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Samuel Adams
by [?]

The two men thus honored were John Hancock (whose signature the King could read without spectacles), and the other was “one, S. Adams.”

Adams, however, was the real offender, and the plea might have been made for John Hancock that, if it had not been for accident and Adams, Hancock would probably have remained loyal to the mother country.

Hancock was aristocratic, cultured and complacent. He was the richest man in New England. His personal interests were on the side of peace and the established order. But circumstances and the combined tact and zeal of Adams threw him off his guard, and in a moment of dalliance the seeds of sedition found lodgment in his brain. And the more he thought about it, the nearer he came to the conclusion that Adams was right. But let the fact further be stated, if truth demands, that both John Hancock and Samuel Adams, the first men who clearly and boldly expressed the idea of American Independence, were moved in the beginning by personal grievances.

A single motion made before the British Parliament by we know not whom, and put to vote by the Speaker, bankrupted the father of Samuel Adams and robbed the youth of his patrimony.

The boy was then seventeen; old enough to know that from plenty his father was reduced to penury, and this because England, three thousand miles away, had interfered with the business arrangements of the Colony, and made unlawful a private banking scheme.

Then did the boy ask the question, What moral right has England to govern us, anyway?

From thinking it over he began to formulate reasons. He discussed the subject at odd times and thought of it continually, and, in Seventeen Hundred Forty-three, when he prepared his graduation thesis at Harvard College he chose for his subject, “The Doctrine of the Lawfulness of Resistance to the Supreme Magistrate if the Commonwealth Can Not Otherwise be Preserved.”

When Massachusetts admitted that she was under subjection to the King, yet argued for the right to nullify the Acts of the English Parliament, she took exactly the same ground that South Carolina did a hundred years later. The logic of Samuel Adams and of Robert Hayne was one and the same.

Yet we are glad that Adams carried his point; and we rejoice exceedingly that Hayne failed, so curious are these things we call “reasons.”

The royalists who heard of this youth with a logical mind denounced him without stint. A few newspapers upheld him and spoke of the right of free speech and all that, reprinting the thesis in full. And in the controversy that followed, young Adams was always a prominent figure. He was not an orator in the popular sense, but he held the pen of a ready writer, and through the Boston papers kept up a constant fusillade.

The tricks of journalism are no new thing belonging to the fag-end of this century. Young Adams wrote letters over the “nom de plume” of Pro Bono Publico, and then replied to them over the signature of Rex Americus. He did not adopt as his motto, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” for he wrote with both hands and each hand was in the secret.

During the years that followed his graduation from college he was a businessman and a poor one, for a man who looks after public affairs much can not attend to his own. But he managed to make shift; and when too closely pressed by creditors, a loan from Hancock, or John Adams, Hancock’s attorney, relieved the pressure. In fact, when he went to Philadelphia “on that very important errand,” he rode a horse borrowed from John Adams, and his Sunday coat was the gift of a thoughtful friend.

In Seventeen Hundred Sixty-three, it became known that the British Government had on foot a scheme to demand a tribute from the Colonies. On invitation of a committee, possibly appointed by Adams, Adams was requested to draw up instructions to the Representatives in the Colonial Legislature. Adams did so and the document is now in the archives of the old State House at Boston, in the plain and elegant penmanship that is so easily recognized. This document calls itself, “The First Public Denial of the Right of the British Parliament to tax the Colonies without their Consent, and the first Public Suggestion of a Union on the part of the Colonies to Protect themselves against British Aggression.”