The body of the people are now in council. Their opposition grows into a system. They are united and resolute. And if the British Administration and Government do not return to the principles of moderation and equity, the evil, which they profess to aim at preventing by their rigorous measures, will the sooner be brought to pass, viz., the entire separation and independence of the Colonies.
—Letter to Arthur Lee
Samuel and John Adams were second cousins, having the same great-grandfather. Between them in many ways there was a marked contrast, but true to their New England instincts both were theologians.
John was a conservative in politics, and at first had little sympathy with “those small-minded men who refused to pay a trivial tax on their tea; and who would plunge the country into war, and ruin all for a matter of stamps.” John was born and lived at the village of Braintree. He did not really center his mind on politics until the British had closed all law-courts in Boston, thus making his profession obsolete. He was scholarly, shrewd, diplomatic, cautious, good-natured, fat, and took his religion with a wink. He was blessed with a wife who was worthy of being the mother of kings (or presidents); he lived comfortably, acquired property, and died aged ninety-two. He had been President and seen his son President of the United States, and that is an experience that has never come and probably never will come to another living man, for there seems to be an unwritten law that no man under fifty shall occupy the office of Chief Magistrate of these United States.
Samuel was stern, serious and deeply in earnest. He seldom smiled and never laughed. He was uncompromisingly religious, conscientious and morally unbending. In his life there was no soft sentiment. The fact that he ran a brewery can be excused when we remember that the best spirit of the times saw nothing inconsistent in the occupation; and further than this we might explain in extenuation that he gave the business indifferent attention, and the quality of his brew was said to be very bad.
In religion, he swerved not nor wavered. He was a Calvinist and clung to the five points with a tenacity at times seemingly quite unnecessary.
When in that first Congress, Samuel Adams publicly consented to the opening of the meeting with religious service conducted by the Reverend Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, he gave a violent wrench to his conscience and an awful shock to his friends. But Mr. Duche met the issue in the true spirit, and leaving his detested “popery robe” and prayer-book at home uttered an extemporaneous invocation, without a trace of intoning, that pleased the Puritans and caused one of them to remark, “He is surely coming over to the Lord’s side!”
But in politics, Samuel Adams was a liberal of the liberals. In statecraft, the heresy of change had no terrors for him, and with Hamlet, he might have said, “Oh, reform it altogether!”
The limitations set in every character seem to prevent a man from being generous in more than one direction; the bigot in religion is often a liberal in politics, and vice versa. For instance, physicians are almost invariably liberal in religious matters, but are prone to call a man “Mister” who does not belong to their school; while orthodox clergymen, I have noticed, usually employ a homeopathist.
In that most valuable and interesting work, “The Diary of John Adams,” the author refers repeatedly to Samuel Adams as “Adams”! This simple way of using the word “Adams” shows a world of appreciation for the man who blazed the path that others of this illustrious name might follow. And so with the high precedent in mind, I, too, will drop prefix and call my subject simply “Adams.”
On the authority of King George, General Gage made an offer of pardon to all save two who had figured in the Boston uprising.