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Samuel Adams: A Life Paperback – November 3, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thomas Jefferson once declared, For depth of purpose, zeal, and sagacity, no man in Congress exceeded, if any equaled, Sam Adams. Yet the American revolutionary from Massachusetts (1722–1803, cousin of John Adams) has become the forgotten founding father, and Stoll attempts to pull Adams out of this oblivion. Rebellious Americans' passionate vision of themselves as an incarnation of the Israelites freeing themselves from Egyptian slavery was invoked by Adams, one of the most religious American revolutionaries. He called on Americans to fulfill their God-given freedom and was a radical who endured physical danger, poverty and the death at 37 of his only son. But for Stoll, a managing editor of the New York Sun with a long career in newspapers, Adams was also the consummate newspaperman, a pundit dispersing the ideals of freedom. Occasionally apt to settle into litanies of Adams's various tasks and redundant statements on the divine right of American independence, Stoll also sporadically recounts evocative details of the period, such as the lyrics from revolutionary songs. This account might sustain a renewed interest in Adams as the founder of a distinctly American spirit. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Unlike Jefferson, Washington, or other Founding Fathers, Sam Adams could point to few accomplishments before the era of the Revolution began. With the end of “benign neglect” and the onset of the efforts by Britain to tighten restrictions on the American colonies, Adams’ true talents emerged. He was, as his cousin John Adams stated, a “born rebel.” Stoll has written a compact, admiring biography of Adams aimed at general readers. He examines Adams’ rich but sometimes sad personal life, including his marriages and family tragedies. The strongest part of the narrative, of course, concerns his career as a Revolutionary agitator and statesman. Many of Adams’ comrades in the struggle were secular deists, but Adams was a devout Christian who sincerely saw the hand of God working in the struggle for his concept of liberty and eventually independence. His fiery rhetoric was infused with biblical allusions. Like many successful Revolutionaries, Adams was single-minded, frequently intolerant of other views, and frighteningly confident of his own righteousness. Stoll effectively conveys both the virtues and defects of a somewhat neglected but very essential figure in our Revolutionary struggle. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; (1st,2009); Fifth Printing edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743299124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743299121
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of Samuel Adams: A Life. He was vice president and managing editor of the New York Sun, which he helped to found, from its debut in 2002 until its demise in 2008. Before that he was a consultant to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, North American editor of the Jerusalem Post, editor of Smartertimes.com, Washington correspondent and then managing editor of the Forward, and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He is a graduate of Harvard, where he was president of the Harvard Crimson. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must-buy for anyone who loved McCullough's John Adams or Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin. Ira Stoll puts Sam Adams back where he belongs, front and center with the great founding fathers. But "Samuel Adams, A Life" is not merely a work of history, it is a powerful argument about the ideas that made America and still, to this day, shape the nation. Stoll demonstrates, through the life and writing of Adams, how much religion and property rights motivated the revolutionaries of New England. From the first chapter, I felt I was not just learning about important history, but I was also gaining insight into the character of America. This book is bound to help change how we think about the Revolution. And it will help us understand how Sam Adams continues to influence our own era.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most books you read on the revolution make at least some reference to Samuel Adams. Books dealing with the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution even more so. This in mind I decided to read a bit more on the man.

Why should you read this book? It gives great background on Adams and the Commonwealth of Massachusettes prior to the start of the revolution, discusses a lot about S. Adams' role in bringing it about, and in doing both gives us some important background on the role religion did and did not play in both.

S. Adams stands somewhat alone as the religious voice of the founding fathers. While many had strong beliefs of their own, this man was driven by them. His life and legacy centered around religion and the role he thought it played in a just and lasting society.

The book never takes his side on the matter, in fact does a pretty good job of showing many others as much more supportive of a govenment that was
tolerant to everyone including those Adams refered to as "Papists".

If you're interested in the founding fathers do not miss this book. There may be better ones out there but this book is fairly easy to read and includes a lot of letters to, from, and about S. Adams and some reference to the role of the newspapers as well.

One of the few founding fathers with no military or law experience he was nonetheless on of the most important men of his time and this book tells why in a very inviting manner.
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Format: Hardcover
In "Samuel Adams: A Life," journalist Ira Stoll has rescued from relative (and undeserved) obscurity one of the most influential and fascinating figures of the American Revolutionary generation. Samuel Adams was one of the earliest and most zealous of the Boston firebrands. At the same time, he was imbued with a worldview inherited from his Puritan ancestors that placed the urgent events of the day in God's time. His "religious tranquillity" was much commented upon by his contemporaries, and Stoll is committed to understanding the paradox of the "tranquil revolutionary." Stoll's crystal clear and plain-spoken prose is entirely fitting for his equally plain-spoken subject. What emerges is a full-blooded portrait of a man whose idea of America resonates -- and often tellingly contrasts -- with positions on the right and left in our own debates about the nation's course and what it means to be a patriotic American. For history scholars and enthusiasts, for anyone interested in the origins of American political culture, and for today's political junkies, this book is a wonderful read.
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Format: Paperback
My interest in Samuel Adams increased after watching the John Adams television series. So when I spotted this book I decided to give it a try. It was a good decision to say the least. I have read through the reviews on this site and note some criticism. Here is my take. First, I liked the extensive quotations because I like to read primary source material; it doesn't get altered by the author and one can get closer to the truth using it. Second, I don't find the book at all "dry" as some reviewers mentioned. If those reviewers want more excitement they can read fictional works. The farther away one gets from primary sources the more "excitement" that can be created by the author because the truth can be adjusted. Third, the religious perspective that Adams had was so interesting to me that I am beginning to think a bit differently about religion now. Although I am in the Richard Dawkins camp regarding religion, after reading this book it certainly does seem that the good, moral values that one associates with religion and going to church helped to motivate the Revolutionary generation enough to make Independence work. Even though the end of footnote 37 for the last chapter of the book suggests that the motivation for the Revolution was primarily political, not religious, a point on which I do agree, at the same time it also seems to me that a less God-fearing group of people would have had a tougher time winning. The emotional support provided by religion had to have helped motivate those people. Let me clarify this a little. It is estimated by some that eighty percent of the Israeli population do not believe in God.Read more ›
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