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William M. Fowler, Jr. is director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, consulting editor at The New England Quarterly, and honorary professor of history at Northeastern University.
Image credit: W.W. Norton & Company

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As the title promises, the author gives you a blow by blow accounting of how the American Collins Line and the British Cunard Line came to be, how they became competitors for the high-end market of North Atlantic commerce, and how Cunard endured, whereas Collins was reduced to an antiquarian footnote. What was news to me is that so intense were the costs of this traffic, that the two business organizations wound up being under-the-table collaborators to bolster their interests, a relationship that was not uncovered until 1975; had this come out in the 1850s heads would have rolled.… (lisätietoja)
 
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Shrike58 | 1 muu arvostelu | Oct 29, 2022 |
The name Samuel Adams is one today associated more with brewed beverages than the American Revolution. Knowing him mainly for the brand of beer that bears his name, though, does a disservice to his role in the Massachusetts colony’s opposition to British imperial governance in the 1760s and 1770s. Over the course of the decade between the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 and the “shot heard round the world” a decade later, Adams was one of the foremost opponents of Britain’s taxation policies and their efforts to compel obedience from their recalcitrant colonies. In this respect William Fowler’s book serves as an excellent reminder of what Adams did to deserve the honor he enjoys today, and why he deserves to be remembered for more than his appropriated association.

As Fowler explains, politics was part of Adams’s inheritance. His father, a malthouse operator who served in a variety of local offices, came from a long line of Adamses involved in colonial affairs. Young Samuel was a firsthand witness to the household meetings where prominent members of the community met to discuss business. After graduating from Harvard Adams worked at a couple of jobs before settling into the family malting business. Yet politics was his passion, and he rose steadily in community affairs. Much of Fowler’s description in these pages is vague, reflecting the scarcity of specifics about Adams’s activities. As he notes as well, some of Adams’s activities risked the wrath of crown officials, creating an incentive to avoid leaving a record.

This especially became the case as Adams became involved in resistance to British efforts to tax the colonies after the French and Indian War. Adams fought these strenuously, both through his political posts and his connections with the leaders of the local rabble-rousers, which gave him the ability to stage often violent demonstrations. Fowler is especially good here at detailing the “rules” of mob activity and how Adams employed them to undermine imperial authority and humiliate the colonial leaders allied with the British. As he explains, for Adams, this was not just a matter of politics, but a question of values. This proved both a strength and a weakness for Adams, as it infused him with a passion while depriving him of the flexibility that is the hallmark of many politicians.

What may have been a liability in normal times only added to Adams’s resolution in dealing with the British. At times outmaneuvered, he was nonetheless quick to seize on opportunities produced by insensitive British policies and arrogant appointees in the colonial government. Adams was also aware of the importance of coordinating with his counterparts in other British colonies in North America, which ensured a common response orchestrated by like-minded colonials. Because of this, when the Continental Congress first met in 1775, Adams was able to avoid tarring his advocacy for resistance with the taint of his own radicalism, secure in the knowledge that others would convey the response he sought. Yet after independence was declared Adams soon found himself an increasingly marginal figure, enjoying honored offices in both the Congress and in the newly independent state government but without the influence he once possessed.

Fowler does a good job of summarizing both Adams’s life and the events in Boston that led to the outbreak of revolution. Yet the author’s analysis of his subject is frustratingly inadequate, and in more ways than just the absence of details about Adams’s role in colonial agitation. Throughout the book Fowler emphasized the role the Puritan values of Adams’s forebearers played in shaping his attitudes towards politics and people. What these values are, however, are often left vaguely defined, with little effort to relate them to the complex religious world of the America in which he lived. Given the prominence Fowler accords them, such an examination seems necessary, and the absence of one hinders what is otherwise a good assessment of the man and a nice summary of the role he played at a pivotal point in American history.
… (lisätietoja)
½
 
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MacDad | Feb 1, 2022 |
A well written history that will appeal to a very narrow audience (history buffs with particular interest in navel affairs). The book centers on the competition between the Cunard steamboats based in England and the Collins boats quartered in the United States. They are competing for the lucrative market transporting people, mail and goods between Europe and America. A tremendous amount of research and detail went into this book. I liked it but I teach history at a junior college.
 
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muddyboy | 1 muu arvostelu | Sep 9, 2017 |
A little dry but seemed to be a decent recitation of the history of the times and life of John Hancock. A wealthy man who inherited a fortune from a rich uncle he continued the merchant business and dabbled in politics until the politics overshadowed the business (in part because of the war). I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the British representatives to Boston and Mass as they struggled to please London and avoid revolution. Better leadership could have avoided the revolution but it was not to be. Boston was where revolution fomented and spread round the nation so this book does get you in at the ground floor on the story.

In retrospect many times it seems like the past with the founding fathers is a bit rosy. Brilliant intellects coming together to help birth an outstanding new government. But, when you start studying the founders you find many of them are just people. Some unquestionably brilliant. Hancock was a politician with a keen understanding of human nature that resulted in his repeated election to almost every position he ever tried to achieve. While wealthy he was also generous and a good cause often received good gifts from his coffers. It appears he genuinely cared about Boston and the country. For these reasons he was well liked and respected by most. Who can hope for more than that?

… (lisätietoja)
 
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Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |

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16
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#41,822
Arvio (tähdet)
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Kirja-arvosteluja
9
ISBN:t
29

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