Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Review: Samuel Adams

I just finished the delightful Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution, by Mark Puls.

The book follows chronologically the life and political career of Samuel Adams. While he saved little, if any, of his letters and writings, we're able to see the man by the piecing together of letters from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and his Massachusetts friends and allies such as James Otis and Joseph Warren.

We're left with the image of a man so devoted to his countrymen and their cause that he suffered financial hardships, personal insults, and the wrath of the most powerful empire on earth, all without seeking glory or a simple thank-you. Some favorite parts of the book:

Adams, using the pen-name of Valerius Poplicola ("friend of the people") wrote: "Is it not high time for the people of this country explicitly to declare whether they will be freemen or slaves? It is an important question, which ought to be decided. It concerns us more than anything in this life."

A British Colonel, Fenton, sought out Adams with a discreet message: he would be richly rewarded and receive public advancement if he would cooperate. Fenton gave Adams this frank advice: he should not provoke his majesty any further. Adams replied: "Sir, 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 Governor Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."

Oh! And this great story:

For several years, James Otis had been under the care of family in Andover, Massachusetts. He would often turn to his sister and say that "I hope when God Almighty in his providence shall take me out of time into eternity, it will be by a flash of lightning!" On May 23, 1783, a fierce thunderstorm characteristic of the early summer season in New England descended to darken the skies. Otis struggled to the door to behold the clashing elements and the exploding thunder, reminiscent of the cannon fire of the revolution. Between loud thunderclaps, a bolt of lightning, which Mercy thought appeared like a darting serpent, struck Otis in the chest. Electricity shot through his body, and he fell to the floor, dying instantly.

Overall, a well-done take on the "Father of the American Revolution." Arguably one of the most important of our founding fathers.


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