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John Adams

“You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.” ~John Adams

John Adams (October 19, 1735 - July 4, 1826)

John Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts. His Puritan ancestors had arrived in the New World in 1638. They were all farmers and independent country gentlemen who studied the Bible and who enjoyed debating politics and law. As a child, John often attended town meetings with his father.

John was first taught to read at home, as were many colonial children in those days, and then he took lessons from The New England Primer with a handful of local children in the kitchen of a neighbor woman. At the age of fourteen, John prepared for college with a private tutor, “Mr. Marsh,” and proceeded to Harvard College at age 15. Although at first he had endeavored to become a minister, he later decided to go into law instead.

John Adams was known as an honest, courageous, outspoken lawyer. In 1770 he defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre and won – not because he was a loyalist (he was in fact a patriot), but because they simply weren’t guilty. Soon after, John and his cousin Samuel Adams became leaders in the American colonies’ fight for independence from Great Britain.

John Adams attended the First Continental Congress in 1774. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Adams traveled to France and the Netherlands during the American Revolution, in hopes of urging those countries to support the colonies. For many years his wife Abigail was left at home alone to raise their children.

In 1783, along with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, John Adams worked on the peace treaty with England. After the Revolution, John Adams served as George Washington’s vice president. Adams himself became the second U.S. President in 1797.

John Adams was a voracious reader and owned thousands of books. He also knew four languages: English, French, Latin and Greek. The early colonists were highly literate, and Adams believed that a good education was a necessity for the well being of the citizens, and for the country’s government to work.

In “The Education of John Adams,” blogger Mike Bock writes a post that calls for the need of character development in students, inspired by his reading of David McCullough’s John Adams:

“John Adams graduated from Harvard, received a law degree, acquired academic recognition, read Cicero and the classics, was immersed in life-long learning. What distinguished John Adams most, however, was not his learning accomplishments; what distinguished John Adams was his overall character, his: integrity, commitment to truth and justice, dedication to service, commitment to personal excellence, inner self-reflection, personal courage, etc. The education of John Adams involved the mastery of academics, but, the more important part of his education was the development and strengthening of his character.”

John Adams, by David McCullough.

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