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States: General History and Description >> Revolution to Civil War, 1775/1783-1861 >> Individual Biography, A-Z
signer of the Declaration of Independence
Samuel Adams was born in Boston, the son of a respected landowner and brewer, and the cousin of John Adams. After graduating from Harvard College in 1740, he entered private business. He failed in this career, and by 1764 was deeply in debt.
He may have been a failure in business, but Adams was a success in politics. By 1764, he belonged to several patriotic clubs, and was a prominent figure in Boston town meetings, where he was known as a very vocal opponent of British colonial policy. As a member of the Massachusetts Legislature from 1765 to 1774, Adams corresponded widely with other colonial leaders. His constant criticism of the British is said to have been a cause of the Boston Massacre of 1770.
The British canceled most taxes in 1770, and Adams' popularity began to decline, but he continued his criticisms and actions anyway. In 1772, the Boston town meeting, spurred by Adams, set up a Committee of Correspondence, which in turn published a declaration of colonial rights, which Adams had composed, and sent it to other towns. In 1773, in response to the Tea Act, Adams was one of the instigators of the Boston Tea Party. Passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774 led Adams to call openly for resistance to Great Britain, and he recommended that the colonies send delegates to a congress.
Massachusetts sent Adams to the First Continental Congress in 1774, and to the Second Continental Congress in 1775-1776. One of the leading spokesmen for outright independence from Great Britain, Adams was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Adams served in Congress until 1781. After the war, his support of the Constitution of 1787 helped convince Massachusetts to ratify the document. He served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1793 to 1797.
This page was last updated on February 07, 2017.