Booknotes+ Podcast: Stacy Schiff, “The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams”

By | November 15, 2022

Stacy Schiff has written books about Benjamin Franklin, Cleopatra, and the Witches of Salem. And now it’s Samuel Adams, a Massachusetts man Thomas Jefferson called the Father of the American Revolution. Stacy Schiff, appropriately born in Adams, Massachusetts, is our guest this week. Her book is titled “The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams.” Mr. Adams was born in Boston and lived for 81 years from 1722 to 1803. He’s also been called the most Puritan and the most populist of the American Founders. If you met him before his forty-first birthday, according to author Schiff, you probably wouldn’t consider him much of a success.

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Stacy Schiff has written books about Benjamin Franklin Cleopatra and The Witches of Salem And now it's Samuel Adams a Massachusetts man Thomas Jefferson Called the father of the American Revolution Stacy Madeleine Schiff was appropriately Born in Adams Massachusetts Graduated from Phillips Academy and Williams College Samuel Adams was born in Boston and Lived for 81 years from 1722 to 1803. He's also been called the most Puritan And the most populous of the American Founders If you met him before his 41st birthday According to author Schiff you probably Wouldn't consider him much of a success Stacy Schiff when you were thinking About your next book how did it all work Where were you when did you decide how Did you sell the idea Um it's a it's a somewhat woolly In My Memory but here's here's my best Analysis of it I was coming out of five Years in Salem Massachusetts having Written about the witch trials in 1692 And I think I was very much looking for Someone who stood in the light after Those very dark years someone who stood Um someone who took a very Noble stand I Think I was thinking a lot about the People who first raised their hands

Um and suggest that perhaps the Salem Witch Trials have proved some kind of Miscarriage of Justice which was a very Risky assertion to make at the time so I Was looking for someone who had that Kind of moral fiber Um it was 2016 I think we were all Thinking um a great deal about democracy And I had gone back to for other reasons To my Ben Franklin book I'd done a book About Ben Franklin's years in France in Which Samuel Adams makes a cameo and I Was I think somewhat appalled by my own Ignorance of Samuel Adams Um the more I read among his Contemporaries the more clear it was That to them he was the founders founder He was as Jefferson puts it the most Active the earliest the most persevering Of the Patriots John Adams Samuel's Cousin will say that the true character The real story of the revolution could Not be written without the character of Samuel Adams so I was sort of fumbling Around thinking how why is he so Preeminent to his contemporaries and so Lost to us So how does it how does it work how do You start making a proposal and how much Research did you do before you went Forward with it I I thought I was researching a book on Someone else to be perfectly Um

Clear and I went to to my local library Where I tend to do the early research For every book and there's a biography Floor which is obviously shelved Alphabetically and the woman whom I Thought I was writing about papers were To the right and Samuel Adams's papers Were to the left and over time I Realized that I was winding up my Mid-afternoon sitting on the floor Underneath the atoms papers to the left As opposed to pulling the books off the Shelf to the right where I meant to be Researching Um and at a certain point I described The situation to my agent who is usually Fairly opinionated about subjects and he Said I don't understand of course you're Meant to be writing a book about Samuel Adams sort of why are you hesitating Here and immediately grasped or Immediately felt that it was a that it Was a fabulous idea I was still I think A little uncertain because I was Um uncertain as to how much Documentation I would have at my Disposal So what did you do next Um then I did a very short proposal Which reassured me that a I thought he Would make for excellent company I mean You know you set off on these projects And you realize you're going to be in Very close quarters with someone for

Five or six years so you don't want to Um you don't want to sign on lightly I Should say this person you don't Necessarily have to love this person but You do have to somehow cohabitate with Him or her for five for five or six Years or longer Um so I did a short proposal as much to Convince my publisher as myself Um and I think at the end we were all Convinced so so this is the same Publisher this is little brown who also Brought out Um Cleopatra and the witches So once you've made the proposal and They like it at the publisher How much time is there between that and When you really start serious research And where did you go in the interim how Many places did you go to find out about Samuel Adams Strong enough that I was going to be Writing this book for someone and I was Thrilled to um to land again at little Brown so I started right in with the Papers of Samuel Adams Um which for once in my life is actually In New York City where I live I think This is the first time that's ever Happened that I live in the town where My where the primary documents are Housed Um and that was a marvelous thing the Papers of atoms are published but what

Is published is only his side of the Correspondence and not in its entirety I Should add whereas the collection Um in the New York Public Library is Both sides of the correspondence so it Allows you to flesh out a great deal it Allows you to see what he's reacting Obviously in his letters you get a much More personal take his letters from his Wife for example are in that collection Although they are not in the published Edition Um you get to see you know Hinson and Stabs from various friends and enemies Which are in the collection And I started there Um with those papers because that's Really kind of ground zero and then Moved out which is which is what I've Done in the past two more ancillary Collections so that meant material Um largely the Massachusetts historical Society and other Boston repositories Material that was in the Library of Congress and then in a much sort of Richer fashion material that's in either The national archives in London or the Parliamentary archives in London because Those are The grace Repositories of letters written about Atoms by the governors and Lieutenant Governors and the crown officials who'll Be so annoyed for those 15 years leading

Up to the revolution so that's a very That's a a particularly Nuanced and colorful vision of atoms That we get from those papers and of Course there are always heartbreaks Along the way they're always the the Things that you expect from which you Expect it to work that never turn up and One of those in the in the archive here At the New York Public Library I had Expected to find something about which I Had read which was A 50-page Memoir of Adams by his daughter Um which seems to have gone missing over The years and I had hoped to work from That to get really a sense of the man at Home of the domestic atoms and that's Something which I've never located Go back just for a second to the New York Society Library the last person to Mention that place to me in a one of These chats was David halberstam who Loved that place and he'd talk about Going there to do his research and help Write his book and then I saw you on a YouTube video Promoting the New York Society Library Looking for I assume contributions talk About that place and why that matters so Much and what's the benefit of using That particular Library Well my problem as a non-academic is That I don't have immediate access to a University library now that has changed

Now that Colombia and NYU and New York And the New York Public Library are part Of a Consortium but for years in New York Society library was the sole Library where I had access to the stacks And I can't stress enough and I'm sure Every other writer of nonfiction would Say the same the importance and the just General value of an openstack library Because inevitably you go into the Library for the book you think you need And you discover that the book you Really need is the next one on the Shelf Which you would never have discovered Had you not been doing had you not made That trip yourself And you know very often the research for These books is a matter of just gnawing Your way through a particular shelf or Set of shelves of literature and to be Able to sort of see what's there Um just to quantify it and to sort of Orient yourself Um is just unfathomable unfathomable Importance the New York Society Library Um is also interesting in that for me And that it has a very um it has a very Sophisticated and I guess opinionated Readership whenever you find sort of Someone who whenever you pull a book off The shelf in which someone has written In the margins they generally do seem to Have known more than the author herself Knew so sometimes that marginalia is

Actually really helpful Um but it's just it's an amazing place To work in for for New York City an Amazing resource how did the Samuel Adams papers get to the New York Society Library The new um the sambulance papers are in The New York Public Library oh I'm sorry And I and I believe and I believe they Are there because they were part of the Bancroft gift that massive collection of American History I'm fairly certain he Had acquired them and that they made Their way to that library with his Um with his gift So when you're looking at the papers how How big are they and how much of those Do you read I think biographers like to like anyone Biographers like to brag and they I Think we brag in linear linear feet you Know my subject I had to read my way Through you know 20 miles of linear feet To get to the the heart of the matter There isn't unfortunately that much for Atoms there are there are shelves but They are not massive shelves Um they are there are other things that Are there that are equally Central to His life for example the Boston Committee of Correspondence papers are There which we can talk about and are Are in immense um are mentally helpful In filling out around the edges

Um Sorry I just totally lost my train of Thought What came back the New York Public Library the stacks yeah no I was going To say something about oh I know I'm Sorry I was going to say Um but what I normally do is to start With those with that primary source and Those primary documents and read them Once through without necessarily the Context Um which would entirely explain them to Me and then I I sort of Branch out a Little bit and I go to the ancillary Collections and I read the secondary Materials and I begin to fill in The cast of characters and in this case The colonial positions and the British Posturing and all of the other all the Rest of the picture and then ultimately I go back to those original documents When of course they read very Differently and when things Tend to jump off the page in a way they Hadn't hadn't done earlier for example There was a there's just a there's one Letter from an individual who appears Nowhere else in the atoms papers who Mentions to Samuel Adams when he's in Philadelphia at one point but he had Stopped at Adams's home and essentially Emptied all of the papers from the home So that they couldn't fall into the

Hands of the British soldiers in town Who would have loved to Prey Upon them And it's just it's such an act of Dedication such an act of Devotion to Atoms Um we don't know who this individual was It's the only letter from him but it's Really telling and and that's the kind Of thing that doesn't necessarily jump Out at you until you really know the Shape of the story and this was true as Much with say a little witchcraft where I I read the documents and then I spent Two or three years reading around them And then ultimately went back to them a Second time Did you have did you go to those other Places you mentioned the Massachusetts Historical Society the Library of Congress down here or is everything now Online I a lot of things are online I went Everywhere Um I just feel I need to read the documents Themselves I think most I don't think I'm unusual in this the Feeling that you want to sort of touch The paper that your subject touched you Want to see the primary document you Want to be able to read through what's So assiduously crossed out Um there's some kind of magic to me Anyway and actually seeing and handling

The original documents wherever it's Possible so yes and the and the the Truly Um I think greatest cache of those is Probably the Public Records Office and In queue in in the UK where you have Copy after copy of beleaguered Customs official or Royal Governor Writing back to London saying I just Don't know what to do about these Obstreperous colonists and these letters Are often written and you know Quadruplicate so they turn up in Different files but there's a massive Amount of just crumbling Incredibly rich and colorful material There A non-sequitur question back in those Days in 1750s 60s 70s Did the Americans who were British Citizens Have an accent like the British It's one of the great unanswered Questions everyone obviously is British Um there are very there are relatively Few mentions of which I'm aware where People comment on other people's accents We know a couple of things which I think Speak to the question we know that British officers who are sent into the Countryside To spy on what American what what the What the Americans might be cooking up With those Munitions in Concord those

Kind of British spies when they open Their mouths nobody knows that they're British officers so presumably they Speak everyone speaks more or less the Same English Um on the other hand and we also know That there are British there are Deserters from the British army who live Undercover so to speak Um because the Americans have welcomed Them very warmly and have helped them to Um who has to warned them and helped Them to leave Boston they sort of just Fit in easily in the countryside on the Other hand we do know That there is a distinct New England Accent and we have we have fairly good Descriptions of that and also from the Very eccentric spelling Um you get a fairly good sense of it it Isn't completely distant from the Boston Accent today and there's actually a Wonderful mention in of Ben Franklin's When John Adams Arrives in France to assist with the French Alliance Um Franklin talks about how how it sort Of music to his ears to hear the New England accent again so obviously John Adams is speaking a somewhat different English than where Franklin's other American associates You mentioned Benjamin Franklin you did A book on that

What did you think of him after you Spent so much time with him You know I'll admit that part of um the Reason I was rooting around in that book And thinking about Samuel Adams was that I was looking for something of an excuse To spend more time with Ben Franklin Which I would add this book did not Provide Um Franklin is just effortlessly good Company and I think endlessly Fascinating because there are so many Sides to him So my sense of Franklin I would happily Write another book I would happily go Back to spend five or six more years With Benjamin Franklin I'm not sure I Would feel that way about Cleopatra or Any other number of people I've written About Franklin is fascinating because whatever You say about him you can almost say the Opposite and argue both sides I mean He's just he's so multi-dimensional Um and so sort of sinew was a character That I I just find him endlessly Entertaining About this time in a podcast like this Somebody's saying that they're listening Why aren't they talking more about Samuel Adams and I would just point out That you and I chatted a couple weeks Ago we had some technical problems but Were able to save a lot of our

Conversation and that is available to Anyone listening to this at the end of This discussion Uh back to Samuel Adams did you see his Actual handwriting Yes all of those Um all of those documents are in his Hand and I think that's the other piece Of you know wanting to see the actual Papers you you know you want to sort of See the pen as it's scratching its way Across the page we have a number of Accounts of him Writing through the night writing Tirelessly Or American rights so we know that he's A um like Franklin for that matter of They're an easy writer he's very much at His Ease on the page less at his ease as A speaker but very much at his Ease on The page and he's an excellent letter Writer in fact Um so so yes I spent as much time as I Could Um with those documents At the top of each of your 13 chapters You have a quote from somebody Um and I thought to take some time to Ask you about some of these quotes and Who the people are and why you chose Them I'll start by um With the second chapter And that the title of the chapter is a Voice in the darkness a knock at the

Door and then the quote is from Thomas Hutchison 1779 Quote everything in American Affairs Happens contrary to probability unquote Well I will admit first off that what You just called the second chapter Um and which indeed appears in the book As the second chapter was to my mind the First chapter and that the what is now The first chapter was to be an Introduction However my publisher is of the mind that No one reads introductions and so he Renumbered the chapters so I thought of That as the first chapter and I thought Of Thomas Hutchinson's as sort of the Opening Salvo in the sense that I mean I've wanted the book to begin With this idea that what is about to Happen is just wildly improbable and I Mean that is so much the trick obviously In writing history is Reinserting into it the precariousness And The Accidental nature and the Fragility of it all but the fact that Thomas Hutchinson can't who become Something of the anti-hero of this book He's lieutenant governor and ultimately Governor of Massachusetts Can't grasp the currents that are Roiling Um The Colony around him is so much at The heart of what's about to happen and

The fact that this could all have Happened Go swiftly and so unexpectedly to have Gone from you know spotlessly loyal to As Thomas Hutchinson will see it you Know Stark raving mad over the course of A decade Um really sort of It's mind-bendingly complicated so I Wanted I I I didn't want to lose sight Of Hutchinson I'm very fond of Thomas Hutchison despite how much um of a Nuisance Adams was to him and I wanted Him to have the opening shot What was the difference in their age And I think it's 13 years older I think Hutchinson is born in 1711 maybe it's Less than that they're about a decade Apart they're very similar in their Backgrounds Um which also I find very interesting Are both sort of fifth generation sons Of Massachusetts Hutchinson's family has distinguished Itself over the years in public service They both go to the same schools they Both end up with master's degrees from Harvard Hutchinson at 26 will enter the House of Representatives he marries very well Into another Family Dynasty Um he prospers financially as Adams does Not

And he becomes by the 1760s as Adams is Kind of ambling his way toward some kind Of significance he becomes sort of the Face of authority and the face of Prosperity I should say in the face of Authority in Boston because he has begun Already To accumulate a great number of of Titles and so he is kind of the Anti-atoms in many ways but he's an Immensely he's as devoted to Massachusetts as is Adams and he's an Immensely dutiful and diligent and Modest and sober and appealing man By the way I pointed out in the Introduction that you were Born in Adams Massachusetts And you went to Williams College which Means that you spent a lot of time Around Massachusetts did that have Anything to do with your interest in Atoms and why do you live in New York City Um I think there is probably some Um Obsession with the New England Starchiness I I think I mean I'm Completely educated in New England Um the atoms twist There's a wonderful wonderful writer of Writing I'm sure you know his work name Bill zinser who tried to convince me About a decade ago that I needed to Write a memoir and

I think the biographer just rears at the Very idea of memoir because it's part of The joy of writing biography of course Is escaping one's own life but there was Something almost Um there was something appealing about Going home in a way with Adams Massachusetts I was again mortified that I was so ignorant of atoms because I Come from Adams Massachusetts Um it seemed like it was it seemed like It was just a a delightful it was it was Kismet in a way to be working on Samuel Adams and to know that I had not known Of him all these years it seems somehow Preordained Um I think that this book to some extent This book The Franklin book and the Witches Somehow felt to me like they fell Together on a Continuum a sort of New England Continuum and I sort of felt as If this was the book that took us from Those Puritan years Um of Salem to the enlightenment years Of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson I've heard you made the comment before About avoiding one's own life but as an Outsider I don't know that much about You but we've talked before I see a Person that's had what over a 30-year Marriage Had three children

A lot of successful books Why are you afraid of writing about your Own life How many more how many more minutes do We have this could be a very interesting Session Mr laugh it's fine with me you Know I wrote a piece I wrote a piece Once which I'm actually quite fond about The difficulties of writing biography And how you you think about you think You've left yourself entirely out of the Book because you've and you've spent Years you know you're emptying the Dishwasher but you're really back in 18th Century Paris or whatever you've Just you know you've somehow time Traveled as opposed to paid attention to The life at hand and then you write the Book and then you discover that somehow Unwittingly you've landed pieces of Yourself on every single page so I think I've escaped but I obviously don't Entirely Escape Um and yes I plead guilty to a 30-some Audi or marriage into having indeed had Three children how old are the kids They're not kids they're not kids Anymore 30 31 29 and 22. I I did just inscribe this book to The 22 year old who asked for a copy as You know you're adoring an absent mother And she called me and gave me a song and Dance about why I had written and absent So I think that was a good sign and what

Did they do Um the 22 year old is a senior in in University a history major just for the Record Um the 28 year old does China strategy Research in DC and the the 31 year old Does Real Estate development in Denver Over the years when you've written these Other books that have gotten you a lot Of awards how much interaction do you do You have with these children of yours And how interested are they along the Way I I think that um for whatever reason I've tried to keep my professional life Separate from their lives I just feel as If it this shouldn't be a burden to them In any way and where they've asked about It or wanted to read about it obviously I've been delighted Um but I just feel as if they should be Allowed to make their own ways in the World and pick their own Um pick their own read they're all great They're all huge readers so I it's been A delight to me when they've decided They wanted to read a great Improvisation or Cleopatra but I haven't Wanted it to get in their way So when they were growing up did you Create an atmosphere of where they Automatically started reading or were You the one that made the suggestion Um I think they grew up noticing that if

They were reading a book they didn't Have to do their chores and that became An in an incredible enticement right There Um I will admit that there was probably Cause and effect what's that Robert Lawson book about the mouse and Ben Franklin's hat Ben and me I think it's Called Um it's a Charming children's book in Which Um Franklin in France wearing his Incredible Martin for hat has also given Lodging to a little mouse who lives in The Hat and who is obviously The Mastermind behind Franklin's dealings in France and I may have read that book to The kids so many times that I then Landed on the idea of writing a book About Franklin and France so I may have Benefited from the Bedtime reading as Much as they did For a moment let's go back to the Process so you've You've talked to your agent you move Ahead starting your research how long Did you reach well let me ask first when Did the publisher say yes how long did That take and is there discussion about How much they're willing to pay you at That point There's most absolutely a discussion About how much they're willing to pay me And the great blessing is to have an

Agent so you don't have to be privy to That conversation particularly Um so that's really between agent and Publisher with most books that's you Know it can be a quick conversation it Can be a protracted conversation But it's very often a conversation about What part of the world the publisher is Buying rights in for example Cleopatra Has been published in 35 foreign Editions this is a book this is an American book so really there's only one Market Um for this book you could conceivably See a British Edition and actually Interestingly the only foreign publisher So far to have licensed Chinese Um but this is really a book about America and to be sold in the North American market so that so that Simplifies to some extent Um the deal but I'm but I'm at that Point already researching I'm I'm Leaving that piece of the I'm leaving The negotiation really to my agent who Will Check in but it's a publisher with whom We've worked before with an existing Relationship and a happy relationship And I'm I'm so grateful to have a home Where I feel that the books The books are sort of lodged together Um my first three books are with Different Publishers so um so that's

Sort of it was a it was a wonderful Place to want to stay and I'm delighted It worked out going back to the quotes At the beginning of a chapter that the Next one was the great town of Boston And it this is a Samuel Johnson quote From 1775 Security and Leisure are the parents of Sedition What's the point Endearing but for Adams's first four Decades He amounts to very little Um he's very well educated he comes from An affluent background The family Um falls on Hard Times by the time he's Graduated from Harvard but he he grows Up with pretty much every Advantage One Could have in colonial Massachusetts and Does almost nothing with that and to Some extent he is benefiting I guess I Would argue from the fact that he has He's able to engage politically as he Does because he has had this Extraordinarily good education and he Has had the security Um of a fairly affluent home life so I Wanted to to press the point that he's Able to Rock the boat as he does or have a time To rock the boat as he does precisely Because he's had every Advantage Um he isn't someone who's trying to

Scrape together a living he will be Ultimately but he isn't born someone Who's had to scrape together a living It's a luxury to be able to think Outside the box it's a tremendous luxury To be able to sort of say I think we can I think we can design a more perfect System Um and he comes to those ideas We know during the years when he perhaps Should have been pursuing a career but Instead he devotes himself to politics And in fact in his first in the first Job he takes outside of the family He's briefly Sort of apprenticed to an accounting Firm run by a very popular Bostonian a Close friend of his father's Um and ultimately after not very many Months the head of that firm will say You know he's a very capable young man But all he can seem to think about is Politics and I think that's you know he Could not have come to that position had He not had the grounding that he had As you know your quotes are from a lot Of different people some of them quite a Few are British but in Samuel Johnson's Case where do you find these quotes how Do how long did that take you to do that They're usually such a great question Brian they're usually things that either I've been carrying around in a notebook And I guess this too should speak to

Your question about the research which By the way takes you asked me and I Didn't answer you it usually takes me About three and a half years to research And then about a year and a half to Write and sometimes in the course of That writing I will have to go back into The archiver back to the library to Review something that I had earlier read Or to fill in a blank where I didn't or Within the case of covid to go back to Places that had been closed during During the pandemic Um I also keep a notebook which is Generally things where you know I'm Reading Saul Bellow and suddenly there's A quote that pertains precisely to Salem Witchcraft or I'm reading Samuel Johnson Because that's the era of Samuel Johnson And there are several lines that pertain Precisely to what's happening in the Colonies And sometimes those quotes Which I think of as kind of the I don't Know the The stem cells of the book Are just things that help me to be able To organize my thinking to help some of The themes to begin to ferment and Sometimes they end up as chapter titles Because they pull together A chapter in some way and and I think I That in many ways they are crutches for Me to begin to see

How what shape a chapter takes because The chapter isn't purely shaped Chronologically I like to think it's Also shaped somewhat thematically Is there any way to to answer this Question where did you learn to write Did you have a somebody teaching you how To do it or did you just figure it out On your own Like many writers I had the mother who Who marks up your fifth grade paper and So brutally so that you can barely see Your own words so I think I had a very Good homegrown editor in the fact that I Had it my mother was an academic and she And she felt very strongly about the Written word and about the proper use of The written word Um I read like I read like you know hung Really through my entire life and I Think that when you read like that you End up It helps your writing to some to some Extent but you end up really just caring Tremendously at a at a sentence by Sentence level about the written word Um I remember the first time a teacher in High school returned a paper to me and Said Um have you ever considered being a Writer and being sort of thrown Back on my heels by that remark because It seemed it was something I'd really

Never considered and in fact this book Speaking of things that begin chapters This book is dedicated to my 11th grade History teacher who was my 11th grade U.S history teacher who was one of those People name Nancy Faust sizer still with us she is I'm seeing her in a few weeks Has she read all your books You know I've never I think you may have Read more of them than All right fourth chapter I don't I don't Know that she's read this one as a Matter of fact The fourth chapter is the very honest Samuel Adams comma Clerk and the quote Is from Marianne Evans better known as George Eliot the quote is the Blessed Work of helping the world forward Happily does not wait to be done by Perfect men Why that quote How long have you been holding out on That one Um I think I was probably Reading my way through I read I read a Lot of Elliot during covet I admit it Um I think there I really find his Those first failed years so compelling And I'm sure there's some psychological Explanation for that why I find that so Endearing but you know he's not someone Who's marked for greatness

Um and yet he achieves Beyond anyone's Expectation so the fact that you have This person who is so deeply flawed who Looks like he's going to amount to a Perfect failure for so many years who's Just shambling his way around Boston Very much in endearing himself to the Townspeople he's clearly very very Popular he's often called into you know To adjudicate cases and to stand up for People in court and to help with people Who want to draft documents but he's but He's not exactly a shining light for Those early years Um and normally he'd be a shining light At the end of his life So I just I just wanted to sort of Highlight I suppose his imperfections Because the improbability of the story On both levels I mean so improbable That a set of disunited colonies could Have managed what they manage and so Quickly and so improbable that someone Of seemingly so little aptitude and so Little application could prove to be This tremendously disciplined Dynamo I Wanted to highlight both of those things Right off In fairness to our listeners let's go Through the quickly the background He was born where He's born in Boston Um grows up in a wealthy family he's Born in 1722 so it's it's just the 300th

Anniversary of his birth this year which Was another reason to finish the book on Time I might add Um and he grows up in a very affluent House Um overlooking Boston Harbor his father Was a monster not a brewer Um he will be sent to All the Right Schools Um And he will Go very briefly into the family business As I said have a somewhat checkered and And undistinguished career after that The family fortune is lost partly Through his Poor management and partly because of an Act of parliament earlier in the early 1740s and he will thereafter sort of Have to try to bind his footing which is Not an easy thing to do in Boston in Those years Boston's an economically Um downwardly Boston isn't a bit of an Economic crisis in these years so he's Not the only one who's actually having Trouble Um figuring out a way to support himself How many kids does his parents have Of which Um only a few survive the the mortality Statistics for those years are really Kind of astonishing at least well How many times was he was he married He's married twice he has two

Two children survived from the first Marriage there's a hint of a miscarriage With the second wife but the second wife Does not seem to did not bear any Children so so the two surviving Children the two children who will whom We will meet in the book are children From the first marriage there's a lot About the different movements that he Was involved in during those years in Your book but um what off what political Offices did he hold So he essentially he holds a few Town Offices early on he's a market Clerk and He's a tax collector but in the wake of The Stamp Act discussions he will be Elected to the House of Representatives It's really that that crisis that puts Him Center Stage And he will be elected very quickly Clerk of the House of Representatives Was it the U.S house or what house was It no no sorry the Massachusetts Representative this is all colony colony Level exactly Um he will never hold federal office in Fact Um and it's noted that very soon after He becomes Clerk of the house or soon After he enters the house The house begins to speak in a much more Brusque and much more peremptory tone That it had ever taken with a royal Governor before and that is very much

The voice of Samuel Adams I Um did we talk about the gallery in the Last time we talked oh yes one of his Yeah okay that I'm not going to go into That sorry Um How sick was he during his life He's fairly robust but he has from an Early age a tremor And it seems to have been a Tremor that Not surprisingly was exacerbated by Stress that chiefly affected his hands And his neck Um and that seems in a few accounts Almost to have given him a sort of Mystical stature I mean there was Something sort of Otherworldly about his Um about the shake the quiver it gets Significantly worse after the revolution And it may it may explain by the way why He's so much more comfortable on the Page than in personal though we don't Know that Um it will get significantly worse in The 1780s when he will very quickly go From saying I can only write a few Paragraphs at a time because of the Palsy in my hand to I can't write more Than a line or two to someone else Actually having to write for him and Because of that we have a lot less of Him from those years because the while The inclination to write may have been There the ability to write had abandoned

Him How tall was he About middling stature Um very muscular Barrel chested Um if you think about that amazing John Singleton coffee portrait of him that Seems to have been The Stance he took Kind of ram Reds remrods straight in his Bearing Um John Adams leaves a very a very Eloquent description of Samuel Adams When he when he rose to spoke just Rose To speak he he sort of pulled himself up To his full height and almost bounced on His toes for emphasis and sort held out His hand and sort of declaimed in a in An almost a classical fashion Um but there definitely is a as I say in The book I think sort of the the build Of a middleweight boxer Who were his best friends back then I'm sure I was a few years younger in fact As James Otis who's a Pyrotechnic orator Um had graduated from Harvard a few Years before Adams Pretty much serves as political Mentor It's Otis who first argues a case of Risk of assistance in court it's Otis Who first I I think gives Adams a sense of where Colonial resistance might fit into the System the two of them it's a difficult

Relationship I should add because Otis Has clearly got a touch of some kind of Mania he's a man who can speak who can Talk a Blue Streak as John Adams makes Clear and ultimately will Um descend into some kind of Madness and Adams who's very loyal can often be Loyal to a fault Um we'll try very hard to integrate Otis Into some of the later committees and And efforts of resistance and and do Everything he can to make sure that no One in any way offends Um his former Mentor even though he Knows That a Otis is very difficult company And also very unpredictable Otis will Um have Tory days and wig days and Um at some point say he he will defend The Stamp Act and then he will just Shred the Stamp Act he's extremely Um he's clearly maniacal he's clearly Got it got a touch of mania and he's Extremely fickle Um and I suppose that among the other Closest would be Dr Warren who's the Person who Sends Paul Revere off to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that they're Likely to be arrested Um in 1775 and John Adams who's a very Close associate for these years John Adams like John Hancock Are people whom Adams himself had

Recruited And in fact it was said of Adams that if For no other reason he would be a Shining Patriot for the fact that he ran A sort of informal Recruiting office for The American Revolution Whenever there Was a promising young man in Boston Whenever any Harvard graduate gave a Particularly compelling speech on Liberty he could be certain that he Would be getting a visit from Samuel Adams Uh I should admit to you not that this Is a big deal but I've been reading the Galley which came out some time ago and The reason I mentioned this because back In the back in your endnotes there's a Quote that I want to ask you about but I Can't tell you exactly what page it came From and I I assume you'll remember this And put it in context I'll read it quote Persons who relish flattery Essay feared meaning Samuel Adams feared Will forever be deceived by those who Designed to deceive them I'll stop with That do you remember Do you remember that I love that I I Just can we just stop and say how Delighted I am that you're reading the End notes that makes every Writer's Day Um I'm assuming that that had something to Do with John Hancock let me read on some More because it makes more sense Samuel

Adams is frankly astounded that his Countrymen Should install as their first elected Governor someone variously described as And here are come the quotes All Caprice in capacity and in indolence A man of straw a purveyor of crackery And exaggeration a court sycophant one Of the most egregious triflers I know I do love the egregious trifler one Right I think I think the only one Missing from there is the the fopish Pseudo Aristocrat which one of his own Biographers calls Hancock Um it's hard to find a kind word for John Hancock among Um certainly among those who write about Samuel Adams but often even among his Contemporaries the the two have this Extremely uneasy relationship Um Adams Banks very early on On the fact that John Hancock was Inherited tremendous fortune in his late 20s will thrill to the attention of Political office And that the that the opposition party Will thrill to John Hancock's fortune And so he essentially recruits Hancock And helps him to be elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives And thereafter the two have a um a sort Of a teacher Mentor sort of mentor Student relationship

But we will fall apart at various Junctures and it will often fall apart Hancock is extremely thin-skinned Samuel Items extremely thick-skinned and atoms Will very often be in a position of Having to remind John Hancock that he Shouldn't be discouraged because someone Said Um an unkind thing about him Hancock Will nurse his wounds Adams will Um jump to Just to apply Salve to them but the two Most often fall out in Hancock's bids For attention he's very very attuned to Flattery he can't seem to get enough Um Applause And he becomes a sort of um he can't He's extremely generous with the town of Boston But he can't seem to do enough to Ingratiate himself with the town of Boston so he will bestow all kinds of Things church bells trees All kinds of gifts on the town of Boston And la and so enjoy the attention and The gratitude that he that he's able to Buy and Adams rails against this Adams Has a very hard time generally with Anyone who's susceptible to flattery And John Hancock seems in many ways the Worst representation of that and the two Of them will be off speaking terms at at Various junctures in the early 1770s Just after the Boston Massacre there are

A few years where the resistance effort Entirely stutters and stalls Adams is Still at it no one else is And Thomas Hutchinson very cannily Detaches John Hancock from Adams to the Point where Hancock says that he hopes Never again to see Adams or ever speak To him again and Hancock at that point Is in part bought off by A Cadet Corps a group of sort of Ceremonial Cadets that Hutchinson Arranges for him and John Hancock goes Off and spends a lot of time ordering Uniforms and ordering musical Instruments for his Cadets which tells You something of the difference between The two men I uh I suspect that people are listening To saying you know I'm not getting the Gist of uh atoms like I would and maybe We're just tricking them to go buy your Book Um but yeah I think we should never I Think we should just never discuss the Gist of it no let them go buy the book I Mean you know cough it up it's ready you Know she but by the way I want at this Point I want to ask you about that Because you have had a rollout on this Book Every major newspaper reviews mostly all Positive everything about it Uh how much of that did you expect Oh Brian I don't think you ever know

What to expect Hoping that someone one person out there Is going to read the book Um is going to read the book that you Hope you that you think you might have Written Um I don't think One Ever Knows What To Expect and I don't even think you Necessarily know You don't I'm always fascinated by and Sometimes and often thrilled by The fact that readers respond to Different readers respond to parts of The book that I wouldn't have expected Them to respond to and find things in The book that I didn't necessarily know Were there but I I just think that you Know it's like your own family you have The least you're the person least able Um to explain what the book is or at Least able to actually objectively say This book works or this book doesn't Work can you remember some reaction that A a reader has had that you were Surprised about Specifically I I think I Have um Thrilled by the affection for him I mean I felt a great I felt a great tenderness always and a Great I mean obviously this book were Out of tremendous admiration which only Got greater as I worked And it's been thrilling to see that

Other people see it that way too that The tenacity that that Adams Demonstrates here through thick and thin Um is something to which people are Which or some are something which people Themselves everyone is responding very Warmly so that's that's been great you Know I just think we have such a As with all historical events we tend to Look back at the American Revolution as A set of Very um measured Maneuvers one of which Followed neatly after another And obviously it's a much more anarchic Process than that it's a messy process And pulling it apart like this Um gives you a somewhat different Revolution and I think it's I mean it's Been great for me to have people say I Didn't know any of this or this isn't The way I learned Um you know I thought it I thought Things proceeded directly from the Stamp Act to the Boston Tea Party that that There were 17 chapters in between was Something of which I was unaware An interesting applauding I I started with this Sort of Epiphany moment of wait a minute We all know that Paul Revere is riding Off but which one which of us actually Thinks about where is he riding and to Have people say oh my goodness I never Thought about that I'd never I've

Actually sort of utterly you've cast Revere's ride in a different light That's thrilling to me because that's You know that's why I do this You mentioned earlier that not some People don't read your endnotes or your Footnotes what is your experience with That because it looks like once you've Done your book and you have to do Endnotes that that's a very painful Process I'm so glad you understand that it's the Worst it's called special endnote hell And it's called just take your coffee Consumption and multiply by three I Haven't figured out a way to do this I Mean endnotes are basically for me the Source notes footnotes are little bits Of things on the page which fall out of Or further explicate the the paragraph Itself the unknots are the source notes And when I'm writing I don't really want to stop and write a Fully formed Source note so I leave sort Of skeletal a skeletal Trail for myself Which I'll pick up on later Which will become endnotes but of course Then one day one day comes and usually There are not enough days for it where You have to flesh out those skeletal Endnotes and by that time of course You've amassed a tremendous amount of Information and not everything is Obvious not not everything is as obvious

To you as it was at the time and you're Often sort of tracking down and notes That you had Um that you had put in a very simplified Form in the book Um so it is a it is an exercise in kind Of tremendous gun to the Head Um last minute panic but it's also kind Of thrilling because it's kind of it's Kind of deconstructing the book at the Same time and Being able to see what actually you know It's how much straw you actually wove Together to make this particular basket For lack of a better metaphor Um and of course within those notes to Those notes you can add those little Pieces of the book that your editor Thought you should perhaps were not Necessarily dreaming to the story that You could perhaps live without but that You absolutely want to include so you Can stick those you can cheat a little By sticking those in the in the endnotes As well You quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 12th chapter this important glorious Crisis the hero is he who is immovably Centered why that quote If there's nothing else that by that Point in the book If there's nothing Else For which Adam seems to have Distinguished himself his sheer tenacity

Would seem to distinguish him by that Point you know you've you've sort of Been up and back again with this Question of what resistance will add up To in the colonies um The word I'm not even sure which chapter That is is the word independence yet on The table really what what what are we Looking for are we looking for redress Are we looking for resistance are we Looking for Independence and Adams is The one sort of unrelenting Um voice in Massachusetts at that point So again that was to just draw attention To how persevering he is Um even While others have lost Um have either sort of Fallen away or Have lost interest in the calls are you An Emerson fan I am how about you Yeah one of the best books uh what was It the fire next time what was the name No that was not the title of it there Was a book written years ago uh that I Interviewed on book notes about Emerson I'm not a scholar I'm just after all These years I try to learn as much as I Can and I want to go back to chapter 10 With you I shall stand alone because I Was uh I was intrigued by Thomas Carlisle's Quote No man lives without jostling and being Jostled

In all ways he has to Elbow himself Through the world giving and receiving Offense Thomas Carlisle what about him what About that quote Well I mean leaving aside the fact that If I had didn't have a book to write I Wouldn't be reading Thomas Carlisle Right now Um There's so much of atoms which is Immensely high-minded And kind of eloquently sort of Transporting actually intellectually and Then there's so much of atoms which is Really just about low ball tactics and Not at the not all of them necessarily Commendable Um but a lot of maneuvering you know He's just obviously has this tremendous Ability to change minds but sometimes he Does that in what we might consider a Bullying Um way and the tactics can be you know Less than Um Less than Savory so that hence the Carlisle quote I can't remember which Chapter that is but Um which tells what happens to a writer When she's finished a book chapter 10 I Shall stand alone yeah I think that's a Chapter where out of nothing I don't has Had this idea and maybe this will speak

To what the book is actually about if You'll forgive me Um has had this idea that if the Colonies could only hang together a Little bit more tightly if The Fringe Rights of one could be understood to be The infringed rights of all Something will categorically change in The colonial relationship and that is an Idea obviously which is not peculiar to Him but on which he Harps for many many Years after Um after the Boston Tea Party when there Is the question of How Massachusetts is going to react Um to the request that they reimburse The East India Company for the tea He manages in this unbelievably Conniving manner to turn a committee That was meant to discuss the Reimbursement of the T Into a committee that is going to Discuss sending men to a Continental Congress and he does that by essentially Making sure that the few people in the Room in particular the one lawyer in the Room who are opposed to the idea are Kept out of the discussion so Essentially he has a committee and then He has a shadow committee and in a very Agile way he manages to get rid of this This person in particular who made a Very would have made a very strong case For reimbursing the East India Company

And manages to have a vote taken and Passed to send a delegation to Philadelphia in this in this colleague's Absence and that's the kind of Maneuvering um at which he's so expert And it's you know it's not all of it Commendable but it seemed to me that the Carlisle quote spoke directly to it One of my Uh BET our favorite Footnotes not not an endnote was uh near The end of the book and I want to kind Of go through it and get your reaction To it and it it's on page 323 of the Book I'm looking at and it starts out by No one spent more time afterward Apportioning credit than John Adams Who early on fumed that Washington and Franklin would see all the glory and That the history of the Revolution would Quote be one continued live from one end To the other unquote I'm going to do More of that after you respond to that But that doesn't sound too friendly All right friendly on my part you mean No one I'm a part of jobs I I mean there John Adams is you know because he's a Very petulant character he's therefore Immensely quotable I mean he's he he Never meets someone without leaving an Incredibly wasp Mission excellent Description of what their actual what That person is actually like

And he does spend Um more time than anyone else going back Over these events locating the various Rubicons of which there are many in his In his telling Um a signing credit Um undermining other people who will Claim credit but essentially rewriting The revolution as he thought it should Have been re as he thought it should Have been written and remember it's it's John Adams who will write to Samuel Later and say you know those 40 Years of Your writing will explain the American Revolution everyone's going to want to Read those papers you need to collect Them because John is very aware of How much how essential all of this is What essential reading this all is for Posterity and he's positioning himself For the Embrace of posterity he's Preening for the future and that is Something in which Samuel absolutely Refuses to engage he never Um he never makes a gesture so far as we Know Um support accommodating John on that Front whereas John even from an earlier Age has been wondering how he's going How he's going to make his Mark and how Is he going to be remembered and how is He going to get out from under the Shadows of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington

More and the answer is by writing a Better letter than any of the rest of Them more from here your footnote uh you Say Jefferson had been nowhere on the Scene when James Otis launched his Crusade against British overreach Otis had electrified a 1761 Boston quote More than Patrick Henry ever did in the Whole course of his life unquote by 1817 Adams that's a quote from Adams but by 1817 Adams had settled on Hancock Otis and Samuel Adams as the founding Triumph for it Well you know a lot of this is the Shifting Back and forth over Who should deserve more credit New England or Virginia and that's pretty Much the contest in John Adams's mind it Annoys him much has been given to Virginia at the Continental Congress Because the new englanders Are understood by the rest of the Colonists to be sort of you know very Fanatical fire breathing Fanatics Whereas the Virginians seem to who are Of the same mind seem to be somewhat More mild-mannered and they are less Prickly than than was for example John Adams so this will explain as John Adams Tells us why George Washington commanded The troops and why Thomas Jefferson Wrote the Declaration of Independence And why Richard Henry Lee proposed the

Declaration of Independence because Those things were entrusted to the more Moderate seeming Virginians but Afterwards it will be very much in a Very sort of chauvinistic way Um the Adam's men will very much feel as If New England was leading the charge as In fact it was and there's a certain Clawing back that you're hearing there Um on John Adams is part of the Supremacy of Massachusetts Near the end of the book you talk about Samuel Adams collapsing When he was on the floor and I guess It's the house I've lost my place in This but at the end what kind of what Kind of an end was it in his life Poignant and it's as if He's clearly his health is suffering to Some extent he outlives his time he Lives to he lives through into his 80s And he has lost touch really with the Country that he has done so much to Create So he's out of step with it he isn't a Federalist he never holds national Office as we said Um he's still looking back thinking that The the the more the more modest and Simple old world is where he's hoping The country is headed whereas it's Rushing on to a very Mercantile and and Luxurious future Um he's he's seen as something of a

Relic in Boston where he's deeply Respected for his courage and his Nobility and his tenacity through those Essential years but where he's also seen As very much a creature of the past And watching him fall out of Step like That and yes at that point collapse to The floor Um I find heart running the reason the Last chapter is is short is that Although it's it's quite a long period Of time Um he talks about Revolution he meets With dignitaries who come to Boston at One point he Donna and John Adams will Entertain George Washington but there's That ability to connect to men and to Corral thinking and to and to sort of Just pull ideas out of the air and Commit them to the page really has Deserted him by those years How do you what's your reaction to this Period of a book where you have to go Out and I don't know if you have to but You go out and sell it What do you think of this if doing all These interviews and speeches and Whatnot Well I love talking to Brian Lamb let me Make that clear I think that it's a you Know it's an interesting one you've You've written and insofar as you are Capable you have written you've given Your best shot at it on the page so then

Everything that you say about it by Definition you're mingling your own Account So I feel as if what you really want to Do is direct the reader to the page But it's kind of a catch-22 because you Can't be there without talking about it I find it thrilling to actually Speak to people who are reading the book As I said because you're suddenly Finding that there are things in the Pages That you hadn't yourself necessarily Seen and because you're sharing this Person with him about whom you feel so Passionately but I always have the sense That I'm vaguely bungling it Final moment here on on this which you Can which you can now confirm that I've Done go ahead after our technical Failures I don't think you've bungled it At all anyway kind of the last question Of this particular segment of our Conversation If you were to put your finger on the One thing that Samuel Adams did during This revolutionary period that made the Biggest difference what was it This real kind of campaign of Modern you know civil resistance the the Orations the recruiting the boycotts the Pickets the extra legal meetings I mean it's really sort of an Astonishingly modern invention which he

Creates out of whole cloth and which Utterly reorganizes I mean invigorates And reorganizes Um Colonial resistance and I I think That is really almost entirely his doing And strikingly original The name of the book is the Revolutionary Samuel Adams Our Guest has Been Stacy Schiff thank you very much For all your time Thank you Brian Book notes plus is also available as a Podcast find it wherever you listen to Podcasts

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