The people's voice of reason


Many today know the name of Samuel Adams more for ale and pubs than for American history. But Thomas Jefferson said of him, “I always considered him as more than any other member [of Congress] the fountain of our important measures.” Preparing his first inaugural address, Jefferson recalled, “I often asked myself, is this exactly in the spirit of the patriarch of liberty, Samuel Adams?”

Encyclopedia Brittanica says Sam Adams “did more than any other American to arouse opposition against English rule in the Colonies.” He was a frequent speak in the cause of independence, and he organized committees of correspondence so the colonists could keep each other informed of new political developments. A lover of music, he organized singing societies throughout Boston, but he infused them with politics and it was said that they turned out “more revolutionaries than songbirds.” The black-robed New England clergy were often called the “Black Regiment,” and when Sam Adams sounded the word in Boston, it would be echoed in Puritan pulpits throughout New England.

But few historians ask the crucial question: Why did Samuel Adams want independence from Britain? For the answer, let us look at the other side of this American patriot. He is known by some as the “Father of the American Revolution.” But his biographer John C. Miller calls him the “Last of the Puritans.”

Sam Adams enrolled in Harvard College, and while he was there, the Great Awakening of 1740 swept through the campus and through the nation. At that time the old Puritan zeal of New England seemed to be fading, and as Adams’s biographer John C. Miller says, gentlemen’s sons came to Harvard “prepared to spend four years in sloth and pleasure,” but with the preaching of George Whitefield they were “seized with remorse and became so zealous for Christ’s Cause as to devote themselves entirely to Studies of Divinity.” Miller says,

“Sam Adams never forgot those stirring days during the Great Awakening when George Whitefield ‘thundered in the Pulpit against Assemblies & Balls,’ and New Englanders seemed to turn the clock back to the time of Winthrop and Cotton. The glimpse Adams caught of ‘Puritanism’ in 1740 had profound influence upon his later career. It became one of his strongest desires to restore Puritan manners and morals to New England: in his eyes, the chief purpose of the American Revolution was to separate New England from the ‘decadent’ mother country in order that Puritanism might again flourish as it had in the early seventeenth century. Adams hoped to do by means of apolitical revolution what George Whitefield had done through a religious awakening. Puritanism was his goal; revolution his method of attaining it.”

He especially opposed the lax morals and materialism that seemed to pervade New England after the fading of Puritanism. He identified with the old Romans who defended the Roman republic against the encroachments of empire, and he favored a free society in which old Puritans and old Romans would both feel at home. He therefore rejoiced with American independence, and when after Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4 and completed the signing on August 2, 1776, Adams declared,

“We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have bowed down to, has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayers, and a heart like the nether millstone [cf Psalm 135:13-18]. We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought, and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.”

Sam Adams served in the Massachusetts Legislature from 1765-74, in the Continental Congress 1774-81, as a delegate to the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention at which he reluctantly supported the U.S. Constitution only after receiving a firm promise that a Bill of Rights would be added. He then served as Lt. Governor under John Hancock 1789-97 and as Governor 1793-97, in which capacity he issued a fasting proclamation on March 20, 1797, stating

“…we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken into pieces, and the oppressed made free; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the septre of Him who is Prince of Peace.”

Sam Adams’s love of Puritanism held firm to the end. His last known correspondence was a letter to Thomas Paine rebuking him for having published a pamphlet attacking Christianity. He died in 1803 at age 81, and is buried in a Puritan cemetery, the Old Granary Burying Ground. As his biographer Miller concludes, “Sam Adams was at last among the Puritans.”

Col. Eidsmoe serves as Professor of Constitutional Law for the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy ( and Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law ( He may be contacted for speaking engagements at



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