Many of the sages and heroes of the American Revolution were consistent and devoted Christians--some of them eminent ministers of the gospel of Christ. They all were evidently actuated by motives of purity, prompted by the demands of imperious duty based upon the inalienable rights of man.
They had no innate love of military glory aiming only at conquest. Their pilgrim fathers fled front servile oppression--planted the standard of FREEDOM in the new world--spread civilization over our happy land and transmitted the rich behest to their children. With the principles of rational liberty each succeeding generation was made familiar. When tyranny reared its hydra head, the monster was readily recognized. The people were prepared to drive the invading foe from their shores.
Samuel Adams was one of the revolutionary sages who boldly espoused the cause of equal rights. He was born in Boston, Mass. on the 22d of Sept. 1722. His parents were highly respectable. His father was long a member of the Assembly of Massachusetts, from whom this son imbibed those liberal principles which he so fearlessly and successfully vindicated during his subsequent life. In childhood he exhibited a strong inquiring mind--talents of a high order. He was prepared for college by Mr. Lovell. His application to study was close--his progress rapid. His highest pleasure was found in his books. Being naturally sedate, his father placed him in Harvard College, believing him destined for the gospel ministry. In that institution he advanced rapidly in science and in favor. During his whole course he was reproved but once and that for sleeping too late. In conjunction with other studies he had thoroughly investigated theology. The affairs of state had also occupied his mind. When he graduated, he chose for his subject of discussion the following question. "_Is it lawful to resist the supreme magistrate if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved?_"
His hearers were astonished at the masterly manner he advocated the affirmative of this bold proposition. With enrapturing eloquence and convincing logic, he painted in vivid colors the beauties of that liberty for which he so nobly contended during the Revolution. From that time he became a prominent politician--an advocate of equal rights--a stern opposer of British wrongs.
By rigid economy during his time in college he had saved a sum of money from that allowed him by his father to defray expenses. This first fruit of his pecuniary prudence he sacrificed upon the altar of Liberty. With it he published a pamphlet from his own pen entitled--"The Englishman's Rights." This was one of the entering wedges of the Revolution. It awakened a spirit of inquiry--kindled a flame of opposition to the increasing oppression of the crown. It did great credit to the head and heart of this devoted patriot then dawning into manhood.
Anxious that his son should embark in some business his father placed him in the counting-house of Thomas Cushing, an eminent merchant, that he might be prepared for commercial business. For this sphere nature had not designed him. Political knowledge, international law and the rights of man engrossed his mind. To this end he formed a club of kindred spirits for the purpose of political inquiry and discussion. They furnished political essays for the Independent Advertiser which were so severe in their strictures upon the conduct of the creatures of the crown, that the association obtained the name of "Whipping Post Club." The hirelings of the King treated these essays with derision--upon the people they exerted an influence that prepared them for the approaching crisis. Stamped with plain truth, sound reasoning, uncontroverted facts--they operated upon British power like the sea-worm upon a vessel--silently and slowly but with sure destruction. They contributed largely in perforating each plank of the proud ship of monarchy, then riding over the American colonies, until she sank to rise no more.
After remaining a suitable time with Mr. Cushing, his father furnished him with a liberal capital with which he commenced business. Owing to the pernicious credit system he lost all his stock in trade. By the death of his father he was left, at the age of twenty-five, to take charge of the paternal estate and family. In the discharge of that duty he proved himself competent to manage pecuniary matters. The estate was involved and under attachment--he relieved it entirely from debt. This done he again spent the most of his time in disseminating liberal principles. He was a keen sarcastic writer--analyzed every point at issue between our own and the mother country--exposed the British ministry in their corrupt and corrupting policy and roused the indignation of the populace against their oppressive measures. He was hailed as one of the boldest leaders of the whig party.
No man had examined more closely or understood better the relative situation of Great Britain and her American Colonies. He weighed every circumstance in the scale of reason--based his every action upon the sure foundation of immutable justice. He was not impetuous--appealed to the judgment of his hearers and readers--sought to allay--not to excite the passions of men. He was a friend of order--opposed to sudden bursts of popular fury--to every thing that could produce riotous and tumultuous proceedings. Religion, in its pristine purity, was ever his polar star.
Organized and systematic opposition against the unwarranted encroachments of the crown, emanating from the great majority of the sovereign people was his plan. Petitions, remonstrances--every thing consistent with the dignity of man to be resorted to before an appeal to arms. If this was rebellion it was in a very modified form.
When the offensive Stamp Act was proclaimed he exposed its odious features with unsurpassed severity and boldness. When the climax of oppression was capped by the imposition of taxes upon articles of daily consumption he believed forbearance no longer a virtue and openly advocated resistance as an imperious duly. He demonstrated fully that Great Britain had violated the constitution. Americans had vainly claimed protection under its banner--its sacred covering was rudely snatched from over them--they were left exposed to foreign officers who were drawing them closer and more effectually within the coils of tyranny. To be _slaves_ or _freemen_ was the question.
Being a member of the assembly and clerk of the house, Mr. Adams exercised an extensive and salutary influence. With great zeal he united prudence and discretion. From 1765, to the time he took his seat in congress he was a member of the state assembly. He had exerted the noblest powers of his mind to prepare the people for the approaching storm and had kindled a flame of patriotic fire that increased in volume as time rolled on. He was the first man who proposed the non-importation act--the committees of correspondence and the congress that assembled at Philadelphia in 1774. He corresponded with the eminent patriots of the middle and southern states and contributed largely in producing unity of sentiment and concert of action in the glorious cause of liberty throughout the colonies. Over his own constituents his influence was complete. At the sound of his voice the fury of a Boston mob would cease. He could lead it at pleasure with a single hair. The people know well he would maintain what was clearly right and willingly submit to nothing clearly wrong.
When the affray occurred on the 5th of March, 1770, between the British soldiers and citizens, the influence of Samuel Adams prevented the further effusion of blood _after_ the populace had become roused and were on the point of avenging the death of their friends who had just fallen. He obtained the immediate attention of the assembled enraged multitude--proposed the appointment of a committee to wait on the governor and request the immediate removal of the troops. His plan was approved--a committee appointed of which he was chairman. The governor at first refused to grant the request. The chairman met all his objections fearlessly--confuted them triumphantly and told him plainly that an immediate compliance with the wishes of the people would alone prevent disastrous consequences and that he would be held responsible for the further waste of human life. The governor finally yielded.
Mr. Adams was one day surprised by a message from Gov. Gage communicated through Col. Fenton, offering him what modern truckling politicians would call a great inducement to _change_ and in case he refused, to inform him he would be arrested and sent beyond the seas there to be tried for high treason. To the last part of the message he listened with most attention and asked Col. Fenton if he would truly deliver his answer. Receiving an affirmative assurance Mr. Adams rose from his chair, assumed an air of withering contempt and said--"I trust I have long since made my peace with the KING OF KINGS. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell Gov. Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him--_no longer to exasperate the feelings of an insulted people_." This reply roused the ire of the royal governor and when he subsequently issued a proclamation offering a free pardon to those rebels who would return to what _he_ termed their duty he expected Samuel Adams and John Hancock--the highest compliment within his power to bestow on the two patriots. They received this mark of distinction as a special commission from the throne directing their future course--a royal diploma of liberty that left them as free as mountain air in their future action.
No bribe could seduce--no threat divert Mr. Adams from the path of duty. He placed his trust in the Rock of Ages--enjoyed the rich consolations of an approving conscience--the unlimited confidence of his friends, the approbation of every patriot. These were more dearly prized by him than all the dazzling honors of kings and potentates. He became an object of vengeance and was the immediate cause of the memorable battle at Lexington on the 19th of April 1775--the troops sent being in pursuit of him and John Hancock. Apprised of their mission Gen. Joseph Warren sent an express late in the evening to the two patriots warning them of approaching danger. In a few minutes after they had left, the British troops entered the house which they had just emerged from. In a few ominous hours the crimson curtain rose--the revolutionary tragedy commenced. The last maternal cord was severed--the great seal of the original compact was broken--the covenants of the two parties were cancelled in blood.
Mr. Adams remained in the neighborhood during the night. The next morning, as the sun rose without an intervening cloud, he remarked to a friend, "This is a glorious day for America." He viewed the sacrifice as an earnest of ultimate success and future blessings.
To rouse the people to action now became the sole business of this devoted friend of his bleeding country. The grand signal for action had been given--the tocsin of war had been sounded--the requiem of battle had been sung--its soul-stirring notes had been wafted far and wide on the wings of wind and were responded to by millions of patriotic hearts.
Mr. Adams mourned deeply the death of his friends, the martyrs of that tragical but auspicious day. He knew well that martyrs must be sacrificed and that the funeral knell of those who had just fallen would shake British colonial power to its very centre. He believed their blood would cry to Heaven for vengeance and incite the hardy sons of Columbia's soil to vigorous and triumphant action. The event added new strength to his propulsive powers and doubly nerved him to meet the fiery trials in reserve for him. As dangers increased he became more urgent for the people to maintain their rights. As the wrath of his enemies waxed hotter he was more highly appreciated by the people and was uniformly styled--_Samuel Adams the Patriot_. His fame and influence strengthened under persecution, his friends were animated by his counsels, his foes were astounded and chagrined at the boldness of his onward career. In the Assembly he effected the passage of a series of resolutions deemed treasonable by the royal governor.
In the Congress of 1776 he was among the first to advocate the Declaration of Independence--contending that it should have followed immediately after the battle of Lexington. In all his debates he was earnest and zealous but not rash--ardent and decisive but wise and judicious. When the Declaration of Rights was adopted he affixed his name to that important instrument without the least hesitation although he stood proscribed by the royal power.
During the darkest periods of the Revolution he was calm and cheerful and did much to reanimate the desponding. In 1777 when Congress was obliged to fly to Lancaster and a dismal gloom hung over the cause of the patriots like a mantle of darkness several of the members were in company with Mr. Adams lamenting the disasters of the American arms, concluding that the chances for success were desperate. Mr. Adams promptly replied--"If this be _our_ language, they are so indeed. If _we_ wear long faces they will become fashionable. Let us banish such feelings and show a spirit that will keep alive the confidence of the people. Better tidings will soon arrive. Our cause is just and righteous. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we show ourselves worthy of its aid and protection." At that time there were but twenty-eight members in Congress. Mr. Adams said--"It was the _smallest_ but _truest_ Congress they ever had."
Soon after that dark period the surrender of Burgoyne was announced which proved a panacea for long faces and put a new aspect upon the cause of Liberty. Many recovered from a relapsed state--hearts beat more freely, courage revived from a typhoid stupor--the anchor of hope held the ship of state more firmly to her moorings.
The arrival of Lord Howe and Mr. Eden with what _they_ termed the olive branch of peace from Lord North, added to the excitement. Mr. Adams was one of the committee to meet these high functionaries. On examining the terms proposed, the committee found that the proposed _olive branch_ had been plucked from the Bohun Upas of an overbearing and corrupt ministry and promptly replied through Mr. Adams--"Congress will attend to no terms of peace that are inconsistent with the honor of an independent nation." This reply was as unexpected to the royal messengers as it was laconic and patriotic. The grand Rubicon had been passed--the galling chains had been thrown off--the Sodom of British power was doomed and nothing could induce the sages and heroes of '76 to look back or tarry on the plain of monarchy. Lord Howe and his colleague had permission to return--report progress of locomotion and walk again. Mr. Adams continued one of the strong pillars in the rising temple of liberty until the superstructure was completed--recognized and approved by the mother country and all Europe.
In 1787 he was a member of the convention of Massachusetts convened to act upon the Federal Constitution. He did not fully approve of some of its provisions but avoided opposition believing it to be the best policy to adopt it, subject to future amendments. He was most particularly opposed to the article rendering the states amenable to the national courts. He submitted sundry amendments that were adopted by the convention and submitted with the Constitution for the future consideration of Congress, some of which have since been adopted.
From 1789 to '94, Mr. Adams was lieutenant-governor of his native state and from that time to '97, was governor. He performed the executive duties with great ability and contributed largely in raising the commonwealth to a flourishing and dignified condition. He watched over all her interests with parental care--viewed her rising greatness with an honest pride. He had seen her sons writhing under the lash of oppression and their bones bleaching in the field. He now beheld the people independent, prosperous, virtuous and happy. He could now be gathered peacefully to his fathers when his time should arrive to depart. Age and infirmity compelled him to retire from the great theatre of public life where he had been so long conspicuous. His health continued to fail sensibly with each returning autumn. On the 3d of October 1803, his immortal spirit left its mansion of clay--soared aloft on the wings of faith to mansions of bliss beyond the skies. He died rejoicing in the merits of his immaculate Redeemer who had given him the victory. He had fought the good fight of faith as well as that of LIBERTY and felt a full assurance of receiving a crown of glory at the hands of King Immanuel.
Amidst all the turmoils of political and revolutionary strife Mr. Adams never neglected religious duty. When at home he was faithful to the family altar and uniformly attended public worship when practicable. He was a consistent every day Christian--free from bigotry and fanaticism--not subject to sudden expansions and contractions of mind--rather puritanical in his views yet charitable in his feelings and opposed to censuring any one for the sake of opinion. He adorned his profession by purity of conduct at all times.
Mr. Adams was of middle size, well formed, with a countenance full of intelligence indicating firmness of purpose and energy of action. As a public man and private citizen he was highly esteemed and richly earned a place in the front rank of the American patriots. He placed a low value upon wealth--died poor but not the less esteemed for his poverty which was _then_ no crime. He placed a high value upon common school education and _properly_ estimated the higher branches of science. General intelligence among the great mass he considered the strongest bulwark to preserve our independence.
As a writer Mr. Adams had few equals. His answer to Thomas Paine's writings against Christianity is probably superior to that of any other author. His few letters on government published in 1800, show a clear head, a good heart and a gigantic mind.
As an orator he was eloquent, chaste, logical--rising with the magnitude of his subject. He always spoke to the point--addressing the understanding--not the passions.
His manners were urbane, unaffected and plain--his mode of living frugal and temperate--his attachments strong--his whole life a golden chain of usefulness. Let his examples be imitated by all--then our UNION will be preserved from the iron grasp of ambitious partisans--the snares of designing demagogues--the whirlpool of blind fanaticism--the tornado of party spirit. Let these examples be discarded--our UNION will prove a mere rope of sand--the temple of our LIBERTY will crumble and moulder in the dust with SAMUEL ADAMS. O! think of this disorganizers and tremble!
Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.