History of John Adams and His Role With the Declaration of Independence Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1686 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

History of John Adams and his role with the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams and his role in the Declaration of Independence

John Adams was the second President of the United States after George Washington and is also remembered in our history for the important role that he played in the Declaration of Independence. He was a participant in the majority the events leading to the founding of the new nation from the Seven Years War until to the end of the 18th century. (McCullough) as one commentator states, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that Americans celebrate would not be possible "... If it weren't for the actions of a frequently ignored Founding Father?

John Adams" (Leopold).

Historically we know a great deal about Adams, mainly from to his writings, correspondence, diaries and other original sources. Many historians and biographers note that central to his character was an indomitable spirit of independence. This was to serve him well in the role that he played in the creation and signing of the Declarations of Independence.

A the single most essential component of Adams's character was his independent streak. He did not like to be subject to another man, and along with his cousin Samuel Adams, helped move his colleagues in the Continental Congress towards American independence with fiery rhetoric.

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John Adams ? Second President of the United States of America) second important characteristic that was to reveal itself in history was his belief in "justice under law." (John Adams ? Second President of the United States of America)

Early life and education

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Understanding something of the background from which the man came sheds light on many of his actions and the quality of his character. Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1735 and came from Puritan stock that had fixed and high principles. "Through several generations, they worked hard on the land and engaged in cash trades and religious civic activities, and raised large families. Hard work, frugality, religion and family sustained them." (McCullough) This background was to shape many of the qualities that would lead to his election as President.

Adams was educated at Harvard. His earlier education was at a common school in Braintree. He later received a scholarship to Harvard and graduated at the age of 20. (John Adams: 1735-1826) Here he was introduced to the philosophies and political writings that would influence his later life and views about law and politics; as well as his views about national independence. He graduated from Harvard during the Seven Years War and "...his letters began to contain evidence of his rapidly maturing political awareness" (McCullough).

During the Seven Years War Adams also studied law. His father died in 1761 and he inherited 40 acres of property. He married Abigail Smith in 1764. During these early years and through his studies, Adams realized that the United States has a destiny as an independent and sovereign country and also became convinced that this could only be achieved through a national union under a strong government.


The issue and importance of personal independence was an aspect that was already ingrained in the character of the man and in his family background. However, Adams also understood that careful political action and thought was necessary as a precursor to national independence.

It is of significance to note the attitude that Adams had towards politics and that way that he saw involvement in political life as a prerequisite to freeing others. As he once explained; must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.


In other words, he realized that freedom and independence were necessary in order to allow subsequent generations to explore and experience life without restriction.

Adams became increasingly convinced, through his own character and his readings in philosophy and politics, of the need and the right to independence. This view was motivated by various factors, which included the situation in the country.

The enactment of the Stamp Act taxes in 1765 was also a provocative event that motivated Adams in terms of his thinking about national independence. Even before this event Adams had began writing "... anonymous essays on liberty and independence, and on the political rights of Englishmen" (McCullough). His rejection of the Stamp Act taxes and the jurisdiction of the British Court of Admiralty was based on the view that, "There must be no taxation without representation, and there must be trial by jury and an independent judiciary" (McCullough). He wrote an influential article in response to the Stamp Act taxes, entitled in Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law. (John Adams: 1735-1826) in his thinking and writing Adams realized that the seeds of political and judicial independence were already growing in the colonies.

However, it must be remembered that Adams was a highly principled and fair man. This is evidenced by the fact that when the British sent troops to Boston in 1978 to enforce the new taxes on the colonists, Adams in fact defended the legal right of the British soldiers and even defended those soldiers who were involved in the "Boston Massacre."

This was a great political risk for Adams, which was however to pay off in the long run. Although his actions in defending the British soldiers were at first very unpopular, yet his high and firm principles were recognized and "...Adams' reputation soon rose to new heights because of his principled stand." (McCullough) as a result he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature, mainly due to the respect that he had achieved through his unswerving fairness. Adams was chosen by the legislature as one of the five delegates sent by the colony to the First Continental Congress. The congress as convened as a result of action by the English that closed the port of Boston in reprisal in 1774. This refers to the Boston Port Bill, which "...closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for -- an action that threatened the very life of the city, for to prevent Boston from having access to the sea meant economic disaster"(the Road to Independence). Adams believed that,"London must not be permitted to impose the kind of subjugation on America that it had imposed on Ireland"(McCullough) the was to set the stage for the beginning of the American Revolution.

The historical situation and the circumstances that the colonists found themselves in, made Adams more determined that there should be full independence from Britain. He felt this was the only way that true freedom could be achieved. However there as strong opposition to any firm break with Britain among many of the colonists. From a political point-of-view, in terms of the war against England, Adams realized that, " No foreign nation would send them assistance or even trade with the rebellious colonies if the colonies themselves did not declare their existence as an independent nation." (McCullough)

As a chosen as the Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress Adams was part of the Committee of Five appointed to draw up the declaration of independence, largely due to the fact that he was a "well-known leader in the fight for liberty," and because of the respect that he had achieved in his political and legal career. (Leopold) the other creators of the Declaration were: Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Jefferson. (Leopold) Adams was to sit on 90 committees, including an all-important war committee. He also served as the de facto secretary of war during the Revolution.

John Adams ? Second President of the United States of America)

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