Reading Sam Adams…part 2

My recent comments about Stacy Schiff’s The Revolutionary Samuel Adams got me thinking about some of John Adams’s thoughts about his second cousin. In particular, John shared a neat story about Sam’s secretiveness—a problem that has bedeviled biographers, including Schiff, because Sam didn’t leave behind a trove of documentary evidence the way other Founders did.

“I have seen him . . .” said John, “in Philadelphia, when he was about to leave Congress, cut up with his scissors whole bundles of letters, into atoms that could never be reunited, and throw them out at the window, to be scattered by the winds. This was in summer, when he had no fire. In winter he threw whole handfuls into the fire. As we were on terms of perfect intimacy, I have joked him, perhaps rudely, upon his anxious caution. His answer was, ‘Whatever becomes of me, my friends shall never suffer by my negligence.’”[1]

John admired Sam, 13 years his senior, a great deal. The two were hardly acquainted growing up, but as John started off his legal career in Boston, Sam—a great cultivator of talent—pegged him as someone to develop. As tensions in Boston grew between the Sons of Liberty, British officials, and far-off Parliament, Sam brought John into the inner circle because of John’s sharp legal mind. The decision paved John’s eventual path to national politics.

“Mr. Adams was an original,” John said of Sam, saying he was “born and tempered a wedge of steel. . . .”[2]

In his common appearance, he was a plain, simple, decent citizen, of middling stature, dress and manners. He had an exquisite ear for music, and a charming voice, when he pleased to exert it.—Yet his ordinary speeches in town meetings, in the house of representatives and in congress, exhibited nothing extraordinary; but upon great occasions, when his deeper feelings were excited, he erected himself, or rather nature seemed to erect him, without the smallest symptom of affectation, into an upright dignity of figure and gesture, and gave a harmony to his voice, which made a strong impression on spectators and auditors, the more lasting for the purity, correctness and nervous elegance of his style.[3]

John spoke on several occasions of Sam’s “an air of dignity and majesty.” He admired Sam’s “harmonious voice and decisive tone” and his “self-recollection, a self-possession, a self-command, a presence of mind that was admired by every man present. . . .”[4] He also listed “his caution, his discretion, his ingenuity, his sagacity, his self-command, his presence of mind, and his intrepidity” as traits that “commanded the admiration” of friend and foe alike—friends who applauded him and foes who could not help but respect Sam Adams’s considerable populist powers.[5]

It is little doubt why John later said, “Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written.”[6]

[1] “From John Adams to William Tudor, Sr., 5 June 1813,” Founders Online, National Archives, 

[2] “From John Adams to William Tudor, Sr., 5 June 1813,” Founders Online, National Archives, 

[3] “From John Adams to William Tudor, Sr., 15 April 1818,” Founders Online, National Archives,

[4] “From John Adams to William Tudor, Sr., 15 April 1818,” Founders Online, National Archives,

[5] “From John Adams to Jedidiah Morse, 1 January 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, 

[6] “From John Adams to William Tudor, Sr., 15 April 1818,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Review: Founding Martyr, The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna

ERW Book Reviews (1)

Doctor. Major General. President of the Provincial Congress. Author of political tracts. A true patriot. Forgotten.

41mPwaMUWfL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_All these words, plus many more, are titles that depict the life of Dr. Joseph Warren. However, the last term is most synonymous with the Massachusetts doctor who fell in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. That last word, forgotten, is exactly what author and historian Christian Di Spigna is hoping to expunge with his new biography, Founding Martyr. 

Di Spigna, an early American history expert and Colonial Williamsburg volunteer, focuses his account of Dr. Warren on not the events immediately surrounding his death at Bunker Hill and subsequent martyrdom but “to fill in the more obscure parts of Warren’s life” which will lead to understanding more of the “key period in the formation of his character, his special networks, and ultimately his medical and political careers” (pg. 7). Continue reading “Review: Founding Martyr, The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna”

Six Signing Signers

Part One of Six

On August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the majority of the 56 men who would forever be known as the “Signers of the Declaration of Independence” placed quill to ink and affixed their signature.

On September 17, 1787, the men who persevered, haggled, and agreed on the United States Constitution, dipped a quill into ink and placed their signatures on that famous document.

If one looks closely and reads the names of the signers, six gentlemen’s names would appear on both documents. If one hazarded a quick guess, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John or Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin would most likely be the first names to spill off the tongue.

Only one of those names would be correct; Benjamin Franklin. This post, the first in the series, will shed light on whose these men were, who had the great fortune–or luck?–to sign both famous political documents. The first of the “Six Signing Signers” is…..


George Clymer. Continue reading “Six Signing Signers”

Immediate: Concord (MA) Museum Signs Historic Agreement to Operate the Wright Tavern

On Wednesday, June 8, a signing ceremony marked the beginning of an agreement between First Parish in Concord, owner of the Wright Tavern, and the Concord Museum. Starting this fall, the Concord Museum will provide educational programming to school groups in the Wright Tavern and open the historic building to the public for commemorative events in October and April each year. On hand for the signing were representatives of the Concord Museum and First Parish as well as members of the Wright Tavern Exploratory Committee (WTEC), appointed last fall to develop a sustainable, strategic plan to showcase the Wright Tavern as a National Historic Landmark.

Plaque on the Wright Tavern (ERW collection photo)

“Opening the historic Wright Tavern to public and educational access will provide a true sense of place when learning about the historical events of the American Revolution,” said Mel Bernstein, member of WTEC and Chairman of the American Revolution Round Table of the Minute Man National Historical Park.

No building in this historic community was of greater consequence to the beginnings of the American Revolution than the Wright Tavern, built in 1747. The First Provincial Congress met in Concord at the Wright Tavern in October 1774, electing John Hancock as the Congress’s president and making provision for the collection of taxes. The Second Provincial Congress met there again in March and April 1775. Presided over by John Hancock with Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren in attendance, the Provincial Congress met in defiance of Royal and Parliamentary authority — creating a Massachusetts army, raising taxes, and performing other roles necessary to form its own government, independent of British authority.  Then, in the early hours of April 19, 1775, Concord’s Minute Men assembled in the Wright Tavern before setting off to repel the advancing British troops at the North Bridge.

Since 1886, First Parish in Concord has owned and maintained this historic structure. “The Wright Tavern is certainly one of the most important Revolutionary War-era buildings in Concord,” explained Tim Jacoby, Chair of the First Parish Trustees of Parish Donations. “Although the building is owned by the church, we truly feel it belongs to the people of Concord and to the American people. This agreement with the Concord Museum will establish greater public accessibility to the Tavern.”

In 1961, the Wright Tavern was designated a National Historic Landmark by U.S. Secretary Fred Seaton, declaring it “an historical site of exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States.”

Margaret Burke, Executive Director of the Concord Museum, said: “The Museum is thrilled with this partnership to bring the importance of the Wright Tavern to the fore. Concord is home to invaluable historical and cultural resources, and this is a wonderful example of how organizations within the town are working together to promote this history and make it relevant to residents and visitors.”

Leah Walczak, the Concord Museum’s Director of Education and Public Programs, explained the role the Wright Tavern will play in educating visiting school groups:  “The Museum currently provides specialized programming to over 10,000 school children each year. Along with hands-on history education using objects from the Museum’s collections, this agreement will allow us to provide programs within the setting of one of the finest historic buildings in Concord.”

This partnership was brought about through the work of the Wright Tavern Exploratory Committee, which convened from September 2015 through January 2016.  Members included:  John Boynton, Chair of the Exploratory Committee and a First Parish Trustee; Doug Baker, Sacristan and Curator of First Parish; Mel Bernstein, Chair of the American Revolution Round Table of Minute Man National Historical Park; Jim Cunningham, Project Manager for Barrett Farm Restoration, and Treasurer of Save Our Heritage; Sue Gladstone, Director of Development for the Concord Museum; Jayne Gordon, Public Historian for Robbins House, Thoreau Farm, and the Concord Museum; Tim Jacoby, Chair of the First Parish Trustees; Bob Morris, Chair of the Friends of Minute Man National Historical Park; and Tom Wilson, First Parish Treasurer.

A generous gift to the Museum from John and Johanna Boynton is funding this historic partnership.

*About the Concord Museum
The Concord Museum is where all of Concord’s remarkable past is brought to life through an inspiring collection of historical, literary, and decorative arts treasures.  Renowned for the 1775 Revere lantern and Henry Thoreau’s Walden desk, the Concord Museum is home to a nationally significant collection of American decorative arts, including clocks, furniture, and silver. Founded in 1886, the Museum is a gateway to historic Concord for visitors from around the world and a vital cultural resource for the town and the region.  Visit*

*For More Information, contact:

Barbara Rhines, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
978-369-9763, ext. 229

Committees of Correspondence = 18th Century Social Media?


Information. Communication. Solidarity. Linkage. Friendship. Point-of-view. Identity. Current Events.

These words describe reasons in the 20th century why people joined and continue to join social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Approximately 240 years before Facebook was launched in February 2004, the first major attempt at achieving all the proponents above was the job function of the various Committees of Correspondence established in the thirteen American Colonies. Continue reading “Committees of Correspondence = 18th Century Social Media?”