Samuel Adams, Vilification, and Vulnerable Oppositions

Samuel Adams

As we continuously discuss loyalty, partisanship, and civility, we forget how our Founders acted illegally, angered many, and defied the power-that-be. Samuel Adams organized and directed people to revolt against the King. Although loyalists called him and evil and vindictive man and fought to develop an aristocracy that would follow the crown, Adams rallied the common people for encroaching on home rule. The Royal Governor said of Adams, “I doubt if there is a greater incendiary in the King’s dominion or a man of greater malignity of heart.” It may have the flourish of pleasant speak, but it has the tone of the insults we hear today.

The Rights of the Colonists

In 1772, Samuel Adams drafted a declaration of the rights of the colonists as men, as Christians, and as subjects of the British Crown. This statement predated the Declaration of Independence by four years.

[I]t is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.

Have to love how often slavery appears as a punishment of giving up freedom, yet still exists in the colonies.

Adams attacked the overall view that the few should govern the many. He

  • attacked British law for not serving the general welfare;
  • championed the revolutionary principle that the people should defy abusive laws imposed on them;
  • created the Committees of Correspondence, which were used to rally support for independence; and
  • organized the Constitutional Congress and drafted the Articles of Confederation.

After Independence

During the Second Continental Congress, he signed of the Declaration of Independence. He also created the Articles of Confederation. In 1781 he returned to Massachusetts and was elected to the State Senate. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1789 and elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1794.

Adams did not work on the Constitution. He opposed it and the federal government. However, the Massachusetts Compromise, which included the proviso that some amendments be added later, brought him to vote aye. He then worked to create the Bill of Rights. As the northern leader of the Jefferson Republicans, he fought the Federalist Party, which took power in Massachusetts. He retired with President Washington. And has had a interesting historical analysis since.

Why Douglas Focuses on Adams And What We Need Today

Justice Douglas loved liberty. He had a strong libertarian bent that would have appealed to Adams. Both believed that the people deserve more power. They did not like government stepping in to tell people what to do. Douglas wrote of Adams, “He not only helped prepare the American mind for revolution, he organized the people for political action, making clear where the opposition was vulnerable and what political tactics were practical.”

When I look at the Resistance today, this is where I feel we fall apart. Today’s society does not want to join organizations. We currently live in an anti-establishment world. People don’t join clubs, churches, or socialize outside of their current group of friends. Movement has decreased. “Just slightly more than one in ten Americans (11.2 percent) moved between 2015 and 2016, almost half the 20.2 percent rate back in 1948, when the Census began tracking American mobility.” Therefore, people stick with who and what they know instead of meeting new people or experiencing different aspects of life.

In my view, this means people don’t have to join and in fact, don’t want to join, anything. Democrats and liberals need people like Adams to make clear why the Republican and Trump party are vulnerable. Just like many vilified Adams, we need leaders to take those wounds. Adams did not become President. But he did create the nation we love. And ensured that the liberties of individuals did not disappear through a federal government.


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