Samuel Paul Andrews was born at Wootton, Isle of Wight, England, and baptised there on 18 September 1836. He was the son of James Andrews, a yeoman, and his wife, Jane. After being educated at private schools he emigrated to Victoria, Australia. He spent 10 years there, firstly goldmining, then operating a threshing plant, and arrived in New Zealand in 1864 to fulfil a plastering contract for the Union Bank of Australia in Auckland. He subsequently worked as a plasterer in Nelson and Dunedin before settling in Christchurch, soon after 1864.
Andrews became involved in politics, sport, Freemasonry and the temperance movement, in all of which he quickly made his mark. In 1867 he stood as the first working-men's candidate for the Canterbury Provincial Council and narrowly failed to be elected, but was co-opted to the council's select committee to inquire into unemployment. In 1872 he defeated John Cracroft Wilson at a by-election, and was carried through the streets in triumph as the first working man to be elected. In April 1874 he was re-elected with two more votes than Henry Tancred (who was also elected), but at the next election stood in partnership with Tancred, sharing a joint election committee. He achieved particular popularity among Christchurch's working women for his advocacy of the Employment of Females Act of 1873. On 9 August 1874 at Christchurch Andrews married Elizabeth Ann Gahagan. There were three sons and two daughters of the marriage.
At the 1875 general election Andrews stood for the City of Christchurch, but the working-men's vote was split by Jerningham Wakefield and Andrews was not elected. He was successful, though, in the 1879 election as Sir George Grey's running partner and with the backing of the short-lived Canterbury Liberal Reform Association. Andrews was no more 'liberal' than his opponents – indeed, not as 'advanced' as some. He certainly wanted working men to register as voters and he advocated longer polling hours, but he would accept manhood suffrage only with residential qualifications. He opposed Grey's suggested land tax, disapproved of Grey's native minister, John Sheehan, strongly condemned any idea of state secondary or tertiary education, and attacked proposals of sickness pay for railway employees. Subsequently he spoke against female suffrage. The Press remarked, 'we now see the pet candidate of the "Liberal Association" in this city actually repeating the war cries of the Tories of a bygone age.' Nor once he was elected did Andrews regularly support Grey. He declared his independence during his maiden speech and soon achieved notoriety as the House's most talkative member, and, along with Richard Seddon, its chief time waster. His patronising manner was an additional irritant. He was not re-elected in 1881 and failed again when he stood for Sydenham in an 1886 by-election.
Samuel Andrews was a Christchurch city councillor from 1884 to 1887 but thereafter took little part in politics, concentrating instead on his business affairs and social work. He was ambitious and immensely energetic, and became successively an auctioneer, land agent, general contractor and proprietor of a lucrative stone quarry. He was grand chief templar of the Independent Order of Good Templars; patriarch of the Sons and Daughters of Temperance; chairman of directors of Christchurch's first short-lived co-operative society in 1878; secretary of the Masonic Lodge Canterbury; and a power in Canterbury rowing, not only as champion oarsman for five years, but as a vigorous administrator. He was a slight, active man, talkative and impatient of laziness or slacking in others. He died on 18 October 1916 at Christchurch. Elizabeth Andrews died at Sumner on 24 September 1919.