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A Tale of Two Tea Parties

Understanding the legacy of Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, is key to understanding today’s movement to reclaim our constitutional government.


Taxes have frustrated Americans since before the nation’s founding. Recently, the tea party movement has brought renewed attention to how tax rates are hurting families and the companies where they work.

Of course, today’s movement is not new, but rooted in our nation’s founding. And the name -- and values -- of the first tea party leader might surprise you.

Morality and economics are inseparable. The Founders understood that the right to own property came from God, not government. The Eighth Commandment -- “You shall not steal” -- implies the legitimacy of property ownership.

The modern-day tea party reaches back into America’s past for inspiration, and to find the arguments and principles for limited, fiscally responsible government, we must do the same, remembering that a government big enough to give us all we want is also big enough to take all we have.

If we want today’s tea party to have a lasting impact on the United States, who better to learn from than Samuel Adams, the Massachusetts agitator who helped organize and leverage the original Boston Tea Party and is rightly called “the father of the American Revolution”?

In the April 2011 issue of Townhall Magazine, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, offers a history lesson on Sam Adams, the original tea partier, in his feature piece, "A Tale of Two Tea Parties." Getting to know Adams will help Americans to better understand today's tea party movement.

Below are excerpts from "A Tale of Two Tea Parties." To read the whole thing, order Townhall Magazine today.

In the 1770s, British leaders were profoundly arrogant toward the 13 American colonies. From import duties and taxes imposed at will to denying any genuine colonial self-government, the king and English leaders had demonstrated their unwillingness to respect colonial rights.

Many of the colonies’ best minds had become convinced that over a period of years the crown had developed an intentional strategy to deny them their God-given, natural rights as persons and their legal rights as British subjects. They would not accept this. Leading the fight against British enslavement was Samuel Adams of Boston.

Sam Adams may have been America’s first full-time politician. As a graduate of Harvard College, he had resisted his parents’ urgings to become a minister in the Congregational Church. He briefly served Boston as a tax collector, where his famously lax collecting made him a popular figure among those who owed. He briefly took up -- and quickly abandoned -- the study of law, but his 1743 master’s thesis for Harvard addressed whether it was lawful to resist a king if resistance was the only path to save a country.

Sam Adams agitated tirelessly against the British tyranny of “taxation without representation.” Many of Adams’ campaigns -- boycotts, Stamp Act protests, the Boston Tea Party -- were about various economic aspects of British misrule.

But Sam Adams did not believe men could live by bread alone. He deeply respected the rights of Americans to labor, enjoy the fruits of that labor and enjoy the full exercise of civil and religious liberty. To attempt to sever those connections is to cut the flower of conservative activism from its deep roots in the rich soil of Christian faith and religious liberty.

Thomas Jefferson knew that religious liberty was the foundation of all political liberty -- he believed that when he authored Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. And though he was no orthodox Christian himself, Jefferson reserved his highest praise for the man who was the father of the Revolution -- Sam Adams.

To this devout Christian man, President Jefferson wrote, “I addressed a letter to you, my very dear & antient friend, on the 4th of March: not indeed to you by name, but through the medium of some of my fellow citizens, whom occasion called on me to address. In meditating the matter of that address, I often asked myself, is this exactly in the spirit of the patriarch of liberty, Samuel Adams? Is it as he would express it? Will he approve of it?”

The “letter” to Adams that Jefferson referred to was his own 1801 Inaugural Address. Has any American citizen been so honored by a newly sworn-in president? Americans ought to understand and honor the complete legacy of Samuel Adams as we work together to defend faith, family and freedom.

Get the full story about Sam Adams and the tea parties in the April issue of Townhall Magazine. Order today.

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