He wasn't always contrary and ornery. Sam Adams was once Samuel Adams whose father was a leading figure in the Massachusetts political and social world. And with a bit better luck the senior Adams might have remained that way - but he did something which was farsighted and foolish at the same time. The senior Adams, during a fiscal crisis in the late 1740s (when son Sam was still young) pushed for and financially supported a land bank. His idea was that the colony had so much land it was a key resource - as good (if not better) than gold. Mr.Adams wanted the colony to base the economy on a land based bank, which would mint it's own money to pay debts.
But Sam's dad did not realize the opposition of such figures as the Hutchinsons and Olivers, hard currency (i.e. British currency) men who opposed what they thought was anarchistic "voodoo economics" (to use a much later dismissive term). With their political clout, they knocked the props out of Adams' land bank. It bankrupted the old man, and probably helped kill him. It also changed his son. It made him look differently at the Hutchinsons and Olivers.
Sam found employment here and there - once even as a tax collector. He hated it. Since he lived in straightened circumstances he sympathized with the debtors. He build up lasting friendships and contacts all over the place. He had a natural gift for making friends (except for one group - unfortunately Sam disliked the Catholics intensely). Still most people liked straight forward talking Sam (as opposed to his cousin, the hard working lawyer John Adams).
He found the road to his glory in the aftermath of the French and Indian War. Sam saw that the bungling of the British governments, with their taxes , could lead to what would only be fitting. His father was destroyed by the British Kingdom and it's local allies. Here was a chance to overturn these forces and enforce local control.
So Sam helped lead the attack on the Stamp Act, and on every other tax the British imposed. His close alliances of friendships assisted him in his plans. Within an hour he could get a sizable of angry citizens together. And in the Stamp Act crisis they demonstrated his wrath. They attacked and destroyed the home of Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson.
Soon he was allied with money - John Hancock, the wealthiest trader and banker in the colony: also it's biggest smuggler, and a foe of British insistence on obeying the old "Navigation" Acts against smuggling. They were an unbeatable pair - Adams the usual brains of the group (not that Hancock lacked them). They now had funds to do some real damage.
When in March 1770 another mob of Sam's pelted British troops in Boston, causing some of the soldiers to panic and fire into the mob, killing Crispus Attucks and four others (including a boy), Sam had pal Paul Revere do some quick sketches that were incorporated in the first great political propaganda work in our nation's history: Revere's massively printed and distributed (thank's to Hancock's money) picture of the Boston Massacre. The success of the propaganda coup was somewhat blunted when cousin John agreed to defend Captain Preston and his soldiers on murder charges, and won acquittal, but the executions of the soldiers was not necessary. Besides, soon after cousin John was back alongside cousin Sam giving legal advice on moves.
The events in Boston were like a boxing match between a Mohammad Ali or Jack Johnson or Jack Dempsey and an old pug. Sam knew how to pick up on a current to cement his supporters and their determination against any attempt at full or partial apology by Hutchinson, Oliver, or later Sir Thomas Gage. The British best acted when they did virtually nothing, but it annoyed the King and it did not sit well with Parliament (which felt it's authority was being knocked - it was!).
In 1773 the British East India Company was in serious financial difficulties, and the British Government got a brilliant idea to sell cheap tea with the smallest possible tax on it for the colonies. Actually the newly priced India tea was cheaper than rival imports. The tea arrived in Boston Harbor, and nobody (thanks to Sam) was willing to unload it. Instead it was on three ships which (for safety sake) were parked near the fort in the center of the harbor. Then, on the night of December 12, 1773, boatloads of "Indians" came out to the three ships and dumped all the tea overboard. Just why the "Indians" did this (Mohawks, apparently, according to some descriptions) was never ascertained. If asked Sam just shrugged - he wasn't an Indian.
This episode I hope had fun with the incident - nobody was killed in the "Tea Party", just a lot of valuable tea was dumped and waterlogged. Sam is played here by E.G.Marshall, who probably was quite good in the role - I just hope he added the right amount of destructive fun Sam had in his role.
The aftermath looks very simple in retrospect. More troop sent to Gage. The Boston Port Bill closing the port until the tea is paid for. The colonies getting sympathetic to Massachusetts (because as Sam's Sons of Liberty groups say) it could be them next! Gage trying to grab weapons at Concord and Sam and Hancock in Lexington on April 18, 1775. Paul Revere and friends warn the countryside, and the war begins. Sam's war more than anyone else's. And he got that independence.
He died in 1806. He and Hancock split after the war but both men were Massachusetts' first two governors. And while he never reached the heights of cousin John, in the 1796 election he opposed John and got a few votes for the Presidency!
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