The Fire of Samuel Adams

00d/25/arve/g2396/015Men of the Junto: I shared a quote from American revolutionary Samuel Adams with you at our last gathering, as best I could remember it. I googled it this afternoon, and found a somewhat longer version than I spoke:

It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.

Wikiquote says this is misattributed to Samuel Adams, and also to John Adams, with little evidence for either — so I thought I’d look for other relevant sentiments among the man’s verified quotations. Here are the best I found:

[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.

— from an essay published in The Advertiser in 1748

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 in the best manner they can.

— from The Rights of Colonists, 1772

And finally, on this 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and this day before the anniversary of our independence:

Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say “what should be the reward of such sacrifices?” Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!

— from a speech to the State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, August 1776

Happy Independence Day, gentlemen!

One comment

  1. Spaniard says:

    “Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.”– brilliant.

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