24 pages (2008/1899); 179KB downloadWOWIO Books
; ISBN: WOWIO-00483
Reportedly the “American Independence” speech by Samuel Adams is the only complete address of his that was available in the late 1800s. “Translated into French and published in Paris . . . it is believed that Napoleon borrowed from it the phrase, ‘A Nation of Shopkeepers,’ to characterize the English.”
The life experiences of Samuel Adams, summed up below, clearly resonate in this speech.
“Samuel Adams, called by his contemporaries, ‘the Father of the American Revolution,’ drew up in 1764 the instructions of the people of Boston to their representatives in the Massachusetts general assembly, containing what is said to be the first official denial of the right of the British Parliament to tax the Colonists. Deeply religious by nature, having what Everett calls ‘a most angelic voice,’ studying sacred music as an avocation, and exhibiting through life the fineness of nerve and sensitiveness of temperament which gave him his early disposition to escape the storms of life by a career in the pulpit, circumstances, or rather his sense of fitness, dominating his physical weakness, imposed on him the work of leading in what results have shown to be the greatest revolution of history. So sensitive, physically, that he had ‘a tremulous motion of the head when speaking,’ his intellectual force was such that he easily became a leader of popular opposition to royal authority in New England. Unlike Jefferson in being a fluent public speaker, he resembled him in being the intellectual heir of Sidney and Locke. He showed very early in life the bent which afterwards forced him, as it did the naturally timid and retiring Jefferson, to take the leadership of the uneducated masses of the people against the wealth, the culture, and the conservatism of the colonial aristocracy. After passing through the Lovell School he graduated at Harvard College, and on proposing a thesis for his second degree, as college custom required, he defended the proposition that ‘it is lawful to resist the supreme authority, if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved.’ Like questions had been debated during the Middle Ages from the time returning Crusaders brought back with them copies of Aristotle and other great Greek philosophers whose authority was still reverenced at Byzantium and Bagdad when London and Paris knew nothing of them. Out of the denial of one set of schoolmen that a divine right to rule, greater than that derived from the people, could exist in kings, grew the political controversy which preceded the English revolution against the Stuarts. Our revolution grew out of the English as the French grew out of ours, and in putting on his seal Cromwell’s motto, ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,’ Jefferson, the Virginian, illustrated the same intellectual heredity which Samuel Adams, the New Englander, showed in asserting the right of the people composing the Commonwealth to resist the supreme authority when in their judgment its exercise had become prejudicial to their rights or their interests. From 1764 when he was chosen to present the denial made by the people of Boston of the English Parliament’s right to tax them, until he joined Jefferson in forcing on the then unprepared mind of the public the idea of a complete and final separation from the ‘Mother Country,’ his aggressive denunciations of the English government’s attempts at absolutism made him so hated by the English administration and its colonial representatives that, with John Hancock, he was specially exempted from General Gage’s amnesty proclamation of June 1775, as ‘having committed offenses of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment.’ Joining with John Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson in forcing issues for complete separation from England and for the formal Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams was himself the author of the celebrated circular letter addressed by the assembly of Massachusetts to the speakers of the several assemblies in other colonies. In 1774 he was chosen a member of the Continental Congress, where he took a prominent part in preventing the possibility of compromise with England. In 1794 he succeeded Hancock as governor of Massachusetts, retiring in 1797 because of ‘the increasing infirmities of age.’ Like many other statesmen of his time he lived the greater part of his life in poverty, but his only son, dying before him, left him a property which supported him in his old age.”—David J. Brewer