The View From 1776

Sam Adams: A Puritan Founder

Read the commentary on the recently published Samuel Adams: A Life, by Ira Stoll, on the First Things website.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/30 at 01:08 AM
  1. Interesting article. What came to mind as I reached the end of the article was, was Samuel Adams a slave owner?

    I think that like most white men of his day Adams did not look at blacks as equal, or women. We hope that the author of the article is not suggesting that that was a virtue then which should be restored today.

    It would be nice if America could restore some of the virtues of the past, like hard work, frugality and common sense. Perhaps those virtues could have been reinforce in the last eight years by a president that pontificated virtues more than most, through his 'moral clarity'. Alas, he lost his way by succumbing to the so-called virtues of unfettered financial markets. Ironically, it was this faith that got in the way.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/31  at  02:56 PM
  2. Mr. Airth:

    By no means did the founding generation view slavery as acceptable, and certainly not as virtuous.

    John Jay, the most under-rated of the founders, was a devout Protestant Christian who was the organizer and head of the society for manumitting slaves. Alexander Hamilton was one of his active supporters. George Washington, before his death, freed his slaves.

    There was lengthy debate in the 1787 Constitutional convention aiming to prohibit slavery. Southern states, led by South Carolina's Charles Pinckney, wanted no such language in the Constitution. The best that could be agreed upon was a compromise.

    The Constitution, Section I, Article 9, states:

    "The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

    In 1794, 1800, and 1803 Congress passed laws restricting slave trading, and in 1807 it passed a law to prohibit any further importation of slaves, effective January 1, 1808, the first date permitted by the Constitution.

    In the first decades of the 1800s, there was considerable support in both northern and southern states for the American Colonization Society, whose objective was to provide slaves means of repatriation to Africa. The Society was headed initially by George Washington's cousin, Supreme Court Associate Justice Bushrod Washington, and later by James Madison, the most influential single delegate to the Constitutional convention. Under the administration of James Monroe, the federal government provided funds to aid the Society's work. One tangible result was purchasing African land in which the nation of Liberia was founded, its capital Monrovia named in the American President's honor.

    Ironically, President Andrew Jackson, claimed by today's Democrat/Socialists as one of the founders of their party, was in the 1830s an ardent, indeed ruthless and violent, supporter of slavery and of legalizing slavery in states newly admitted to the union.

    Our Civil War of 1860 - 65, the bloodiest war in history to that date, resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

    Most importantly, it is to be noted that it was Christian churches that were in the vanguard in all cases, pleading and agitating for better treatment of slaves and for their liberation. Among those efforts was the American Anti-Slavery Society formed in the 1830s.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/31  at  08:17 PM
  3. As to David's question, Sam Adams and his second wife held title to a single slave by the name of "Surry" for at least several years after their marriage. The records are vague, but it appears that Surry eventually was freed by Adams, and worked as a beloved cook in the household.

    Mr. Brewton is correct that many churches were in the vanguard for abolition, in spite of Biblical approval of slavery (see Paul's letter to Philemon).
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  12:46 AM
  4. Very interesting. Thank you.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  12:12 PM
  5. So Adams and other Christians may have been against slavery and wanted it abolished. But these people did not view ex-slaves as equal. They most likely believed in segregation. That attitude would take more than 150 years to change.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  02:37 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.