The Revolutionary Book Summary - The Revolutionary Book explained in key points
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The Revolutionary summary

Stacy Schiff

Samuel Adams

4.6 (213 ratings)
16 mins
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    The Revolutionary
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    The Public Enemy

    The death of Samuel Adams, senior, in 1748 left his son Samuel in dire straits. Although his father had been a successful roaster of barley for local breweries, in the process he’d also accrued a sizable debt. Now, not only was that debt the problem of Samuel Adams, junior, but the sheriff and public officials were trying to sell his family’s home to cover it.

    Despite the finest classical education and two degrees from Harvard University, Samuel’s professional life had been a disaster. His devout Christianity led to interest in the ministry, which promptly faded with his divinity studies. Same for reading law and starting a business. While everyone in Boston knew Samuel as a highly intelligent and influential man, he was by no means conventionally successful.

    Unconventionally, too. When his first wife died, instead of quickly remarrying like most of his peers, he spent seven years lovingly raising his children alone. When he remarried, his second wife’s family bestowed a particularly valuable wedding present for the time – an enslaved woman. Samuel proclaimed to the family that if this person were to live in his house, then she must be free. It’s a promise he immediately kept.

    Samuel Adams cared quite little for what others thought about him. He valued his privacy as much as his ideals. The time he’d spent with Enlightenment philosophers in Harvard’s main library had formed him into a man of reason and compassion, who had a deep understanding of what motivated individuals to fight for their own interests.

    But the struggle over his father’s debt was caused by the dissolution of the Land Bank – a colonial improvisation to grant Massachusetts business owners and farmers access to the credit they needed, secured by land. When England dissolved the Land Bank as counter to their own interests, Adams’s own precarious position felt like nothing compared to that of the colony’s. Forced to rely on London for everything from house paint and mirrors to hard currency, the fate of the owners and farmers was entirely up to the whims of a King and Parliament who couldn’t point out Boston on a map. Samuel’s cousin John Adams, recalled this moment as the first time Samuel stepped out onto Boston’s political stage. And he came out roaring.

    Instead of collapsing under the weight of this disaster, it forged Samuel Adams, into a powerful adversary of English rule. One who had, in almost every sense, nothing to lose.

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    What is The Revolutionary about?

    The Revolutionary (2022) offers a nuanced look at one of the most central figures in the lead-up to the American War of Independence. It reveals a man of character and contradiction, whose revolutionary thinking and deep commitment to civil liberties came to define a revolution.

    Who should read The Revolutionary?

    • History lovers looking for a deep dive into characters that create change
    • Political thinkers looking for an inside view of revolutionary politics
    • Anyone seeking inspiring examples of ideals put into practice

    About the Author

    Stacy Schiff is a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and historian whose books have garnered both international acclaim and multiple awards.

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