John Adams perhaps best embodies the persona of the eighteenth century enlightened republican. Born to a simple farming family from Massachusetts, he devoted his attention to a variety of tasks, always seeking to improve himself. His ideas, formulated only after years of continuous study and experience as a public servant endeared him to the principles of liberty and equality. He proved indispensable in the cause of independence, and afterwards in the formation of the United States government. By the end of his tenure as a public servant he had proved indispensable in separating the thirteen colonies from the yoke of Great Britain, steered the country toward a government founded on checks and balance, established the navy as the first line of defense, kept the United States out of Europe’s devastating wars and created the conditions salubrious to economic growth. Indeed, John Adams’ importance as a political figure in the early years of the republic cannot be understated.
A Turbulent Era of Political Upheavals
His uncompromising values and his ability to navigate the course of moderation during a turbulent era of political upheavals should be venerated. Adams supported independence, and even revolution against the British Empire, but he abhorred the mobs that democracy created. The gathering of individuals with the intention of harm on property, and life was the direction that Adams wished to avoid. Such mobs were ubiquitous in the Boston he called home, and the belligerency of these crowds, as Adams would attest, summoned the tragic outcome of the Boston Massacre. As Adams would later write in Novanglus, mobs that espoused egalitarian virtues could just as well create the conditions conducive to a tyrannical government. Popular leaders, Adams decried, could rally people behind the cause of liberty and natural rights to redress a grievance, “but [these causes] have been much oftener perverted to the worst of purposes.”