Sam Adams, freedom’s full draught

Paul Jacob
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Posted: Mar 04, 2007 12:00 AM

Most Americans know Sam Adams as a beer. A very good beer. Oh, sure, folks do remember that the beer’s namesake is one of those founding father-types, but that hardly gives Mr. Adams his due.

Now it is true that Adams partnered with his father in a malthouse, but Sam was always more interested in politics than in business, or beer.

At the crucible of revolution in Boston, the first patriot to see that a break with Great Britain was inevitable if America was to become free was Samuel Adams.

When the British marched their Redcoats to Lexington and Concord to confiscate the colonists’ weapons stocks, it was Adams (along with political financier John Hancock) whom the British sought to arrest. The British knew who the biggest troublemakers were.

And when they fired, or were fired at, that was the shot “heard ’round the world.”

John Adams wrote of his cousin, “For fifty years his pen, his tongue, his activity, were constantly exerted for his country . . . Without the character of Sam Adams, the true history of America can never be written.”

Sam pioneered the use of economic boycotts against the Stamp Act and other British incursions on colonial rights. His publicity skills were critical in whipping up passions after British soldiers fired on a Boston crowd in what became known throughout the colonies as the Boston Massacre. And with his Sons of Liberty, Adams even utilized civil disobedience (or not-so-civil disobedience) to thwart the British — the zenith of which was the Boston Tea Party.

It is truly amazing how much can be accomplished if one doesn’t care who gets the credit. This Sam Adams well understood. It’s one big reason why he’s so often overlooked by historians. Adams preferred to work behind the scenes. He certainly didn’t need to play the part of recognized leader, and he had the political vision to see that at times it would be better that he not be “out front.” Fortunately, he had a knack for finding other people’s talents and putting them to good use.

Another reason public memory on Adams is sketchy is that he destroyed much of his correspondence. Why? To protect those with whom he was communicating. Smart in winning a revolution. Not so smart if you are intent on primping for historians.

Adams was a rabble-rouser of the first order, but his two most important contributions were his writings and his development of the Committees of Correspondence. His public writings, usually pseudonymous and widely featured throughout the colonies, did as much as anyone’s to both inflame the passions of the people and make the intellectual case for independence. Meanwhile, the Committees of Correspondence were absolutely critical in uniting the 13 colonies amidst all their religious, economic and other differences.

The Committees of Correspondence were a national rollout of the work Adams had done in Massachusetts, where he networked with activists at the local level throughout the state. The communications were essential in informing the public against British censorship and fostered important relationships and camaraderie. That’s why at so many crucial times Adams was able to bring people together to exert greater citizen pressure.

Sam Adams, more than any other person, united the 13 colonies into one America, convinced them to battle the biggest empire on the globe, and thus ushered in the greatest period of freedom in the history of mankind.

It’s wonderful history. But, of course, Sam Adams is long dead. Now mainly remembered for beer, right?

Wrong . . . or, if correct, not for long.

There’s a new group on the political scene, one that embraces not only Sam’s name but also his belief in local grassroots organizing: The Sam Adams Alliance.

"We need a real, grassroots movement across the country, organized locally,” says John Tillman, president of The Sam Adams Alliance. “We connect and support citizen leaders who are working to expand liberty and hold the government accountable.”

Tillman complains that limited government advocates have not paid enough attention to grassroots politics, leaving the local field to the Left. He points out that big government has a massive, built-in army with public employees. State and local governments employ 16.8 million people, dwarfing the federal government’s 2.7 million workers.

Furthermore, state and local governments spend roughly the same amount as the Feds each year. That’s truly amazing, considering that much of the federal government’s spending is entitlements, defense and interest on its debt.

“We’re confident that we can help pro-liberty activists be more successful,” says Tillman. “Not because we have a bottle of secret Sam Adams formula hidden in the files of our Chicago headquarters, but because we understand that the talent and expertise is already out there at work.”

Tillman believes, much as Adams did, that these local battles are critical, in and of themselves, and also in their ability to impact national politics and policy. The Alliance seeks to be a networking station through which pro-liberty activists can communicate with, learn from and empower one another.

I’m convinced Tillman is right. The Sam Adams Alliance can do an enormous amount of good. In fact, the only questionable detail about this group is their decision to hire yours truly as a senior advisor.

If you’re a modern-day Sam Adams, you should check out this new group.

And join the revolution.