This quote actually comes from a speech delivered by Founding Father Samuel Adams.
On Sept. 3, 2021, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) posted a meme on Twitter that supposedly contained a quote, “For true patriots to be silent, is dangerous,” from America’s second president, John Adams. The quote went viral after another Twitter user chimed in to say that the quote was actually from Samuel Adams.
Ron Filipkowski shared a screenshot of Boebert’s tweet (which has since been deleted) with the following message:
This is a quote from Samuel Adams, who owned a tavern in Boston. This was not said by John Adams, the 2nd president.
This was a genuine tweet from Boebert — it was archived by Propublica — and in sharing the meme she truly did misattribute this quote from Samuel Adams to President John Adams.
However, describing Samuel Adams as a guy who “owned a tavern in Boston” is inaccurate, and does not even begin to sum up Samuel Adams’ impact on American history. Samuel Adams was a revolutionary, the governor of Massachusetts, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Oh, and he had practically nothing to do with the Samuel Adams beer brand.
The above-displayed quote comes from a speech Samuel Adams wrote in June 1776. The speech is included in a collection of Samuel Adams’ writings that was published in 1904, and History of Massachusetts from 1835. Below is a passage from the biography “Samuel Adams: A Life” by Ira Stoll that was published in 2008:
The theme of thankfulness to God was extended a few days later, on June 3, in Adams’s “Address of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts to the Governor.” Expressing pleasure at the repeal of the Stamp Act, Adams wrote, “when we look back upon the many dangers from which our country hath, even from its first settlement, been delivered, and the policy and power of those, who have to this day sought its ruin, we are sensibly struck with an admiration of Divine goodness, and would religiously regard the arm which has so often shielded us.” Yet far from dissipating entirely, the ill will from the Stamp Act episode festered, with Governor Bernard harping on the destruction of Hutchinson’s house, and Adams launching an extensive defense of the position of the colonists. “For true patriots to be silent, is dangerous,” Adams had insisted in the June 3 speech. On June 5, on behalf of the House, Adams told Governor Bernard: “Provided we observe the directions of our charter, and the laws of the land, both which we have strictly adhered to, we are by no means accountable but to God and our own consciences.”
This quote was truly written by Samuel Adams, not John Adams. However, as noted above, Samuel Adams had practically nothing to do with the Samuel Adams beer brand and is far more important to American history than some guy “who owned a tavern.” In fact, Adams inherited a malting business from his father, not a tavern. While Adams’ family made and sold malt to brewers, Adams likely never brewed beer himself.
Stoll told us in an email that Adams was “never a tavern owner.”
Samuel Adams made his (meager) living as a counting-house apprentice, store-owner, tax collector, government official, land-owner, and heir to the Revolutionary War pension of his son who predeceased him. He was never a tavern owner, so far as I found in my extensive archival and secondary source research for my 2008 biography, Samuel Adams: A Life.
Samuel Adams beer was founded in 1984, about two hundred years after Adams’ death. The company stated that they chose to name their beer after Adams because he was a “Boston patriot,” “a revolutionary thinker who fought for American independence,” and because he had a connection to the beer industry. Adams’ father made and sold malt that was used to brew beer, a business that Adams would later inherit. While Adams “was probably the most famous maltster in history,” according to the New England Historical Society, “there remains debate about whether he ever engaged in actual brewing of beer.”
Adams, Samuel. The Writings of Samuel Adams: 1764-1769. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904.
“Sam Adams Walked Into a Tavern and Started a Revolution.” New England Historical Society, 16 Sept. 2015, https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/sam-adams-walked-into-tavern-started-revolution/.
Stoll, Ira. Samuel Adams: A Life. Simon and Schuster, 2008.