independence.
When the fighting began in earnest, he decided not to take up arms, believing that he could better serve his country as a politician and as an inspiration to the cause. During the war, he was a source of strength and force of will, constantly urging his fellow Americans to resist the British "tyranny" and fight for their independence.
A delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he ultimately signed the Constitution but only after being convinced that a Bill of Rights would soon follow. He served in the Continental Congress until 1781, when he retired and desired to be removed from politics altogether. His fellow Americans wouldn't allow that, however, and elected him to the state senate and then lieutenant governor. When Gov. John Hancock died in 1794, Adams succeeded him and was elected each year until 1797, when he retired for good. He continued to serve as an example of independence to all who knew him and heard about him. He led a quiet life for six years, then died in 1803, at the age of 82.
It can be argued that he, more than any other man, was responsible for getting the American people started on the road to independence and keeping them there until the job was finished. His public and private speeches, writings, and spirit were a powerful motivation for a people who often found themselves despairing in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The words and deed of Samuel Adams, more powerful than any rifle, served his country and helped give it its independence.
Social Studies for Kids