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Sam Adams

THE OLD SACHEM Bill Stewart-2
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  This is not about beer, it is about one of the greatest early Americans who was a leader who led the early revolt against the British when the royalists got tough about funding in the American colonies.

  Sam Adams’ father, Samuel Adams Sr., was a businessman, church deacon and politician, and his mother was May (Fifield). The couple had 12 children born, but only three lived beyond three years. Young Sam was born on September 27, 1722, in Boston and died on October 2, 1803, in Boston.

  Samuel Adams, a cousin of John Adams, graduated from Boston Latin School, Harvard College (1740) and Harvard College Graduate School (1743). His graduate thesis advanced the proposition that it was “lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate [the royal Governor General] if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved.”

  After Harvard he considered becoming a lawyer, but went into business with 1,000 pound sterling provided by his father. After losing it all, he started a weekly newspaper, The Independent Advertiser, with some friends, and he wrote many political essays in which he argued that the people must resist any encroachment of their constitutional rights.

  In 1747 he was elected as a clerk in the city of Boston. In 1756 he was elected to the Boston Town Meeting and was designated as the tax collector. He often ignored the people’s taxes if they could not afford the amount, and the Town Meeting was nearly bankrupt. Money was raised to avert the crisis and the middle class was content. Sam kept up his arguments about the British taxations.

  After the French and Indian War, 1754–1763, the British Parliament was in very deep debt. Looking for revenue they decided to tax the colonies of America for the first time. Adams often wrote articles in the Boston Gazette to decry the practice of taxation without representation.

The first law of this kind was the Sugar Act of 1764 and as the colonists had no representation in Parliament, they rejected the Act. The Boston Town Meeting accepted Adams’ concept that they should be taxed under the current system. He was coming around to the argument that Parliament did not have sovereignty over the colonies. When the Sugar Act raised so much fury in the colonies, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which increased the colonists’ fury. The Stamp Act required colonists to pay taxes on most printed material. The Virginia House of Burgesses passed a widely printed set of rules which followed Adams’ argument against the Sugar Act. The citizens of Boston revolted and destroyed the homes of many royal government people, including the Lieutenant Governor. Adams was elected in 1766 to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served as the clerk.

  The Townshend Acts of 1767 repealed the Stamp Act and established duties on various goods. The Boston Town Meeting organized a boycott under Adams. The British government under the Townshend Acts, among other laws, created a customs agency, the American Board of Customs Commissioners, that had taxation items and also was intended to create revenue to pay local royal officers, such as governors and judges.

  When the Commissioners found that they could not accomplish the duties of the Act, they requested military assistance. The HMS Romney, a 50-ton warship, arrived in May 1768. A riot broke out when the Captain of the Romney started to capture local sailors for the Royal Navy.

The situation became another riot on June 10 when the Commissioners seized a local ship, Liberty, which was owned by John Hancock, who was a constant critic of the Customs Board. Eventually quiet was restored and the captain of the Romney sailed it to an island fort in the harbor, Castle William. When the situation reached London, Lord Hillsborough ordered four regiments of the British Army to Boston.

  The Boston Town Meeting requested the British governor to convene the General Court, but the governor refused. The word went out and about 100 towns sent representatives to a convention that argued against occupation.

  Before the end of the convention, British troop transports arrived in Boston harbor and landed four additional troops. This gave Adams the view that reconsideration of the British situation was impossible. He started to secretly work on plans for independence. Adams argued that the troops be removed according to the 1689 Bill of Rights.

  Some of the troops were removed but two regiments remained. The troopers were accused of various crimes against the local citizens, and the killing of Boston citizens at the Boston Massacre ensued. This and other atrocities led to the Revolutionary War and eventually the independence of America.

  (Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)

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