Summary of Chapter 2: The Evening
Adam tells what went on at the Committee meeting in Lexington Church that evening, though he hears it secondhand from his mother, who heard it from his father. The members discussed their finances and then, they counted the weapons they have to defend themselves. They wonder whether to keep minutes of the meeting, because they could be a source of evidence against them. Moses Cooper gives a passionate speech about how the Committee is one of the noblest enterprises he has been involved in, and they should be proud to record for history’s sake this momentous time, even if they could be charged with treason.
Adam meanwhile goes over to the Simmons place and takes the daughter Ruth for a walk. She is his relative and best friend. He is looking for sympathy after the rough time with his father. Ruth is a second cousin, and an expected candidate for a wife. Ruth has already told people she wants to marry Adam when they grow up.
Adam feels free to tell Ruth how his father belittles him. Ruth has a mind of her own and tells Adam what she thinks about his situation. She cautions him to be patient. He tells her his plans to go to sea with his uncle Ishmael Jamison. She brings up the rumor that Jamison is a smuggler with a colored wife in Jamaica. Adam defends the smuggling as a patriotic duty against the “British lords” (p. 41). They argue over this and then kiss. He thinks she is beautiful, but doesn’t know how to tell her that. He continues to threaten to go to sea in spite of his father’s anger about it. Ruth says she would be lonely if he did that, and he takes her hand.
When Adam goes home, he finds Levi cleaning his fowling gun and is angry about it. His mother says she gave him permission because the gun was getting rusty, and Adam wasn’t taking care of it properly. Levi is trying to make up to Adam. The two boys discuss the fine points of a rifle versus a fowling gun as weapons. Levi says he wants to kill redcoats with a rifle. Both mother and Granny reprimand him for speaking of killing: “We are not savages or barbarians” (p. 45).
In bed, Adam hears his father come in, and he overhears his parents talk about him. Moses says it is time Adam grew up. He wants him to go to college at Cambridge. The mother says Adam thinks Moses doesn’t love him. He protests that he does love his son. Granny defends Adam and adds that Moses is as stubborn as his father, Abraham. When Granny passes his door, Adam whispers to her that he loves her. Moses admits to Sarah that he has been hard on the boy, and he intends to let Adam know how much he loves him. Adam hears all this and falls asleep, contented.
Commentary on Chapter 2: Evening
The Committee meeting lets us know several important things: the meeting is illegal and dangerous because it could be considered treasonous to the British King George, who is the present ruler of the colonies. Secondly, the farmers are collecting arms, but they do not have proper weapons for a war. They have mostly guns for shooting birds with shot instead of rifles. Third, we get in Moses Cooper’s speeches the noblest arguments for the Revolution. He is a peaceful man who thinks the colonists can win freedom through reason, logic, and the written word. He believes in writing down their transactions, and he argues for the idea of newspapers. Moses has always wanted to be a newspaper editor, and Samuel Adams in Boston says that newspapers are the way to carry the message of freedom to the people. There is a pro-Adams faction, and an anti-Adams faction at the meeting. Moses admires Samuel Adams as a kindred mind. It comes out here and later that the whole Cooper family is against guns and violence, but arms are considered a necessary evil in terms of protecting their homes. Moses has a sense of the historical importance of what they are doing and wants to base their venture in ideals.
The walk with Ruth brings out details of the family history that comment on the larger history of the colonies. Adam explains that their neighbor, Joseph Simmons, could have made money as his brothers did, on investing in slave ships. His brothers got rich, but Simmons refused and disowned his brothers on moral grounds. Even during the Revolutionary War, there were violent pro and con arguments about slavery. The Boston area was a center for anti-slavery sentiment, though many prominent people still owned slaves. Fast makes it clear that the admirable characters are against violence and against slavery. They are represented as honest and decent people with family values and rational convictions about right and wrong.
Ruth brings up the topic of smuggling. Adam’s Uncle Jamison is making money by smuggling goods. The British put tariffs on non-English goods because they wanted to force the colonies to buy all British products at high prices and with a tax, such as the taxed English tea that the colonials threw into Boston Harbor (Boston Tea Party). They could get tea and other products cheaper somewhere else. Adam sees his uncle as a patriot because he defies the British law in order to carry on free trade. The idea that he has a Jamaican wife, however, sullies this portrait. Adam refuses to believe it.
Ruth and Adam are courting, though they are too young to make any final decisions on their future. Adam is still immature, caught between his growing admiration of Ruth’s womanhood and his boyish desire to go to sea. He is happy that he overhears his father admit his love for him. He is grateful to Granny for standing up for him. The fact that Moses has plans for Adam to go to college actually gives evidence of his pride in Adam’s intellectual abilities, though he scolds him for not being able to reason like a man.