John Adams was a man who believed in the law, and in fair play. If the soldiers could not get a fair trial, were we any better than the British and their high handed ways. John Adams knew he had to be the one, only a known radical could defend the soldiers. In the end, John Adams got most of the soldiers acquitted and the rest reduced to minor charges. The right by trial by jury was one of the rights the radicals were defending. The British were trying to limit trial by jury because too many smugglers were being acquitted.
In Congress, John was one of the most militant members. He was often called loud and obnoxious. However it was John Adams who nominated George Washington as Commander in Chief. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes. John Adams was chairman of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was chosen to go to France to back up Franklin working in France. These were major assignments given to a leader, though he may have been direct and blunt to the point of rudeness.
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That was when John Adams, the man who later would be the second President of the United States, stepped in. He volunteered to defend the soldiers at no cost. He was already a prominent citizen of Boston and was identified with the patriot movement — which at the time did not want formal independence from England but rather what we would today call “local autonomy. ” John Adams and his cousin Samuel Adams had a bitter falling-out over the first man’s offer to defend the soldiers in the high-pressure trial.
The firey patriot Samuel Adams said that this was a betrayal of the cause of freedom; the future President said that the reasons the colonists wanted independence was to free themselves from the lawless actions of the government, so their first duty must be to ensure the rule of law, and that required that the defendants be able to present the best legal defenses to the charges against them that the evidence would support.
In the trial, argued that the confusion of the fight, the initiation of violence by civilians against the soldiers, and the simple fact that the soldiers were being physically attacked all meant that they had the right to defend themselves from immediate attack. Adams put the blame solidly on King George for having sent a standing army to be stationed amongst civilians in the first place — Adams said that if this incident had not happened, then something else very much like it would inevitably have happened.
The fault, he argued, lay not with the soldiers but with the orders they had been given from London. The defense worked. Of the eight soldiers who were charged with murder, six were acquitted and two convicted only of manslaughter because of their own admissions that they had fired their rifles directly into the crowd. Adams reduced the sentence for these two by invoking the ancient rule of “benefit of the clergy,” by having the two soldiers in question demonstrate that they could read from the Bible.
While this looks like sort of a cheap trick to modern eyes, it also helped demonstrate the very frivolity of that ancient and outmoded rule — these men were obviously not priests but soldiers. Nevertheless, Adams’ maneuver reduced their sentence from death to a branding of their thumbs. All eight defendants were sent home to England alive. Along the way, Adams risked a substantial loss of political standing for defending these very unpopular men, and doing so vigorously.
It took him some time to recover from many of his friends and clients turning against him in retaliation for having taken the case, and Adams was very sensitive about public approval to begin with. But history has vindicated the lawyer over the brewer. John Adams’ defense of the soldiers in the Boston Massacre trial is a powerful example of a man putting principle first, above even his own politics.
He made it clear that he believed the soldiers should go home, too, and that the King had no legal right to have stationed the soldiers there in the first place — but even if George Hanover would not respect the rule of law in London, John Adams would respect the rule of law in Boston, and so should the jury. Adams demonstrated in the trial that even the military was subject to the rule of law, and that the law demanded that even the King could be criticized in court with impunity if the rule of law were to be upheld.
He showed the world that the King’s policy of having active-duty troops in a civilian city to maintain order and collect taxes was very bad idea indeed and a legitimate cause for grievance by the colonists against the King. And in so doing, he ensured that the deaths of the five civilians would culminate in the independence of the United States of America and the founding of a Constitutional republic on the western shores of the Atlantic. As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to adopt the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.
As a representative of Congress in Europe, he was a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and chiefly responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam Massachusetts sent Adams to the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and from 1775 to 1778.  In June 1775, with a view of promoting the union of the colonies, he nominated George Washington of Virginia as commander-in-chief of the army then assembled around Boston. His influence in Congress was great, and almost from the beginning, he sought permanent separation from Britain.
John Adams, as depicted on a two-cent American president postage stampOn May 15, 1776 the Continental Congress, in response to escalating hostilities which had commenced thirteen months earlier at the battles of Lexington and Concord, urged that the colonies begin constructing their own constitutions, a precursor to becoming independent states. The resolution to draft independent constitutions was, as Adams put it, “independence itself. ” How did John Adams change the continental congress? he help make the peace treaty with Benjamin Franklin john Adams and John Jay.