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SAMUEL ADAMS (1722-1803)
LEADER OF THE BOSTON PATRIOTS
ROM 1760 to 1775 Boston was the hotbed of resistance to British
oppression. Onit the hand of George III. descended with crush
ing weight, and a stalwart group of patriots defied the efforts of those whom they deemed their mortal enemies. Foremost among these was Samuel Adams, who led in all the movements against “taxation without representation,” and by his fervid oratory kept the spirit of resistance alive. Poor though he was, he could not be bought, though more than once an effort to bribe him to desert the cause of the people was made. “Come, friend Samuel," said to him Mather Byles, a Tory clergyman of Boston, “ let us relinquish republican phantoms and attend to our fields.” “Very well,” he replied, “ you attend to the planting of liberty and I will grub up the taxes. Thus we shall have pleasant places.”
He was the leading spirit in the celebrated “ Boston Tea Party.” On December 16, 1773, when the tea-ships lay in the harbor, a great town meeting was held, in which Adams and others took prominent part. When night had fallen he rose and said: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.” These words seemed a signal, a war-whoop was heard at the door, and a party of men disguised as Indians rushed impetuously to the wharf, boarded the ships, and flung the tea to the fishes of the harbor. This event and the action of the king in response thereto, had a great deal to do with precipitating the Revolution.
Adams became a member of the Continental Congress and was one of the most earnest and unflinching of those who labored for the Declaration of Independence. The signing of the Declaration gave occasion for the delivery of the only example we possess of his fervent
oratory. Adams continued in Congress during the war, and afterwards remained a prominent figure in Massachusetts politics, being Governor from 1795 to 1797. He died in 1803 at a good old age.
THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE [The only extant speech of Samuel Adams was delivered at the State House in Philadelphia, to a very numerous audience, on the ist. of August, 1776, its subject being American Independence. We give its eloquent and inspiring peroration.]
If there is any man so base or so weak as to prefer a dependence on Great Britain, to the dignity and happiness of living a member of a free and independent nation, let me tell him that necessity now demands what the generous principle of patriotism should have dictated. We have now no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains ; desolation and death mark their bloody career ; whilst the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from heaven : “Will you permit our posterity to groan under the galling chains of our murderers ? Has our blood been expended in vain ? Is the only reward which our constancy, till death, has obtained for our country, that it should be sunk into a deeper and more ignominious vassalage?” Recollect who are the men that demand your submission ; to whose decrees you are invited to pay obedience! Men who, unmindful of their relation to you as brethren, of your long implicit submission to their laws; of the sacrifice which you and your forefathers made of your natural advantages for commerce to their avarice, formed a deliberate plan to wrest from you the small pittance of property which they had permitted you to acquire. Remember that the men who wish to rule over you are they who, in pursuit of this plan of despotism, annulled the sacred contracts which had been made with your ancestors ; conveyed into your cities a mercenary soldiery to compel you to submission by insult and murder, who called your patience, cowardice; your piety, hypocrisy.
Countrymen ! the men who now invite you to surrender your rights into their hands are the men who have let loose the merciless savages to riot in the blood of their brethren, who have taught treachery to your slaves, and courted them to assassinate your wives and children. These are the men to whom we are exhorted to sacrifice the blessings which Providence holds out to us—the happiness, the dignity of uncontrolled freedom and independence. Let not your generous indignation be directed against any among us who may advise so absurd and maddening a measure. Their number is but few and daily decreases; and the spirit which can render them patient of slavery will render them contemptible enemies.
framed the Constitution, which he aided Hamilton in supporting in that splendid series of essays published under the title of “The Federalist.” After serving in Congress and in the Virginia Legislature, Madison became Secretary of State under Jefferson, and in 1809 took his seat as President. Ile continued in this high office for eight years, of which three were years of war.
The remainder of his life was spent in rest and quiet.
Madison was one of the most illustrious of the early American statesmen, an able thinker, a skillful writer, and a brilliant orator. He took an active part in the debates on the Constitution, and afterwards in the Virginia Convention called to ratify it. Here he had to contend against the vehement oratory of Patrick Ilenry and the persuasive eloquence of George Mason; yet he gained his cause, the Constitution was adopted, and Virginia entered the Union.
THE AMERICAN FEDERAL UNION [While Hamilton in New York was delivering that brilliant series of speeches on the Constitution from which we have given an extract, and which carried New York for the Union, his colleague, Madison, was engaged in the same good work in Virginia. Hamilton had the able party leader George Clinton, to contend against, and Madison had the brilliant orator Patrick Henry, yet they both carried their point. They had much the stronger side of the argument, and were able to show the people that there was no middle course between the Constitution and anarchy. To reject it would have been the death of the Union and the ruin of the States. This is what Madison sought to demonstrate in his series of specches given in June, 1788. We offer from these an illustrative extract describing the character of the proposed new government.)
Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to show that it is perfectly safe and just to vest it with the power of taxation. There are a number of opinions; but the principal question is, whether it be a federal or a consolidated government. In order to judge properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely, in its principal parts. I myself conceive that it is of a mixed nature; it is, in a manner, unprecedented. We cannot find one express prototype in the experience of the world; it stands by itself. In some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others, it is of a consolidated nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the Constitution is investigated, ratified and made the act of the people of America, I can say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman [Patrick Henry] has alleged, that this government is not completely consolidated; nor is it entirely federal. Who are the parties to it? The people : not the people as composing