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Samuel Adams

Section 2: Out in the World

Section 1: Sam of the Adams Family

Section 3: Shifting Loyalties

After receiving his Master's degree, Samuel Adams began the search for a job. He halfheartedly began studying law but found that his mother's strong opposition prevented any serious study. He joined the counting house of Thomas Cushing, hoping to succeed in business. He quickly proved that he severely lacked business abilities. After a few months, Cushing broke the news to Adams and his parents that Adams would never be a merchant. Cushing remarked that he trained men to be merchants, not politicians. Adams's father thought that there might be hope for the young man to become a financier and thus loaned him a thousand pounds with which to begin business. Adams lost almost every penny in a single transaction. Samuel Adams then joined his father in the family brewery.

Although he proved himself more successful at brewing than at financing, Adams's first love remained politics. In 1748, he joined with some radical friends to begin a newspaper called the Independent Advertiser, and he made his first foray into political writing. Adams's writings came as the situation in the colony began to heat up again–a truce between the governor and his opponents had been called during the prosecution of King George's War from 1741–1748. While Adams failed in his attempt to jump-start the revolution, these early political writings gave insight into the man he would become. He used his Harvard schooling to show that if Boston did not reform to more Puritan ways, it might fall just as Rome once did. He held the governor responsible for the lack of morals in the society and argued that the politician had chosen the materialistic ways of the merchants rather than the noble virtues upon which the colony had been founded a century before. He argued for the Country Party, the opposition party that his father helped start, and condemned the governor's political machine. Most stunning, though, was Adams's demands that the General Court be given the same status as Parliament and that it be the final word on matters in the colony–not the crown or Parliament. The Independent Advertiser folded after a year of publication, and Adams failed to make a name for himself in the colony since the paper's writers were anonymous. However, it left one lasting impression: since much of Adams's thoughts and arguments were based on the theory of John Locke, Adams's writings exposed New Englanders to John Locke's ideas of liberty.

Adams's father died in 1748, and Adams began some of most impoverished years of his life. And although he had been elected to his first public office in 1746, that of thr clerk of the Boston Market, he found himself shut out of office until 1753 when he was elected town scavenger–not quite the high-profile jumping-off point for which the aspiring politician had hoped. Finally, in 1756, he rose to the post of Boston tax collector, a post he would hold for almost a decade. During this period, the colony was engaged in all-but constant war. As the French and Indian War raged on, Adams and other radical politicians found themselves unpopular. Adams and his friends waited quietly as the colony massed troops for an attack on French Canada and while border settlements were burned by Indian attacks. Adams found a ready opponent, though, in the Land Bank commissioners trying to foreclose on his father's estate. He turned his vitriolic writings toward them and summed up his approach toward battles of the pen as such: "Put your adversary in the wrong, and keep him there." When in 1758, the commissioners put what remained of the Adams estate up for a fourth auction–the first three being unsuccessful–Adams set out to defend it with his chosen sword: editorials and broadsides. He threatened to sue the sheriff and anyone who bid on the place, reminding potential buyers that no one had had the nerve to buy the place in the three previous auctions. The sale eventually fell through, and Adams held on to the neglected brewery and the now dilapidated house.

Adams badly wanted to help lead Massachusetts, but, being in the opposition, he found his way blocked by the "Shirlean Faction" of Massachusetts politics, so- called after the governor of the same name who led the colony for sixteen years. Thus, Shirley's Court Party, composed of merchants, political appointees, and "High Church" men, faced Adams's Country Party–the mantle of which he had received from the party's founder, Elisha Cooke. Thomas Hutchinson was a strong opponent for Adams. The stunning Hutchinson had "captivated half the pretty ladies in the colony," the Country Party complained. In 1750, Hutchinson outlawed paper money, thus killing the pet project of the Country Party. In response, crowd of radicals attacked his house and burned it to the ground. Nonetheless, he stood proudly against everything Adams wanted. He would be Adams's great opponent for much of the rest of their lives.

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