J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Samuel Adams: beyond the caricature, part 2

Yesterday the Boston Globe ran a review of Infamous Scribblers, by Fox News host Eric Burns, headlined "An objective and colorful look at Colonial news bias." Obviously reviewer Matthew Price had not read my grumpy comments about Burns's mistaken caricature of Samuel Adams. Which will only make me more grumpy.

Price says, quoting Burns as he goes:

Adams was a loose cannon: In 1765, he incited a rabble, "all of them jacked up on ninety-proof Sam Adams prose," to ransack the house of Thomas Hutchinson, an important Crown official.
I'm certain that Burns's book offers no example of that "ninety-proof Sam Adams prose" from before the Hutchinson house attack on 26 Aug 1765. That's because, as the Google Book page images from The Writings of Samuel Adams, volume 1, show, there's only one piece of political prose attributed to Samuel Adams before that date, and it was the standard product of a town committee. The only way such documents count as "ninety-proof" is that they could be soporific.

Furthermore, as Marvin Olasky has written:
If Adams was a man bent on destruction, it is curious that he was so critical of the politically-arousing Stamp Act attack on the home of royal governor Thomas Hutchinson, which he called an action of "a truly mobbish Nature."
Apparently the term "Objective" is now going the way of "Fair" and "Balanced."

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