Yesterday's post about James Otis, Jr., put me in mind of his relationship with Samuel Adams, his successor as the principal voice of the Boston Whigs and the prime "incendiary" to friends of the royal government.
Among my peeved complaints about the way many historians have treated Adams is they paint him as the most extreme radical in Boston, a congenital troublemaker. In fact, Adams was often a moderating force; he kept his eye on the big goal in the distance, and kept his tongue while less temperate men like Otis and William Molineux said things they later regretted.
Otis and Adams served several terms alongside each other in the Massachusetts General Court, or provincial assembly. In 1860, Andrew H. Ward wrote that Otis once
declared from his seat, that he would not allow any member of the House to call him to order, save——SAMUEL ADAMS.Andrew stated, "The above anecdote was related to me some fifty years since by Joshua Henshaw, Esq., who was Registrar of Deeds for the country of Suffolk previous to the Revolution.” It appeared in volume 14 of the New England Historical & Genealogical Register.
Such was the compliment paid by the more eloquent to the more sagacious Patriot. Thereafter Mr. Adams took a seat behind Mr. Otis, which he continued to occupy; and whenever he thought him getting upon too high a key, privately and gently pulled his coat tail, by way of a friendly caution, which, like an electric rod, quietly disarmed the rising tempest of its fearful power.
Otis also trusted Adams as an editor. (And having been one myself, I take that as the highest praise.) About the General Court's Circular Letter of 1768 and other public correspondence, Otis reportedly told a friend, “I have written them all, and handed them over to Sam, to quieuvicue them.”
Another Patriot lawyer who trusted Adams the same way was Josiah Quincy, Jr.; on some manuscripts of his newspaper essays is this line to the printers: “Let Samuel Adams Esq. correct the press.”
Obviously, Otis and Quincy didn't fear that Adams would insert language that would get them in trouble. You wouldn't know that from the way some modern writers go on.