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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Raising a Glass to Sam Adams: 18 Choice Quotes on Liberty

September 27 marks the birth of one of America’s most important founders: Samuel Adams.

September 27 marks the birth of one of America’s most important, albeit less celebrated founders: Samuel Adams.

Murray Rothbard called him “the premier leader of the revolutionary movement.”

Adams helped organize the Committees of Correspondence, authored “The Rights of Colonists,” founded The Sons of Liberty, and was the principal organizer of the Boston Tea Party. Even Paul Revere’s ride was to warn him. The British government wanted him for treason a year before the Declaration of Independence was written. He inspired the battle cry “No taxation without representation,” signed the Declaration of Independence, was a representative to both Continental Congresses, and served as governor of Massachusetts.

Samuel Adams’ most important contribution to America’s cause, however, was that, in his distant cousin John Adams’ words, he had “the most thorough understanding of liberty,” the central spark in America’s creation. With liberty far less understood and defended today, his insights deserve remembering:

1. 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.

2. The natural liberty of man is…not to be under the will or legislative authority of man.

3. Every man has an equal right by honest means to acquire property, and…pursue his own happiness, and none can consistently control or interrupt him in the pursuit… unalienable rights…are held sacred.

4. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.

5. Our unalterable resolution would be to be free.

6. Without liberty and equality [under the law], there cannot exist…the assurance of this to every citizen, that his own personal safety and rights are secure…the end and design of all free and lawful governments.

7. It is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential rights, or the means of preserving those rights.

8. All might be free if they valued freedom, and valued it as they should.

9. Our contest is…whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.

10. The most glorious legacy we can bequeath to posterity is liberty…the only true security is liberty!

11. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties.

12. While a people retain a just sense of Liberty…the insolence of power will forever be despised.

13. There is a degree of watchfulness over all men possessed of power… upon which the liberties of mankind must depend. It is necessary to guard against the infirmities of the best as well as the wickedness of the worst.

14. Let us contemplate our forefathers, and posterity, and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former for the sake of the latter.

15. It is a tremendously important and never-ending problem for the self-governing American people to be…ever alert and vigorously active in…combating wherever necessary, any and all threats to Individual liberty and to its supporting system of constitutionally limited government.

16. The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.

17. It is now high time for the people of this country to explicitly declare whether they will be free men or slaves.

18. If ye love…the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom…may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

Sam Adams wished to “renovate the age, by…instructing [men] in the art of self-government” so that Americans would be capable of “assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which [God] bestowed.”

With Americans today facing far more coercion and enjoying far less freedom to govern themselves than we once had, we need to recover Sam Adams’ devotion to liberty.

  • Gary M. Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University and a member of the Foundation for Economic Education faculty network.

    In addition to his new book, Pathways to Policy Failures (2020), his books include Lines of Liberty (2016), Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014), and Apostle of Peace (2013).