A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Samuel Adams

16 September 1722 - 3 October 1803

Samuel Adams, cousin of John Adams, was born into a well-regarded Puritan family in Boston. After graduating Harvard in 1740, he worked in Thomas Cushing's counting house, but discovered that politics, not business, interested him most. Gaining control of the family's prosperous brewery, Adams's poor management skills put him in debt and threatened the business. He then served as tax collector (1756-64) and as a member of the Massachusetts legislature (1765-74). Known chiefly as a radical capable of igniting public support, Adams was instrumental in organizing the Sons of Liberty and heading opposition to the Stamp Act. He also had a role in the 1772 creation of the Committee of Correspondence. He served as a delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses and signed the Declaration of Independence. Adams was Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under John Hancock (1789-1793), and then was himself governor (1794-97). By this time, Adams, still firm in his belief that government be based on virtue and community, was dismayed at the growing size of the federal government. Facing increased irrelevancy as a relic of the revolutionary generation, he died in 1803.