Book Reviews


 

 

Samuel Adams -- 
Father of the American Revolution 

by Mark Puls

Review by Richard Sheppard

 

Samuel Adams has a reputation as being the "rabble rouser" of the American Independence movement. And yes, he was a righteous and imposing man of deeply held convictions on the meaning of "liberty" and wresting it from the British crown. But put aside popular notions that Samuel Adams was an overly rambunctious troublemaker, for such forthright traits might suit a man described in the title of this work as the "Father" of the American Revolution. Mind you, the title should not confuse the reader about Samuel Adam's "paternal" contributions to America's independence with those of George Washington, "The Father of Our Country." Adams' prime contributions were in the creation and sustaining of the idea of independence. He was an extraordinary organizer. Washington was a leader who won the war, and by virtue of his reluctant acceptance of the postwar presidency, set the tone for all American executive heads of state to follow.

Adams was likely the primary instigator -- and a participant -- in the Boston Tea Party, during which Indian-disguised patriots tossed tea into the harbor rather than pay duties or taxes on it. This defiant vandalism put an active exclamation point on the phrase, "No Taxation without Representation(!)" Yet Adams did not "spoil" for fights in the sense of being constantly riled up. More accurately, his relentless preparedness and his complete mastery of the politics underlying the Independence movement assured a domineering reputation he carries to this day.

Samuel Adams is also widely perceived as the "brewer-patriot," though making beer wasn't quite his occupation. He was more of a beer distributor. In these modern times a Boston-brewed beer is named for him - an entire line of beers. The flagship "Samuel Adams" lager is one of America's premium beers, this beer drinker would acknowledge. (The book doesn't mention this Sam Adams legacy; and the founding member of the Anheuser-Busch beer behemoth might lay claim to being "Father of the American Beer spigot.)

Politically, Samuel Adams was a man convinced of the righteousness and possibilities of the Cause, and burned with ever fiber of his being to seeing Independence realized. He was a political genius for the ages in his recognition of opportunities, of gauging public sentiment, knowing whom his opponents and allies were, and of the underlying organization required to either persuade or outmaneuver his opposition.

He initiated remarkable networks, the Committees of Correspondence. Such networks knitted together the original Thirteen colonies. Adams' networks were unmatched. One gets an impression he spent most of his days composing and reading correspondence from across the entire eastern continent. Running in tandem with these correspondence committees was an intelligence network unsurpassed among his American allies and rivals, and the British enemy. The British, besides struggling militarily, never gained political traction in large part because Adams and his correspondents were often several steps ahead of them. Any issue that Adams had an interest in often saw his opponents outclassed, never standing a chance, and never knowing what hit them. Such was Adams' disciplined political groundwork and command and control of information. These exceeding disciplines, when mixed with Adams' natural zeal, were critical to America's independence. It's a quirk of history that most recall only Adams' zeal; this book presents the full magnitude of his considerable intellectual contributions. 

So yes, yes: go ahead, hoist a brew to Samuel Adams, America's popularly conceived "brewer-patriot. But in more lucid moments, recognize a man of conviction who ranks among the greatest political organizers in history. His blend wasn't "hops and barley" so much as "conviction and political brilliance." A brilliance equal to that of any of his fellow Founders.