Samuel Adams did indeed operate a brewery in Boston, Massachusetts, but his company utterly failed. The founding father's talents lay elsewhere, as Adams enjoyed a robust political career serving Massachusetts and the Continental Congress. Cousin to two presidents, Samuel Adams himself played key roles in rallying the American public and its governing bodies to achieve independence from the British.


Samuel Adams was born September 27, 1722 in Boston, Massachusetts, although his birthplace is located in what is now the town of Quincy. His great-great-grandfather, Henry Adams, had immigrated to the American colonies from England in the 1630s.

Notable Relations

Many cousins of Samuel Adams were also notable citizens of Boston and important figures in the founding of the United States. His first cousin was John Adams, Jr., whose mother came from the locally famous Boylston family. John Adams was the second president of the United States and his son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth president and a first cousin once removed to Samuel Adams.


Samuel Adams studied as a youth at Boston Latin School, also the alma mater of John Hancock and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1736 Adams entered Harvard University and studied a range of subjects. He developed an interest in politics while at Harvard and left with a master's degree in politics in 1743.

Failed Brewery

Despite his father's wishes that he start a law career, Adams became an accountant at a business owned by Thomas Cushing, a lawyer and future governor of Massachusetts. Adams left to start his own brewery after a few years, but the entire company eventually went bankrupt. Adams lost a large sum of his father's money and turned back to politics after the failure.

Tax Collector

Adams would later become famous as an opponent of British taxes paid by colonists, but a job as tax collector was his first public occupation. His experience in this position helped shape his opinions about which taxes seemed unfair, especially those not levied against British subjects.

Massachusetts Assembly

In 1765, Samuel Adams was elected to his colony's local government, the Massachusetts Assembly. He served as a clerk and advocated against loyalist philosophies. While in the Assembly, Adams first proposed his idea for a continental congress, a legislative body that became real in 1774.

Boston Massacre

Following a bloody fight in 1770 that saw many colonists killed by British troops, Samuel Adams spoke at length to a meeting of the public and Massachusetts officials. The governor initially refused to force British troops out of the city, but Adams spoke for hours until he convinced the governor to do so.

Refusal of Bribery

In 1773, the next governor of Massachusetts attempted to bribe Adams to quit his efforts at fighting against the British powers. Adams was threatened with extradition to England for treason charges and offered untold financial incentives for peacefully agreeing to give up his fight, but Adams defiantly refused.

Continental Congress

The first Continental Congress convened in September of 1774 with Samuel Adams as a founding member. Adams stayed in the Congress until 1781. In that time, Adams signed the Declaration of Independence and was noted for eloquent speeches about the political philosophy of the new American government.

State Politics

Samuel Adams served Massachusetts in drafting its state constitution and was elected lieutenant governor in 1789. He became governor in 1794 following the death of John Hancock, and served until retiring in 1797. He died on October 2, 1803, at home in Boston.

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