Thursday, July 04, 2002

Professor's new book about Samuel Adams

By Howard Wilkinson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Samuel Adams didn't ferment spirits; he fomented rebellion.

        “He sort of became lost in the shuffle of American history,” University of Cincinnati history professor John K. Alexander said Wednesday, on the eve of the nation's celebration of independence.

        Revolutionary leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are known to every grade school child.

        Samuel Adams' second cousin, John Adams, is the subject of a biography by David McCullough that has been on the best-seller list for more than a year.

        But Samuel Adams is best known as a brand of beer brewed in Cincinnati — even though the beer's namesake never brewed a vat of beer in his life.

        “The picture on the bottle doesn't even look a bit like him,” said Mr. Alexander. The professor specializes in American Revolutionary history and wrote a just-published biography of the 18th-century Bostonian whom Jefferson called “the helmsman of the American Revolution.”

        With his book, Samuel Adams: America's Revolutionary Politician, published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Mr. Alexander hopes he can help restore Samuel Adams to the stature he deserves as one of the principal fighters for American liberty.

        “He was the most consistent of the Revolutionary leaders,” Mr. Alexander said. “He dedicated himself unselfishly to the principles of liberty.”

        A Massachusetts legislator and a member of the Continental Congress, Samuel Adams was on the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation, the first set of rules for American government.

        He signed the Declaration of Independence but later had reservations about the U.S. Constitution, fearing it would give too much power to the central government.

        In 1788, he tried and failed to get a lengthy amendment attached protecting people from unreasonable searches and establishing rights such as freedom of speech, press and bearing arms.

        “When the Bill of Rights was adopted later, he was proven right,” Mr. Alexander said.

        Even in the early 1770s, when men like his cousin John Adams and John Hancock turned away from revolution, Samuel Adams stuck to his guns.

        “He had,” Mr. Alexander said, “a simple and unshakeable belief in liberty. He should be remembered for that.”


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