cover image The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

Stacy Schiff. Little, Brown, $35 (464p) ISBN 978-0-316-44111-7

Pulitzer winner Schiff (The Witches) delivers a revelatory and frequently riveting account of the life of founding father Samuel Adams (1722–1803). Portraying Adams as both a pious Puritan and a man of action, who “muscled words into deeds” in the cause of American independence, and whose destruction of most of his personal papers opened the door for adversaries to characterize him as a propagandist who provoked mob violence, Schiff begins the narrative with a dramatic description of the opening stages of the Revolutionary War, revealing that the main objective of Paul Revere’s ride was to warn Adams that the British were coming. From there, Schiff retraces Adams’s early years in Boston, his entry into Harvard at age 14, and the “financial catastrophe” that rocked the family when the British parliament dissolved a Massachusetts land bank cofounded by his father. “Vigilance in civic life,” writes Schiff, “had been inculcated in [Adams] at an early age.” By the late 1740s, he was writing political pieces for local newspapers and soon became a leading opponent of new tariffs and regulations on the colonies. Throughout, Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party, and draws incisive sketches of Loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson, Patriot lawyer James Otis, and others. Fast-paced and enlightening, this is a must-read for colonial history buffs. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Oct.)