On the heroes' roll of the American Revolution, names like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin head the list. Their biographies shoot up the bestseller lists like fireworks on the Fourth of July. But there is one name without whom none of these men might have reached their fame. It is a name most often remembered, if it is remembered at all, as a brand of beer: Samuel Adams.Samuel Adams: A Life is newspaper editor Ira Stoll's effort to restore Adams' name to the forefront of American history. Of all the men who lived at that time, argues Stoll, Adams was the true genius of the Revolution - it was his spark, his personality and his faith that ignited it and birthed the American nation. The Liberty Tree, the Sons of Liberty, the Boston Tea Party, the Committees of Correspondence, the Continental Congress, even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution flowed first from the mind of Samuel Adams. Certainly there is more here to be remembered, says Stoll, than the fact that Adams was briefly a brewmaster in Boston.
As Stoll notes, discovering the real Adams is no simple journey. Throughout the struggle against Great Britain, Adams urged his friends to burn his letters, lest they fall into enemy hands. Of the major Founding Fathers, he left a severely reduced record of his thoughts and life behind. Yet Stoll goes a long way toward finding the man, through what remains of his writings and the works of his contemporaries - both his friends and his bitterest enemies. What results is the tale of a passionate, practical philosopher, a fiery provocateur, a dedicated public servant and a devoutly religious man. Insightful, remarkably researched and compelling, Samuel Adams: A Life is a fascinating journey into American culture at its birth - and into the life of the man who was critical to its founding. Read it, and remember Samuel Adams.
Howard Shirley writes from Franklin, Tennessee.