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tv   Stacy Schiff The Revolutionary - Samuel Adams  CSPAN  December 29, 2022 5:27am-6:16am EST

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all right. is books outside? everybody.
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there in the middle of the room. so with that, let me introduce david brown. he's the author of. several books, including the last american aristocrat paradise lost a life of f, scott fitzgerald and hofstetter, an intellectual biography. brown's timely, the first populist, the defiant life, andrew jackson positions the seventh us president firmly in the forefront of the country's populist tradition and and let me move on to the author of the moment stacy schiff is author of the pulitzer prize winning verra.
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mrs. nabokov and st experi my biography which was a pulitzer prize finalist, a great improvization franklin, france and the birth of america. also cleopatra, a life and the witches. salem, 1692. in this, the revolutionary samuel adams schiff looks the high minded ideals, the bare knuckle tactics. adams to lead what could be the greatest campaign of civil resistance in american history. the book returns adams to seat of glory, introducing us to a shrewd, eloquent and disciplined man supplied the moral backbone of the american revolution. adams packaged and amplified the boston massacre. he helped to mastermind the boston tea party. he employed every in an
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innovative arsenal to rally a town, a colony and eventually a band of colonies behind him, creating a cause that created a country and so he became the most wanted man in america. paul revere wrote the lexington in 1775 to warn him that he was about to be arrested for treason. schiff her skills to adams improbable life illuminating his transformation from the aimless son of a well-off family to tireless, beguiling, radical who mobilized the colonies. welcome, please. david brown in stacy schiff. you. sir. good evening and thank you for heroically coming out tonight. let's begin with a question for the uninitiated or for those of
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us who might just be a bit fuzzy, but stacie, who was samuel adams? how much time do we have precisely. first of all, thank you for coming out. i think there are a lot of ways to judge someone's love of literature or american history. and miami monsoon are kind of up there on the scale. i'm samuel adams is an extraordinarily very enterprising, ingenious, i guess we would say sort of america's first politician. he's a little bit of a political operative. he's an 18th century downwardly really brilliantly educated, double graduate of harvard who an obsession with politics and has a tremendous sensitivity to rights and liberties being which we can talk and we can talk about where comes from and who has that at his disposal to rather unique qualities when he has a tremendously fluent pen and in fact, he first comes to
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prominence because he is largely burnishing other friends prose. they know that they can give their pages to adams to be as they put it, burnished and polished. and he is also a tremendous changer of mines, guess i would say. he's extremely good with or without brass knuckle tactics, persuading people that their rights are vital and that they need to stand up for their rights and connecting people who would otherwise not be connected into a civil designed them various. efforts at civil resistance like boycotts, pickets and extralegal meetings. so i'm not sure what that is. he's like a convincer, chief. he's a champion persuader in many ways. he's also seems to be ahead of the game. you mentioned that for george washington, independence in 1774 was something he didn't really want. consider. you mentioned john, in 1776, referring to independence as a
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hobgoblin. at what in time did samuel adams decide that independence, in fact, was necessary? that's kind of the million dollar question. none of the founders, for obvious reasons, wants to go near the word independence, first of all, to off putting treason. it's an explosive word. everyone dances around it. people refer to it. the last without really wanting to embrace. it's kind of the third rail in many ways. the accepted wisdom has been that samuel adams, who really until that point, stresses unity above all else in harmony the colonies approaches idea of independence when troops first marched into boston in 1768 to calm a very restive town. but there actually is, although he is quite obstreperous himself in those years, there's actually nothing on the record where he suddenly starts. there needs to be a rupture with the mother country. he uses the word independence around that time to say that
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independence, something from which great britain should, and that great britain is forcing a separation mother country and colonies. but he never really embraces it. and i don't we don't know how much of that just politic on his part. it's very would be very surprising to me that he actually foresaw that as solution. redress really seems to be the initial idea then resistance and where that adds up to revolution. i would say it's pretty close to 1776. he the one time he finally says independence is in the wake of lexington and concord. he thinks independence should have been declared the following morning, and that's earlier than most of the other founders. so i of this man and i can't help but think of beer for some reason. i don't know what you're talking about, but, you know, i some some some google research on that and it's a disappointing story. i think where that comes from. um he was also a tax collector
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so no taxation without representation. but yet this man, he was a revolutionary he was also a tax collector. how long he a tax collector for? you know, the tax collecting years. me go back to the brewing because just to just to because of course it's too fun because when you google samuel adams, you soon realize when you're writing a book about you get a lot of hints about beer. his family were monsters, which is to say they were involved in the curing of barley. they were not brewing beer. alas, it feels very disappointing at this point to say so. and adams will his father's malt business a business that he will very quickly run into the ground. he is a champion at mangling accounts and he very briefly, in fact, works for an accounting firm from which he is summarily let go after several months, because it seems he's a tremendously capable man, as his boss puts it, his mind is purely obsessed with politics, and largely because of that, he to make a living. and one of the easy ways to do
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so was to accept a commission that very few people otherwise in boston wanted, which was a tax collector and. a tax collector in those years was paid a little bit of a commission, a premium on what collected. he was also responsible for collecting and if he didn't collect sufficiently, he was liable for the debts that were uncollected. and samuel adams manages in the course of a few short years to basically dig himself an astonishing hole. it's like eight times greater than that of any other collector at the time. and i don't know if it's because he's a super if he's elected, because he's a super tall. i mean, you want this the tax collector isn't going collect, right? so was in fact elected this. he was going to be very indulgent. in any case, isn't a position that other harvard accepted his his colleagues in those years were shipbuilders and innkeepers and bricklayers. which also speaks to something that i guess. i should have mentioned with adams, which that he's a very able bodied collector connector
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of the high and the low boston elite, the wealthy in boston, and the man in the street is perfectly comfortable at both ends. but to your question, collects taxes responsibly from party. okay. that must have made him very popular with some people. i think it's a good for popularity. okay. yes um, for political career, perhaps you wrote something here. i just. i just love this line. you said that adams was a perfect failure until middle age before having the most remarkable second act in american life. uh, i guess that was all about the revolution. or is there more attached to that. what was the key to this great second career that he had? first of all, i just want to go back and say thank you for that line, because that was one of those lines where you don't see the invisible fight between author and editor. and i wanted the book to begin with. that line and my said no, it should begin with thomas jefferson saying that he's the most active in the earliest and the most persevering man of the revolution. and i said, no, it's much more
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appealing to make clear that he was a complete failure until middle age. i've got the jefferson quote here to. you. you were right. thank you. thank you. i'm glad we're having this taped. and i hope he's watching the new vindication doesn't come that often. it's hard to say how he the moment so meat i mean obviously he makes moment to a great extent but bundle of political gifts that he brings that he exclusively brings to the table in boston in those years a town that is for various reasons more sensitive to british overreach than are other towns, a town where he is obviously able to make his mark more ably than he would elsewhere, a town that religiously is fairly united, that's extremely literate but has an idea already has already about an into mind independent minded nonhierarchical church and so takes very easily to embrace as republicans republican ism very easily. it's all very for him.
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what? why those gifts come together during those years and then seem to him later is another thing about the life i find kind of befuddling but also fascinating. and i some of it, a large part of it has to do with fact that he's he's very good resistance. he's his stress is really on people expressing their views and demanding that their voices be heard. but he's not a builder institutions. and after the revolution. first of all, it's important to shuffle the revolutionaries off the stage. you want a stable government, but also want people who believe in institutions and he seems ambivalent about some of those as he and he and john adams have an extraordinary correspondence afterwards about what the proper political architecture of a republic should be. and john insists very much on institutions. and samuel, very much on popular sovereignty. so in the 1790s, the great task was to build a people's governments and samuel adams was
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was perhaps too much of a revolution to to be useful in that project. you know i think that's part of it. he's also older we should have mentioned 13 years older than john adams, 15 years older than john hancock, considerably older than thomas jefferson. so he's he's aged out in a funny way at that moment as well, which is ironic because the revolution was a young man's game and he was a younger man at that time. this was part of the challenge of putting a jacket on this book because the only really compelling portrait we have of him, the singleton copley portrait of an older adams and yet you kind of needed him closer to his heyday which is a more vibrant vital adams. and so the solution was to, as you all see, when you buy your multiple copies, was to make a modern engraving that looks like an old fashioned engraving based on the statue of adams that stands in front of faneuil hall. so it basically is a recreation of the younger of that younger adams. so so what should we remember
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him for in the american revolution? is it is his opposition to the sugar act, to the stamp act, what what made him such a compelling, revolutionary figure in in the mid and late 1760s when it seem like independence was as you mentioned earlier, even something that they were thinking about, um, perhaps remotely, what's, what was he doing at this time. what, why were these actions from the british? why were they so controversial? men like adams. i think here we have to just have a 15 second introduction to the land bank, which was a very short lived attempt at relieving a currency in new england in which samuel adams, his father, was in 1740, and adams his father becomes one of the directors of a bank which attempts to issue currency backed by land and. it isn't. it is an enterprise which the then royal in message in the massachusetts bay colony supports and then immediately
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reverses his position on and writes to london and says you must shut down this venture or it's going to topple the new england, it's going to topple the government because it's too much of a people's effort. and parliament immediately moves to shut down the bank. and in doing so, the directors of the bank, including father who's bankrupted in the shuffle. i have a hard time. and this is while is getting his master's degree at harvard. it's very difficult to divorce moment where the family's fortunes virtually overnight from adams's later activities. he will spend a great deal of the next decade more than a decade trying to fend the sheriff who attempts to repossess his father's house after his father's death. because adams himself is then liable for the debts. and so there is this kind of wonderful irony that he's, you know, fighting off the he's fighting off these huge debts at a time when america is being further taxed and the colonies are being further taxed. but it does seem to leave him
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sensitive to who is who is in charge in new england, who's in charge of massachusetts. this is destiny at this point. and if his his harvard thesis, which he writes just at this moment, is, in fact about it, too, but the question to which which he poses an answer is, is one obliged to honor the if the king of are the people obliged honor him if the republican not otherwise be preserved. and it really is right to heart of the question of the land bank, as he will say several times those years in many different ways, the colonies as much say in their government london as they did in appointing an emperor of china. they're just completely from his point of view and do think that that sensitivity to some extent comes from the land bank fiasco. but there are any number of other reasons. the sugar and stamp act legislation had been passed to feel that way. so this this is not a dual
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biography, but there were times when i was reading about thomas hutchinson where i was really i was really taken. such a such a figure, so compelling in certain respects, really a kind of a tragic figure to that's the way that i approached it. and. i was really enjoying this biography and. then i get into thomas hutchinson in tensions between him and adams and it's just it was just an incredible duel between the two. who was hutchinson? and maybe this is a personal thing, maybe he's not such a tragic character. how did you meet thomas hutchinson as an historical figure? i'm with you. heart goes out to thomas hutchinson because adams running circles around him like a cartoon throughout most of these years. so 11 years before adams on the other side of boston is born thomas hutchinson, who is the two of them, are both fifth generation in sons of
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massachusetts. they have identical educations. but thomas hutchinson, while adams is kind of digging himself into an economic hole, is thriving, hutchinson begins to add to his fortune when he's still at harvard. he marries into a very wealthy family. he's a member of the massachusetts of representatives. by the time he's 26 and in everyone's estimation, he is sort of the first man of boston. this clearly and titles will then tend to gravitate in his direction. he's a very distinguished looking man. he's six feet tall. he dresses beautifully, which we know because we have his letters to his tailor in london are extremely specific and he there's a great deal of resentment against him on which which he doesn't quite understand because of his very success, because of the fact that these this kind of constellation of titles attaches them attach themselves to him. the he does not claim for himself he distributes to family members and that the tight oligarchy, these sort of intermarried elite families is
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something that irritates samuel adams tremendously and actually john adams even more, or either john adams even more, or john adams is more eloquent about it. but the lines in both adams and samuel adams, well, at different junctures in their lives, right? these kind of indignant paragraphs about hutchinson and all the titles that he has. and they're each of them, like a half a page long because it is this just litany of titles but but people mercy otis warren as well resents johnson for his tremendous success. on the other hand, he's a diligent, dutiful, enormously decorous crown official, he couldn't he means well, he loves the massachusetts bay colony all his heart. he writes an exceptional variable history of these years, in which he writes of himself in the third person, which is probably a good because otherwise he has so many titles. you wouldn't whom he was talking about but he's you know it's very hard not feel sorry for him and this comes to a4i think around the time of the stamp when a rumor floats around
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boston that hutchinson has in fact endorsed the stamp act, which has fixed it, which is false, but he can't exactly deny as much as he doesn't believe the stamp dock as much as he thinks the colony is too young and too fragile to pay this kind of tax. he can't oppose it because of his position and his how and thomas hutchinson's house is destroyed by a mob in the course of the stamp act riots. we don't know. adams is feeling that subject, but we know that thousands of people stood outside the house watching it be demolished without lifting a finger. so it tells something about the the tightrope that thomas hutchinson was walking. but yes, i do. he's a highly appealing figure. he's incredibly competent public official. he just doesn't understand that the world is changing around. he's clinging to what he considers to be a familiar landscape and it has changed. and he had no point realizes that that is actually the future. so maybe in a sense he's a he's
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a decade or so ahead of adams. you mentioned earlier that adams in a sense will age out and his last years will be challenging. well and hutchinson says last years i think are particularly poignant because after the boston tea party he realizes he has no choice but to go back to london and in london he's received like this emissary from, you know, another world. there's someone from the front who can explain to us what in the world is going on with these deluded colonists and everyone comes to see him and he immediately whisked off to meet with the king and the man of the hour. and then slowly as the contest begins to look a little more dire, there's this question of wait a minute, did hutchinson screw up mean? you know, how much of this is his fault? did this get so out of hand and? he becomes a little bit of an embarrassment in london, and he longs only to come back to massachusetts and will ultimately die. i think of a stroke in london. and so in the colonial period, all the colonies had enslaved men and women.
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um, did adams and more generally always his reaction to the institution of slavery which persists in the massachusetts until just after the revolution. it's actually astonishing how many new england homes had slaves. when adams marries for adams has two wives, the first wife dies very early after she has two children and he will wait actually seven years until he remarries and at the time of the second marriage, his first mother in law will try send the new couple, an enslaved woman, which was a not a typical wedding gift at the time. and adams balks at the idea and says syria she's named can come and live with us, but she must only come as a free woman, which indeed is what happens. she becomes a very close member of the household and there are a number of points where petitions will circulated. well, efforts will be made in
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massachusetts to object the stamp trade to the stamp to the slave trade. and adams is clearly a point person for these petitions. nothing, obviously, of them. later, when constitution comes to massachusetts to be ratified, he will hesitate. and actually most people think he's not to ratify and. one of his objections is that is that the document not include a bill of rights because he feels it should have not only something mentioning freedom of speech, but also which abolishes the slave trade. so as a i guess a tip of the cap to your editor, i'll ask the question. um, so jefferson said of adams that he was truly the man of the revolution, and considering that that was coming from the man who wrote the declaration of independence, presumably he would now. so in sense, do you think jefferson meant that compliment in a much younger man? he clearly is watching adams at the continental congress with
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enormous respect, i think of the continental congress, of which have relatively little very little got out of those rooms. we would like much of what we would like to know today did not make it out of those rooms. but jefferson and others make clear that. adams is doing an enormous amount of rank and politic behind the scenes, and he's referred as the most influential person. in fact, those at those first congresses. but jefferson will write adams a letter later after the second inauguration, which i think speaks to this, where he he you know, i don't know how you heard my inaugural address, but i hope what you heard was that it was an address to you because i wrote the thing a sort of a letter to you. and it was and he basically refers to adams as the sort of apostle of liberty and jefferson and trying to articulate the republican spirit is trying to channel as he puts it, the spirit of samuel adams. so there really isn't, in jefferson's sense, i think this idea that, you know adams stands from from another era in sort of relic kind of way as the
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fundamental touchstone of those of that kind of thinking. and the two of them clearly do see eye to eye on front. and jefferson, very kind of poignantly in that letter, says to adams, you know, i hope you could offer me some. and adams back saying, you know, when old men are asked advice, they tend to you know, they tend to fight the last war and give lousy advice. but but i offer you my blessing. and in some respects we haven't really i guess. followed jefferson's lead in that adams is, in some sense perhaps almost a forgotten founder. we don't we don't call him washington. we don't call him jefferson or the other adams. why is that the case? was it was it was he just not useful to the new republic? um, this this this man who did so much has, has not come into, to the kind of recognition, i think that we customarily talk about when we talk about the founding fathers industry.
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such a great question i first want to say that about john because i must say john adams is as brilliant and, impetuous, a letter as samuel adams can be with holding. but john adams spends years. i think somebody should write about this, like relitigating the american revolution, reassigning responsible kitty and deciding who was really important. and in particular, john adams is attempting to prove that new england was more had primacy over the and you know oh those virginias patrick wasn't even born when people were you know and when samuel adams was busy you know raising, a rumpus in massachusetts. but was over and over and over again, say, here are the pivots of the revolution. here are the primary. the prime movers. here are the fundamental figures. and samuel adams is is almost always, you know, first on his list. i think the he goes forgotten are are actually fairly good ones. first and foremost he's an extraordinary, really modest man
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who doesn't put himself at center stage and is much happier moving a john adams or a john hancock to that to the to the limelight while he recedes into the background. and in fact, it's said of him that if for no other reason it was as a recruiter of talent that he should be remembered because he was always sort of finding the most able bodied, the most fluent men in boston and bringing them into the cause some way. so there's a there's a tremendous modesty. there's also a piety here where. he very much feels he answers only to one judge, and that is not posterity that's something that's a much higher power. john adams is, meanwhile, preening for posterity, collecting his letters, writing and over again about what has actually happened. and we'll write to samuel adams himself and say, you know, you owe it to history. write about these years. your 40 years of writings will the revolution in a way that else would you need to assemble your papers and samuel doesn't
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do it. so there's we also know from john adams that for of security, while the two of them were sitting in philadelphia at the continental congress. samuel adams will feed his papers to the fire so that none of their confederates be compromised. so some documents go missing, which also obscures trail. and obviously this is a no fingerprints. you know, enterprise he's involved in. so the that responsibility should be diffused and responsibility should be very vague, especially with something like the boston tea party is hugely important. and a lot of obscuring of the trail going on there. so history was kind to john adams because he wrote it, you know, you know this as well as i do. you know, the the victor is the more man. and nobody writes as a letter as john adams. it's true. i mean, he's petulant and he's vain, but he's irresistible. i mean, that's a good way to put his irresistible. you mentioned piety with samuel adams and. i think i think of this man as
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someone who, um, is his is tremendous in political theater. and yet this is someone who has a couple of degrees, as you mentioned, from harvard. he seems like he's very modern, individual, revolutionary. and yet the family several generations massachusetts um puritan roots. was there anything about the past, about his own past, about the puritan past that that came through him that was still recognizable? i think you can see the puritan thinking in a lot of the letters early on and definitely in the newspaper pieces in all ways. mean there's just a i mean, this been said so many times but that that republican schism is a sort of more secular form of puritanism and you really see that in a lot of adams's early essays we know that he always had a sort of religious story for every occasion and, you know, often spoke in sort of religious aphorisms. but you see it a lot.
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i mean, he's writing pseudonymous slave in the newspapers over many and under at least 30 pseudonyms. and some of those are some of those essays are actually quite religious fact in their in their founding. so you see you see that across board and that's another reason i say, by the way that he's forgotten is that i think thinks very much after the revolution things will go back to a sort of more simple, more pious time. and of course, the country is rushing headlong into much more opulent, much more mercantile future. he's harking back to what been called a sort of christian sparta that that, you know real sense that real fundamental sense of religion being at the base of everything is gone by then. you know, i thought that was a real strong part of the book. in fact, i've got to read this because this is just tremendous. you wrote that self-government was, in his view inseparable from governing the self it demanded a certain asceticism. he wrote anthem after anthem to the qualities he believed
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essential to a republic austerity, integrity, selfless public service qualities that would become more military than civilian so. he's this he's this revolutionary. but in other sense, it sounds like he's he's an old republic, an old republican, maybe not in like thomas hutchinson some sense. and yet he has to come to grips with this new materialistic culture, a country that's going to moving towards becoming eventually a republic of consumers which is which is yet another reason why i think he falls off the map, that he falls so deeply out of step with where america is headed. i the federalist future does not appeal to him. there is definitely bit of new england chauvinism still at work in those years. i mean as will continue for some time and fundamentally yes this this sense that you know, piety has somehow lost in the shuffle. well, we'll seem to be disturbing him. we know relatively little of him in those later years because he
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has his trouble writing, he has a palsy, his hand, which people write about earlier. and you can see his handwriting as the years go by. how trouble he's having with a pen. and at a certain point just post the revolution, but just post, he'll say, know i can write only a few paragraphs in my hand against a tire. and then very shortly it's i can write a paragraph from that i my hand is no good. and then shortly after that someone else's writing his letters for him. so there's, there's almost a closing up of, of material at that point as well where he's veering one way in the country, veering another. and we have relatively little to go on. okay. we to leave some time q&a. so one more question or maybe a couple depending upon how this one breaks. but um, as was mentioned earlier, you've several biographies, so i'm curious, how do you come upon your subjects and perhaps more particularly how did you come upon samuel adams i'm going to answer you, but it might be completely misguided.
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so i mean, i think that i think you always explain these things as well as you might or you come to understand them differently sort of a decade later, i had gone i was working, i had gone back to my franklin book about ben franklin because it's being into a series. and so i was working with that material a bit, and it occurred to me at one point that i knew embarrassing little about samuel adams, who makes a cameo in that book. and so i started reading, i was actually researching the life somebody else and her papers were to the right, the library in which i work and adams's papers were adams's published volumes were to the left. i kept winding up by three in the afternoon, kind of sitting on the on the left, not on the right. and finally my agent said, are you trying to write a book about samuel adams? i kind of said, well, maybe. but there was this sense that without him you really understand the revolution, that his answers so many of the enduring questions about the revolution like how did how did the resistance spread so quickly? how the boston tea party the colonies immediate cohere and a
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lot of that which we didn't talk about of the committees of correspondence but in so many ways he seems at the center seemed at the center of things and there was this kind of missing, you know, piece in a way, it was like negative space where he was always named. he was close to the room, if not in the. and yet there was no description of him. and at the same time, you have these tributes by thomas jefferson or by john adams to how paramount he is. his his a his importance was i should add to that that i had just written a book about the salem witch trials and i was i think consciously looking for somebody who was heroic or was in some way full. i was looking for somebody who shed some light because i felt i had spent a very dark couple of years in salem, massachusetts. and and i felt like i wanted someone who had who resembled thomas brattle in that book, who's one of the first people to raise his hand at the end of 1692, after the trials really galloped out of control and said something is amiss here.
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there can't be this many, which is massachusetts. this court is off. you. this court is really not doing us a service. if if these young who say that they see witches are seeing witches with their eyes closed, then their imagining things they're not seeing things. something be done. and brattle could do that anonymously because he was wealthy and he wasn't religious and he wasn't part the establishment. but it was a really, really difficult and precarious thing to do. and he reminded me in many of samuel adams. we're going to go to questions now for the next few minutes. if like to line up in the middle and take advantage of the microphone. and sir we just two questions. one is, what makes somebody more interested in the american revolution versus, the civil war, other periods? i was always a little bit more civil war ish and have sort of getting into american revolution. so that's question number one.
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and number two is, do you like adams? you know, you're the first person to ask me either of those questions, but particularly the second one. i'm i don't have immediate answer to your first question except the following thought photographs. could that be what makes the civil war feels more immediate to in some way the american revolution still i mean, the american the greatest figures, the american revolution can feel like stock characters, right. feel i mean especially washington can be very wooden at times i if it isn't because the material is more colorful to us more immediate to us in terms of this of the civil war. i recently asked one of my children why at a certain point people begin to read about the american revolution. as she said, at 45, all men begin to read about the american revolution. all women do pilates. i love of samuel adams and probably a way a biographer never come to love her subject. but i'd like to think i had a more clinical detachment from
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him when i was writing about him. but i thought, i'm finding it very hard to come out from under this book because it was a refuge i started in 2016. it was a refuge in a way. i found it to be thrilling to be writing about ideas that felt electric and profound and sort of and and very golden in many ways. i mean, there was something very crystalline about, his thinking and his ability to articulate these ideas and especially tireless ness in disseminating them. so yes, i found him surprising and as i as the that david quoted mentions. i mean, the selflessness and the type were extraordinary to my mind. and haven't quite managed to get him out of my office. thank you. is john adams correctly perceived as being more radical than most of the other founders? if so, would that account for the reason that he's less well known than the other founders,
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john adams or samuel adams? samuel adams. i actually it's very i'm not sure i could say who was more radical, john or samuel, because again, we have the problem that john puts on paper and samuel doesn't. so for example, the animosity with thomas hutchinson, they clearly both despise thomas hutchinson. i mean, each of them, you know, think he's the greatest threat to american liberty. and that's before the stamp act. and there's no reason to accuse thomas hutchinson of this or to have such violent hatred him. but john commits that to paper and doesn't. so john seems as if he's the more intemperate of the two my guess is they probably i mean john says we saw eye to eye on this kind of thing so my is that they were probably of about the same temper but that samuel who is can be a charmer theon of restraint shows it less and i would say that in all i think we can agree john adams was a fairly impulsive and impetuous player. one thing that distinguishes adams as a revolution, mary, is
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that at various junctures he will actually make an extraordinary case for slowing things down or tamping things down. this is a moment to be patient. this is not a moment to resist openly. so he's very canny in that respect. and i would i would say probably more even tempered than was john. to to one is simply the advent of john and samuel were cousins. right. or second second cousins. cousins. can you say a little about that family background and their grandparent age or whatever? if you think of any bearing in terms of the predecessors and what each of them did and. you're this such a seminal figure, has he been much less addressed in biographies heretofore and? and how would you explain that? i mean, if he was, that's one
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thing. but knows the name, why wouldn't historians have addressed him more thoroughly in the past if they haven't, i'm sure how much the family background comes play. what i think is interesting is that they're both this is a fifth generation descent. they are second cousins. in fact, as i said, john is younger. samuel clearly kind of plucks him by the sleeve. there's a very early letter, the sons of liberty, to john adams. they want him to do something. he's a very promising immediately he's a very brilliant young lawyer. and the sons of liberty to him, because they want to get him to do something for them. and the letter is very cannily worded with a p.s. you know, your cousin samuel, his fond regards. so sort of underlining, of course, you will do this for us because samuel would like you to you know, is involved in in the effort here. it's subject to your question of why he's not written about. i think part of the answer and i guess i would have given this answer for for cleopatra as well, is that the record is
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really faulty or the record is very punctuated so that we are there are a whole there are there's so many questions we can't answer. and what i up doing in large part to fill in those holes was spending a lot of time with the documents of the crown officers, the customs officials, the lieutenant, the governor sent back to london, where they are explaining to us where they are describing this. you know, good individual who he could just be, you know, arrested and committed right away. the american revolution wasn't a revolution yet. the resistance movement would cease to to exist. i mean, there's a real misconception in london that there are a couple of bad eggs if those people could just be corralled or eliminated, everything would go back to normal. and everything would be peaceful, which at various junctures have been true. in fact, like in the wake of the boston massacre. so to read. so you would get a better sense of adams from in a way enemies more colorful certainly than we do from him he's not writing
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down. i was at the boston tea party yesterday, but when you see the depositions of the people were on the wharf at the boston tea party and they write about who the prime movers and who was leading the ball at the tea meetings. mr. adams was the most active party, so that i think that may be part of the answer of why he hasn't been. he has there have been previous biographies though thank you. thank you. thank you. stacy. i've been a fan for a very long time. i want to make some and i think my comments are going to address the questions that were given before statement. i'll make some statements. and what i'd like you to do is comment on your opinions and my opinion. so i think first the revolution three four seems far more than the civil war because as you mention all of those figures were somewhat wooden who were virtuous. we can believe there is a
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virtuous, even their puritan background, that they would stand on integrity and things like that that we don't even recognize anymore. we're in the civil war. clearly it's more recent divisions. we know civil war simply over, yet that's really the answer to that, where those revolutionary people are just so distant we can't relate to. but they're all it's all based on morality because because that sense of morality, we couldn't possibly consider that really is far more important in the difference between samuel and john adams. john was very emotional, his virtues and even quotes some of the romans and greeks in his scholarship. and i understand he was so virtuous to a fault. he was annoying that way. or sam didn't have a lot of writings and therefore we don't familiar with him. in fact, before your i thought sam adams was a pain in the neck and to me, based on what you
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said, he's a lot more even than even adams. so i think that social of morality makes a big distinction between civil war and in revolutionary and also relevant to the two men we're talking about. they're both it's understandable why think integrity and so forth and virtues are important. we don't even consider anymore, but they do sound. we don't dishonor washington founding fathers. we praise him. but at the same, we don't exactly duplicate of their because we think we can. you can't. that's a fascinating point about the morality, too, that i would simply say the words benjamin franklin, who i think is, you know, more human to us in many ways. right. who seems like a more modern figure, doesn't seem like one of the founders because he was always so good at enunciating all all of his own flaws, as well as those of everyone else, but who was so at ease with the fact we are creatures who air and the others do seem like they are monuments and stones in some
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ways. one of the revelations for me and i think too had the sense that adams was a firebrand, think that was the word that always in textbooks him around one of the revelations for me was to see in descriptions by and by others how. he's often described as being a man of exquisite. he's he's very affable. he's very decorous he's very polite. he's he's you know, john speaks of him with enormous compassion as a man who's just very gentle, you know, likes to sing to children, which doesn't really tally with his idea. a, you know, flaming firebrand in any way what's. your point about the morality is a good one. and i think it's partly because they because they are because this is so bound, in fact, with religion and because these have become such quaint, such antiquated concepts to us, we have time for one more question. as long it's a question either this is a fun question on one or a final one. okay, finally, either way.
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so so if you and i went to dinner tonight, invited adams to join us, what would he find shocking? what would he. what wisdom would he tell us about? i'm very impressed with his his wisdom, his foresight, and what he have as his comments about what we see in america today. craft beer, i think he would find the menu at taco bell very surprising but thank you for inviting me to dinner. i think there were two things that would immediately jump at him. political parties would astonish any 18th century politician. i mean, the fact not that we are so divided but just that they exist. right. that's just such a that was so not in anybody's plan. so i think that would come as a shock and a disappointment. i the fact that we are you know, adams had very little in terms of a political philosophy except the belief that that that voices
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should be heard that government should respond the people government existed for the people it was there represent the people and that the government have little and the people should have all and that a political elite should have no point and no part of that process that a politically that an entrenched elite was a flawed idea and a democracy. so i think today that would be a little right. i mean, education and virtue were adams's two pillars for what a democracy required, an entrenched elite, a world in which a billionaire can buy a social media company that would so not compute with what he had had in mind for how for what democracy consisted of. thank you so much, stacy and david. the autographing station will be down the hall in the classroom wing, past the elevators. thank so much
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