Revolutionary and Diplomat
John Adams was a true revolutionary. While not as charismatic as his cousin, Samuel Adams, he was involved in pre–Revolutionary War activities from the beginning. In 1765, he wrote anonymous letters to the
The Boston Massacre
In 1770, Adams decided to defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, causing many to speak out against him. These soldiers were being tried for the deaths of five colonists that occurred on Boston Green.
Paul Revere created a famous engraving depicting what he titled, “The Bloody Massacre.” The image was used to fan the flames of rebellion. The depiction was not entirely accurate and the use of the word massacre lived on as a descriptor of the event even though the facts surrounding the incident are unclear, including who was actually at fault.
His decision was based on his belief that the event was more the fault of British policies than the actions of the soldiers themselves. It was important to ensure these men were given a fair trial. Due to his defense, only two of the eight soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and the rest were acquitted.
The First and Second Continental Congresses
Adams served in the Massachusetts legislature before attending the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775, respectively. Noticing that the North and South were disagreeing about how America should deal with Great Britain, he decided to take action and unify the two. Adams believed that only through unification could they hope for success. To this end, Adams nominated George Washington, a southerner from Virginia, to be commander-in-chief. Adams was also part of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence, deferring to Jefferson — another southerner — to write the first draft.
John Adams was a diplomat to France with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee in 1778, but soon returned to the United States to serve as the primary author of the Massachusetts state constitution. He then traveled as a diplomat to the Netherlands in 1780. He returned to France in 1782 and, with Franklin and John Jay, created the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the American Revolution.
From 1785 to 1788, Adams served as the first American minister to Great Britain where he hoped to rebuild a relationship and create a trade treaty. However, he was unsuccessful and returned to America where he served as George Washington's vice president for two terms.