Celebrating Independence Part III: Bankruptcy is as American as Sam Adams & Apple Pie!

Samuel Adams Public Domain

Over the Fourth of July weekend, many Americans enjoyed a beer named after Patriot Samuel Adams. But in addition to being a famous Patriot, and a leader of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Samuel Adams was also famous for something many other Americans have experienced, being broke. His business, making malt for brewers, didn’t make him much money, and neither did his stints as a Legislator or Governor of Massachusetts. In fact, he had so little money that his famous portrait (above) was paid for by his friend and political mentor John Hancock.

But like many Americans he also got a second chance. With money inherited from his son, who died untimely at age 37, the elder Adams bought land and buildings which increased in value for the benefit of his heirs by the time he died in 1803. *

Another American hero, Abraham Lincoln, had a grocery store that went bust in the years before he became a politician.  Like Sam Adams and Jefferson before him, Lincoln didn’t have a bankruptcy system to fall back on, so he spent years paying creditors when he could.

And who is more American than the author of Huckleberry Finn? Mark Twain became wealthy the old-fashioned way: he married into it.  However, he made bad investments and ended up filing a bankruptcy petition in about 1894.  After that he was able to rebound financially through his speaking engagements.

In the years before he became president, Harry S Truman ran a men’s clothing store catering to the veterans of World War I.  His haberdashery went belly-up in the Recession of 1920-21. However, all of Truman’s debt was with one bank, which itself went bankrupt right before Truman ran for the U.S. Senate, so Truman never needed to file a bankruptcy case.

Other famous Americans who went bankrupt include Walt Disney, John Wayne and Merle Haggard.  The point is that if these great Americans could bounce back from financial disaster, you can too.

People facing financial hardship and considering bankruptcy often feel that they have failed at achieving the American Dream.  But many of our most famous and beloved fellow Americans have been in the same position, and moved successfully past it.

The Bankruptcy Code is there for honest debtors who have no other way to go forward.  And with it, you too still have a chance for a slice of the American Dream.

* Source: Wells, W.V.; The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams, Volume 3, pages 332-333 (1885).

Source for the rest:  Wikipedia

Portrait of Samuel Adams, (top): Public Domain

Copyright © 2011  James A. Michel, Attorney at Law


2 Responses to Celebrating Independence Part III: Bankruptcy is as American as Sam Adams & Apple Pie!
  1. Barbara BRENNER, Germany
    July 14, 2011 | 10:57 am

    This is most encouraging for potential clients of yours, James, I am sure. can you confirm by the way that the passengers of Mayflower who came over to the States the other day, were mainly debtors who were facing a death penalty for not paying their creditors in the U.K.? And that therefore the debtors’ protection is a major concern in the legal system of the US?

    • James Michel, Debt Relief Attorney
      July 14, 2011 | 11:15 am

      Wow! I agree that debtors’ protection is a major concern in the US legal system, but no, Barbara, I cannot confirm the claim that any of the passengers of the Mayflower were facing the death penalty for unpaid debts in the UK. From what I have heard and read, most of the passengers of the Mayflower were seeking religious freedom: a new home in which to worship in the way they chose. A few of the passengers were not part of the religious separatists and may have had different reasons for wanting to join the ship, but I have not seen any historical evidence that they were facing the death penalty for unpaid debts.

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