Samuel Adams Heritage Society

Early Life and Education

Samuel Adams lived his early life in his family house on Purchase Street, facing the Boston Harbor. Boston was a very different city then. Fifteen thousand people lived on a peninsula that became an island when the isthmus called Boston Neck was covered with water at high tide. Samuel Adams was born in Boston on September 27, 1722. Son of Samuel Adams Sr.and Mary Fifield. As a child he enjoyed playing with the neighborhood kids in the narrow cobblestone streets. He had 11 siblings of which only 2 lived past their third birthday.

His father, Samuel Adams Sr. was a deacon of the Congregational Church, a businessman and a politician. Sam was born in a prominent and wealthy family that had high expectations of him. Both parents were strict puritans; his mother was a very religious woman who supported the narrow Calvinist faith movement. As a result his family’s religious beliefs played an important role in their son’s education.

His parents wanted him to become a minister of the church but he was not very interested in pursuing that path, he was interested in politics which became his passion in life. The influence of his religious upraising was felt in every decision that he took as a politician, he was known as a religious man and later called “the last of the Puritans”.

Samuel Adams received a top notch education, the best money could buy. He attended the Boston Latin School, which was famous for educating the sons of the Boston privileged. There he learned the classics, Latin and Greek. At age 14, in 1736 he went to Harvard College as did most of the graduates of Boston Latin. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1740. In 1743 he received a Master degree in Arts and wrote a controversial thesis about the commonwealth. By his family’s social standing he was ranked fifth in a class of twenty two at Harvard. According to a biography written by his great grandson William V. Wells, Adams was not a distinguished student in college, he was even disciplined once for not showing to morning prayers and during his senior year he was caught drinking in public.

Samuel’s life took a turn when his father was involved in the Massachusetts Land Bank controversy which drove the family close to ruin. Sam had to work as a waiter in the college dining hall until he graduated. The Land Bank movement had a great impact in Sam’s future career as he decided to write his Master degree theses on a controversial topic: "Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved?". In other words, Samuel questioned if it was legal for the Kingdom to impose the same taxes and laws on the colonies as they did to the people of England.

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Early Life and Education


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