You have to hunt around a bit to find Samuel Adams’ signature on the Declaration of Independence.
It’s not very prominent in its placement and smaller than most. Go over to the far right-hand side, count down to the third name and there you will see it: “Sam Adams.”
No formalness or self-importance. Simply: “Sam Adams.”
If you were trying to derive a pecking order for the Founding Fathers from the signatures on this nation’s most important document, Sam Adams wouldn’t rank high.
I learned just how wrong any such deduction would be over the Thanksgiving weekend when I read Mark Puls’ “Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution.”
More than any other American in the years heading up to the revolution, the British wanted to hang Adams. Puls suggests their march on Lexington at the beginning of the war where Adams was hiding had that purpose in mind.
They wanted to hang him because he waged war with powerful ideas for roughly two decades before the war of muskets and bayonets began.
His ideas are ones that are often expressed in the editorial opinions on these pages today.
That’s because the very issues that he identified as threats to the liberty of the American
colonists are still in play — issues such as individual property rights, taxation and its effects on economic prosperity, and the abusive nature of rulers when left unchecked by an independent judiciary and legislative body.
“The security of right and property is the great end of government,” Adams wrote in 1767.
“Surely then, such measures as tend to render right and property precarious tend to destroy both property and government; for these must stand and fall together.”
You don’t have to reach deep into the Tribune’s archives to figure out that property rights and inalienable human rights as expressed in the Fourth Amendment continue to be at grave risk.
A fellow by the name of Henry Becker was on the front page of the Scottsdale Tribune just a couple of weeks ago. The city of Scottsdale, goaded by the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, has worked tirelessly to take away Becker’s property rights.
They don’t like the displays of art that he has placed on his property along the roadway. Towering candy canes offend them. Becker just won a ruling from the state appeals court that allows him to appeal an order from the Scottsdale Empire to remove the art from his property.
Private property rights of others aren’t held in particularly high regard in Gilbert’s Candlewood subdivision, or such is a reasonable conclusion from an article that ran on the cover of the Tribune’s Gilbert edition also a couple of weeks ago.
A church wants to build a charter school on its property and some of the neighbors are trying to stop it, the story reported. The school would bring noisy children into the neighborhood and the neighbors could no longer enjoy the green space where the school would be constructed.
On the same day in the Tribune’s Nation & World section was a story about President Bush’s secret surveillance program. What I got out of it is that Bush regards it inconvenient to have to ask a court for a warrant before listening in on citizen telephone calls and monitoring e-mails. And national security interests, as he defines them, shield the administration from having to respond to court orders or Congress.
No, Sam, it’s a different George.
There are lots of opportunities to wonder what Sam Adams would think about America at the beginning of the 21st century, but I won’t go down that depressing path.
Oh, what the heck, just one more. Over Thanksgiving weekend at the airport, a fellow with an artificial knee and myself received the hands-on treatment from the Transportation Safety Authority. You never know what a couple of old guys — one with a pacemaker and the other with an artificial knee — might be up to.
Adams didn’t enjoy the miracles of modern medicine; so he could probably go through the TSA scanner and avoid the pat-down. But he would have to take off the only coat he owned; and as for those buckle shoes, put them in the bin or start wearing flip flops. And forget the water, Sam.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
OK. Now that that’s out of my system, I’m going to go in a different direction that is closer to my nature.
I think that Sam Adams would not be all that dismayed by the America that he played such a critical role in bringing into existence. He would understand that the fight for property rights and inalienable rights of humankind will never end.
There will always be somebody who wants to control their neighbor’s property or wants government to take away taxpayers’ hard-earned money for their gain. There will always be somebody who wants to be king or wealthy at the citizenry’s expense.
I think he would be pleased with stubborn property rights defenders, such as Henry Becker and San Tan Flat owner Dale Bell.
Sam Adams most certainly would give a nod of approval to the Goldwater Institute, the Institute of Justice, and the Cato Institute for their persistent advocacy of the principles he espoused nearly 250 years ago.
He would see the courts, particularly in Arizona, at work defending private property and rights to post comments anonymously on Internet sites.
Adams used pseudonyms to write his essays that appeared regularly in the Boston Gazette.
OK. OK. It’s self-serving, but it is true newspapers were critical to the circulation of Adams’ ideas. Those ideas remain alive at Freedom Newspapers — the Tribune’s parent company.
Jim Ripley is executive editor of the Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6546.
Linda Turley-Hansen is taking a break. Her column will return Dec. 23.