A Life
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Neocon view of the least-known Founding Father, arguing that his religious beliefs fueled his revolutionary ardor and, in today’s more secular America, have denied him his due from historians.

By the time this tendentious biography ends, it’s evident—to the author, at least—that Samuel Adams (1722–1803) would gleefully have supported firearms in every living room, prayer in the public schools and the invasion of Iraq. New York Sun managing editor Stoll does not display his conservative cards plainly until the end, but it’s patent that this is no disinterested analysis. However, it does provide the basic information. Adams’s father sold beer malt and was also christened Samuel (hence the name of today’s popular brand of brew). Before hostilities erupted, Adams the younger was a fiery journalist writing under a variety of pen names who made invaluable contributions to the revolution. Indeed, he was there on its opening day: Hiding from the British in Lexington, Adams and John Hancock quite literally heard, but did not see, the shot heard ’round the world. Before and after independence, Adams devoted much of his life to public service, as a representative to both Continental Congresses, a state legislator, lieutenant governor and governor of Massachusetts, whose constitution he helped frame. He never held national office. Stoll quotes frequently from Adams’s journalism and correspondence, making certain that readers are aware of nearly everything he ever wrote that alluded to the Bible—he liked to compare America’s revolutionaries with the biblical Israelites—or revealed his belief that religion should be at the heart of American life. Adams’s last known letter was to Thomas Paine, chiding him for his work on the skeptical The Age of Reason.

Justly returns our attention to Adams—though liberal readers will prefer Mark Puls’s 2006 biography, which emphasizes his role as a rabble-rousing man of the common people.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9911-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2008