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Samuel Adams

Section 3: Shifting Loyalties

Section 2: Out in the World

Section 4: Sugar and Stamps

By 1760, Thomas Hutchinson's efforts to preserve the colony's upper-class rule began to worry Adams deeply. Hutchinson was now president of the Massachusetts Council, lieutenant governor, Captain of Castle William and probate judge of Suffolk County–not only did it look like Hutchinson's party would prevent the government from becoming egalitarian, but it looked like Hutchinson himself might prevent anyone else from holding office altogether. His efforts violated the colony's principle that the different branches of government should be separated from one another, and Adams's followers complained that the colony "groaned under his Tyranny."

Adams was so caught up in his political activities that he had allowed his father's estate to dwindle to nothing, and by 1760, he was nearly broke, surviving on his meager income as tax collector. His wife's death in 1757 had left him to raise his two kids alone, but nothing seemed to deter him from his rabble-rousing. His financial situation would change little for the rest of his life, and unlike the previous leader of the Country Party, who had a sizable fortune outside politics, Adams was so poor that during the revolution his friends had to pay his way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

The appointment of Thomas Pownall as governor in 1757 had gradually calmed Adams's heated rhetoric, as the new governor tried to appease the various factions in the colony. In fact, Pownall proved to be the most popular governor in almost sixty years. The peace would not last, and in 1760 Pownall was replaced by Francis Bernard. Decades later, the colonists remembered Pownall's reign as the "happiest times of their life," and some promised to forego the Revolution if only the crown would restore the liberties the colonists had had under Pownall. For his part, Bernard thought he had found a perfect posting that would allow him to rest and live quietly–he saw Massachusetts as one of the best behaved of the English colonies: it obeyed the trading laws and kept a large standing army to help fight the French. Bernard could not have been more wrong. Massachusetts was deeply chaotic politically, and the opposition groups, like Adams's, rarely passed up a chance to skewer the governor.

The growing realization that the land to the north and west of the American colonies might allow the colonies to grow larger than the mother country had heightened the colonists' perception of themselves and helped start them down the road to revolution. The merchants were beginning to realize that they made better profits by trading with France and Spain–Britain's sworn enemies–than with the mother country herself. The Parliament countered by imposing writs that allowed customs agents to search almost at will, and it singled out Boston as a main smuggling center. By allowing neighboring areas like Rhode Island and New York to escape almost without enforcement while cracking down on Boston's efforts, the British government provoked the colony even further.

As the wars in Canada and the frontier ended, Massachusetts found itself increasingly involved in internal battles. The colonists found a welcome supporter in James Otis, Jr. He recognized the enforcement efforts as unjust and–irked by the appointment of Hutchinson to the Supreme Judicial Court, an appointment Otis had always wanted–quit his post as the King's advocate general to work instead for the merchants. His arguments in front of the Judicial Court in favor of natural law and against the writs would prove to be one of the cornerstones of the growing rebellion movement. Hutchinson, however, outmaneuvered Otis, and the writs became more commonplace as 1761 began. Otis assumed the head of the Country Party and Adams became his deputy. Otis and Adams made a serious play for the loyalty of Governor Bernard and told him that their efforts had driven three of the last four governors from office. Their argument was simple enough: Join us or face ruin. But Bernard had not been in the colony long enough to realize their true power, and he aligned himself with Hutchinson, who as the holder of most major offices, seemed to be the most powerful man in the colony. Bernard quickly realized the peril of his decision.

The Country Party revived, and Otis and Adams redoubled their efforts in attacking the government. The Merchants Club and the Boston Masonic Society began to pepper the governor with insults, and a host of small newspapers like the Boston Gazette sprang up with venomous editorials. The most important patriots' club, however, was the Boston Caucus Club, an egalitarian group of men who met in private to plot against the government and hand pick the town's elected officials–the slate of candidates the Club agreed upon was rarely defeated at the polls. Adams set up a headquarters in the Green Dragon Tavern on Union Street, where the fledgling group came to be the Sons of Liberty, and the established Caucus Club met to complain of Britain's growing tyranny.

One group that Adams shunned, though, was the Masons. While the group would play a key role in mobilizing Bostonians to the coming war, the Masons' secret society bothered Adams. There is no hard evidence that Adams ever was asked to join, but Adams's prominent role in the community would have made him a popular recruit for the society.

The next few years, however, proved tough for the Country Party. Otis lost control of the Massachusetts House, and the controversy over the writs lost steam as it became clear Britain would not back down.

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