John Adams

John Adams
By Jane Runyon
During the colonial years, there were two Mr. Adams. Samuel Adams was a
businessman. He organized groups who wanted to separate from Great Britain.
The other Mr. Adams was John Adams. He wasn't in on the organization of
rebellions, but he became more famous than Samuel. He was a man who
believed in being fair. He dedicated himself to doing what he thought was right.
John Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1735. If you look on a
map of Massachusetts, you will find that Braintree is now called Quincy. His
father was a farmer who took on jobs in the village such as collecting taxes and
being the constable, or town policeman. John didn't care much about going to
school. He would rather be outdoors hunting. His parents worried that he would
never amount to much as an adult if he didn't get more serious. As he grew, John did become a better student and
eventually finished his schooling and became a lawyer.
John was present at several trials in Boston where colonists were charged with crimes against the king. The
colonists had begun smuggling goods to America to avoid paying taxes to England. He began to believe that the
taxes were not fair to the colonists.
When John's father died in 1761, John took his place on the council that was in charge of Braintree. It was his first
political office, and he found he liked the changes he was able to accomplish. He became a highly respected leader
of his community.
In 1765 he began to publish essays criticizing the regulations and taxes Britain was imposing on the colonies. He
used his last essay to attack the Stamp Act. His ideas became well known throughout the colony. They brought him
new friends among those who believed in freedom as he did. It also caused him to lose some business in his law
practice. Many of his cases were brought by people loyal to Britain, and they didn't like what he was saying in his
articles. He won his first big case against the British in 1769 when he defended John Hancock. Hancock had been
charged with smuggling wine to the colonies.
The most famous case that John Adams took on nearly cost him all the support he had gained from the colonists.
After the Boston Massacre, hatred of the British soldiers was at an all time high. Five unarmed colonists had been
killed by British soldiers during a mob riot. Eight soldiers and their commanding officer were arrested for the
murders of the colonists. John Adams was asked to be the lawyer for the soldiers. He did not believe the soldiers
should be here. He did not believe they had a right to kill unarmed people. He did believe that all people accused of
crimes had the right to a fair trial. He believed that the accused had the right to have a lawyer who would protect
their rights. John Adams argued that the soldiers were trying to protect themselves from an angry mob. He argued
that the commanding officer, Thomas Preston, had not ordered his men to shoot. He argued that the soldiers had
shot in self defense. He must have argued well, because the jury of Boston citizens found six of the soldiers and
Captain Preston not guilty. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge, and sentenced
to be branded on their thumbs. Many colonists were upset with Adams for defending the soldiers. In the end, John
Adams taught everyone a lesson that became a building block for the new nation. He believed in fairness and the
rights of all citizens, and he practiced those beliefs in life.
John Adams
1. What did John Adams like more than school?
A. hunting
B. reading
C. fishing
D. farming
2. What career did John Adams choose?
A. farming
B. medicine
C. law
D. business
3. True or False John Adams found that he liked being in politics.
4. What did John Adams write to protest English taxes?
5. Why did John Adams choose to defend the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre?
6. Do you think John Adams made the right decision to defend the soldiers?
7. What was the effect of John Adams' defense?
8. What lesson did John Adams teach the colonists?
A. Two wrongs don't make a right.
B. The British were right.
C. Two heads are better than one.
D. Everyone deserves rights and fairness.
What does it mean to be fair when you are playing a game?
Would it be hard to like someone if your friends didn't like him?