Yesterday’s Boston Globe included an opinion essay by Ira Stoll, most recent biographer of Samuel Adams, on the man’s relevance to our times. Ira was editor at the late New York Sun and, like Adams, is using the power of opinion journalism to catch public attention. This essay has the theme of living frugally.
Here are a couple of relevant observations from the diary of Adams’s second cousin John Adams, starting with 27 June 1770:
Took an Airing in the Chaise with my [metaphorical] Brother Sam. Adams, who returned and dined with me. He says he never looked forward in his Life, never planned, laid a scheme, or formed a design of laying up any Thing for himself or others after him.A couple of years later, on 30 Dec 1772, John Adams was a little more cranky about life, and perhaps even about the cousin he admired:
I told him, I could not say that of myself, if that had been true of me, you would never have seen my Face—and I think this was true. I was necessitated to ponder in my Youth, to consider of Ways and Means of raising a Subsistence, food and Rayment, and Books and Money to pay for my Education to the Bar. So that I must have sunk into total Contempt and Obscurity, if not perished for Want, if I had not planned for futurity.
He affects to despize Riches, and not to dread Poverty. But no Man is more ambitious of entertaining his Friends handsomely, or of making a decent, an elegant Appearance than he. He has lately new covered and glased his House and painted it, very neatly, and has new papered, painted and furnished his Rooms. So that you visit at a very genteel House and are very politely received and entertained.However, part of being an eighteenth-century gentleman was putting on the proper appearance for other eighteenth-century gentlemen. So John Adams’s remarks about Samuel’s wish to make a decent appearance for his friends was in many ways a compliment.