He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.
It is not, I say, unfrequent to see such instances, though at the same time I esteem it a justice due to my country to say that it is not without shining examples of the contrary kind; — examples of men of a distinguished attachment to this same liberty I have been describing; whom no hopes could draw, no terrors could drive, from steadily pursuing, in their sphere, the true interests of their country; whose fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.
The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.
Source: Essay published in The Advertiser (1748) and later reprinted in The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams, Volume 1, by William Vincent Wells; Little, Brown, and Company; Boston, 1865.
Liberty Letters are researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary, explanatory notes, spelling modernizations and paragraph reformatting for easier reading) by Steve Farrell. Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.