Today is patriot’s day, marking the Revolutionary War’s opening shots at Lexington and Concord. An excellent way to commemorate it is by remembering Samuel Adams, who Murray Rothbard called “the premier leader of the revolutionary movement,” as far more than a name on a beer bottle.
Adams helped organize the Committees of Correspondence, authored “The Rights of Colonists,” founded The Sons of Liberty, and was the principal organizer of the Boston Tea Party. The British government wanted him for treason a year before the Declaration of Independence. He inspired the battle cry “no taxation without representation,” signed the Declaration of Independence and was a representative to both Continental Congresses. Even Paul Revere’s famous ride was to warn Adams.
Samuel Adams’ most important contribution to America’s cause, however, was that, in his cousin John Adams’ words, he had “the most thorough understanding of liberty,” which was the central spark in America’s creation. The threats liberty faces today, including a host of government actions that treat the trampling of liberty as non-issues, make recalling his ideas particularly important.
Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them.
Without liberty and equality [under the law], there cannot exist … the assurance of this to every citizen, that his own personal safety and rights are secure … the end and design of all free and lawful governments.
The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.
It is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men … to renounce their essential rights, or the means of preserving those rights.
Our unalterable resolution would be to be free.
All might be free if they valued freedom, and valued it as they should.
Our contest is … whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
The most glorious legacy we can bequeath to posterity is liberty … the only true security is liberty!
While a people retain a just sense of liberty … the insolence of power will forever be despised.
No people will tamely surrender their liberties … when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved.
There is a degree of watchfulness over all men possessed of power or influence upon which the liberties of mankind must depend. It is necessary to guard against the infirmities of the best as well as the wickedness of the worst.
Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.
While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties.
It is a tremendously important and never-ending problem for the self-governing American people to be … ever alert and vigorously active in … combating wherever necessary any and all threats to Individual Liberty and to its supporting system of constitutionally limited government.
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks … Let us remember that ‘if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.’
If ye love … the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom … may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.
It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy … to be cheated out of [our liberty] by the artifices of designing men.
If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.
Samuel Adams wanted to “renovate the age, by … instructing [Americans] in the art of self-government,” so that we would be capable of “assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which [God] bestowed.” In an era of constricting limits on how much self-government we are allowed, we need to rekindle that same devotion to liberty.