Thanks to David McCullough’s book and the HBO mini-series documenting the life of John Adams, the public got to know the former president. Among the founding fathers, Adams is one of the forgotten ones. The reality is that he served between two legends of American History, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And discovering them is among the accomplishments by John Adams.
That is the irony. He discovered both of these great men and catapulted them onto the international stage. John Adams helped mold America in its formative years. That is why we should not forget John Adams’s accomplishments.
Born in October 1735, John was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father. He served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he served as the leader of the American Revolution. He helped the US achieve independence from Great Britain.
He also served as the first vice president of the United States. As a lawyer and political activist, he devoted his life to the right to counsel and the presumption of innocence. He defied anti-British sentiment and successfully defended British soldiers against murder charges following the Boston Massacre.
As a founding father, he assisted in drafting the Declaration of Independence. He was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which influence the US own constitution.
He embodies the persona of the eighteenth-century enlightened republican. Born to a simple farming family, he devoted his attention to a variety of tasks, and always tried to improve himself in the process.
His ideas focus on the principles of liberty and equality. Here are some of the accomplishments in the life of John Adams.
Opposed the Stamp Act
As a young man, John Adams rose to prominence by opposing the Stamp Act of 1765. He sent a letter to the representatives of Braintree Instructions.
In the letter, he explained that the Act should be opposed since it denied two fundamental rights guaranteed to all Englishmen. The right to be taxed only by consent, and to be tried by a jury of one’s peers.
Defended British soldiers following the Boston Massacre
Adams fought for democracy and equality. He strongly believed in the presumption of innocence. He received his undergraduate and master’s degree from Harvard in 1755 and 1758. He started practicing law in 1758. And his most famous case as a lawyer came following the Boston Massacre.
In the Massacre, British Army soldiers fired at a Boston crowd on March 5, 1770. They killed five civilians and injured six others.
Despite the hostility towards the British government, Adams believed that the soldiers deserve a fair trial. He successfully defended them, with two receiving reduced sentences.
While the American public had a hostile reaction to the event, his later reputation got enhanced. People lauded him as a courageous and fair man.
Igniting the American Revolution
We mentioned the Stamp Act of 1765 before. It was an act of the Parliament of Great Britain. For the first time, the act imposed direct taxation of all colonial commercial and legal papers, newspapers, pamphlets, and more.
John opposed the act in a speech and wrote articles against it. Opposing this act, and the Townshend Acts of 1767 served as an ignition to the Revolutionary War.
He discovered George Washington
Adams quickly gained notoriety for his passion for independence. He drew attention from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many other delegates in the Continental Congress.
When the time came to nominate someone as a commander of the Continental Army, many believed he will nominate a fellow New Englander, like John Hancock.
But he shocked the room after nominating George Washington. He got impressed by the demeanor and leadership of Washington.
Adams showed leadership skills as a man ahead of his time. He played politics. He knew Virginia, as the largest and most influential state, would have a bigger impact on the upcoming Revolutionary War. And Washington, as a man from Virginia, will have more influence than someone from Pennsylvania or Massachusetts.
Without John Adams, America might have never remembered George Washington.
Help Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence
Historians agree that John Adams served as the voice, while Thomas Jefferson played the role of the pen of independence. The two men had different personalities. But that didn’t stop them write the declaration together, as friends.
Adams was fiery and passionate, while Jefferson had a quiet and standoffish character. Adams had many enemies, Jefferson had none.
They came together, and united in thought, wrote the Declaration. Adams asked Thomas to write it due to his ability with the pen. After Jefferson wrote the declaration, Adams and Benjamin Franklin edited it.
Leading member of the Continental Congress
In 1774, John Adams got elected as representative of Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress. The Congress served as a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies. During the American Revolution, Congress served as the governing body of the US.
Adams argued in favor of permanent separation from Britain. Thanks to his influence in Congress, he managed to push many of his ideas forward.
Administering the American Revolutionary War
John Adams took part in the Committee of Five. This organ had the responsibility of drafting the Declaration of Independence. In 1777, he started serving as head of the Board of War, another committee, to administer the Continental Army.
Adams played a prominent role in raising and equipping the American army and creating an American navy from scratch.
Many referenced him as “one-man war department”.
Negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris
John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams played a key role in negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris. It officially ended the American Revolutionary War.
Following the treaty, the British recognized the US as a free, sovereign, and independent state. Adams’s stubborn temperament played a key role in achieving favorable terms.
Served as Diplomat to Three Countries
Following his presidential term, John Adams continued to play a prominent role in US politics. He served as a diplomat for the US in three different countries.
He first served as a diplomat in France during the American Revolution. There, he served with Benjamin Franklin and later Thomas Jefferson. During his tenure, he struggled with French culture and the language barrier.
After the war, he served as an ambassador to Great Britain. But he found it difficult to negotiate because America couldn’t pay off its debts to the merchants. His son, John Quincy Adams, served with him, and later grow into one of the greatest diplomats in American history.
John saw most success as a diplomat in the Dutch Republic. But he suffered a nervous breakdown, and couldn’t serve to full capacity.
Prominent Political Author
John Adams is one of the founding fathers of the US. As a man with experience, he wrote several prominent works. Some of them are A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America and Discourses on Davila.
Following his retirement from politics, he wrote columns, books, and letters. The most important remains his famous correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.
His political philosophy was anti-slave labor. He never owned a slave. He declined on principle to use slave labor, saying, “I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in such abhorrence, that I have never owned a negro or any other slave, though I have lived for many years in times, when the practice was not disgraceful, when the best men in my vicinity thought it not inconsistent with their character, and when it has cost me thousands of dollars for the labor and subsistence of free men, which I might have saved by the purchase of negroes at times when they were very cheap.”