Setting Brushfires of Freedom in the Minds of Men

I do love American patriot Sam Adams.  He was a brawler and intellectual who passionately believed in the cause of liberty, while also understanding that strategic patience and persistent public agitation were as valuable for effecting change as punctuated bursts of outright rebellion.  His fingerprints were all over the Boston Tea Party, but he was also instrumental in forming Committees of Correspondence across the colonies that helped shape public opinion into organized action.  He grasped the bigger picture and played a most dangerous game exceedingly well against the world's foremost empire.  What is more, he found power in being the underdog.  He appreciated the effectiveness of guerrilla tactics beyond the battlefield.  "It does not take a majority to prevail," he once averred, "but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

What a splendid turn of phrase — setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.  It provides so much insight into who Adams was.  It didn't matter how invincible the British Empire appeared.  It didn't matter how few resources he might have had at his disposal.  It didn't matter how many of his contemporaries said it couldn't be done.  He refused to stop whispering words of revolution.  He insisted on being a thorn in the side of the Crown.  He struggled for years to awaken in his fellow colonists a new American identity imbued with a sense of moral purpose and dedicated to the protection of human liberty.  As the American colonies' most ardent arsonist for independence, he never stopped setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.  He lit small fires everywhere, fueled a conflagration, and changed world history forever.

That's a lesson for us all.


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