Samuel Adams: A Life
Ira Stoll
(Free Press, 2008)
352 pages, $28

Samuel Adams arguably contributed more to American independence than any other person, but most people today recognize his name only as a brand of beer. While George Washington was indispensable to winning the Revolutionary War and ensuring that the new republic succeeded, Samuel Adams played a crucial role in prodding the colonies to declare their independence from Britain—yet today he is usually eclipsed by Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, and others. In his brilliant biography, Samuel Adams: A Life, Ira Stoll, co-founder of The New York Sun, resuscitates Adams' reputation.

Stoll explains both why Adams has been forgotten and "why he should be remembered." Stoll brings the patriot whom Thomas Jefferson called "truly the Man of the Revolution" alive. By writing dozens of newspaper articles denouncing British oppression, organizing protests and boycotts, and serving as a member of the Massachusetts General Court from 1765 to 1774 and the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1781, Adams strove to persuade his countrymen to break with Britain and worked to achieve victory on the battlefield. Through these activities and later as governor of Massachusetts, Adams displayed passion, determination, stubbornness, eloquence, idealism, and humility.

While a few historians and ministers have exaggerated the religious commitment of the founders, most scholars have ignored the fervent faith of many of them, most notably Patrick Henry, John Jay, Elias Boudinot, and John Witherspoon. Samuel Adams used many biblical arguments to justify American independence. Stoll labels him "the archetype of the religiously passionate American ...

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