“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”
John Adams was born on this day in Braintree, Massachusetts Bay Colony, USA in 1735. Today is the 275th anniversary of his birth.
His ancestors came over on the Mayflower. His father was a farmer, shoemaker, a Puritan deacon, a lieutenant in the militia and a member of town council. John loved being outdoors and he sometimes skipped school to hunt or fish.
He said later that he would have preferred a life as a farmer, but his father insisted that he receive a formal education. His father hoped that he might become a clergyman. John attended a dame school, a local school taught by a female teacher that was designed to teach the rudimentary skills of reading and writing, followed by a Latin school, a preparatory school for those who planned to attend college. He eventually excelled at his studies and entered Harvard College at age fifteen. He graduated in 1755. [Miller Center.org]
After graduation he taught school for a time to earn enough money to study law. In 1756 he began a two-year apprenticeship studying law with John Putnam and was admitted to the bar at 26. He opened his practice in 1758, but things were slow going at first. He had only one case in his first year of practicing law which he lost.
His Law practice began to grow and he felt he was on sturdy enough financial ground to begin courting Abigail Smith. They married in 1764. John and Abigail Adams had six children together (including John Quincy Adams [click HERE for my John Quincy bioBlog ] and one of American History’s most endearing relationships.
“He early became identified with the patriot cause.” [Our Presidents/2.John Adams. whitehouse.gov.] He gained a reputation by opposing the Stamp Act 1765 that same year he published an article “Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law.”
When the Incident on King Street (aka the Boston Massacre) resulted in the death of five civilians in March of 1770 Adams defended the eight British soldiers and Captain Preston, the lone officer, charged with the crime. It was important that the soldiers receive a fair trail so the Crown would not have grounds for retaliation. Adams, with his Patriot pedigree and commitment to the letter of the law, was the perfect man for the job. His impassioned speech that “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”[Quotes.net] saved the men’s lives. (Sam Adams was on the prosecuting team).
He was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly in 1770, and was chosen one of five to represent the colony at the First Continental Congress in 1774. [Signers of the Declaration of Independence. US History.org]
While his flashier (and more popular) cousin Samuel Adams rallied/roused crowds in the square, John worked in the courts, taking a more measured approach to American equality.
He was reelected to the Second Continental Congress, … in May 1775, just a few days after war … erupted at Lexington and Concord. When Congress created the Continental army in June 1775, Adams nominated George Washington… to be its commander. Adams soon emerged as the leader of the faction in Congress that pushed to declare independence. . [Miller Center.org]
In June of 1776 the Continental Congress appointed Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston to the Committee of Five to draft a Declaration of Independence. “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled” was presented on June 28th. After much debate (especially about the slavery issue) the Declaration was adopted late in the morning of July 4th 1776.
Adams wrote a pamphlet detailing his Thoughts on Government. In it he advised that the new Continental government be one which benefited the happiness and virtue of the greatest number of people (not one that benefited the knighted few or the King). He advocated a government with separate executive, judicial and legislative branches.