John Adams Took The Case

Heather Cox Richardson reminds us, in a post titled “John Adams and the Rule of Law in Boston,” that Adams defended the British soldiers who fired into a crowd on March 5, 1770, killing five people.  Of course we know this event as the Boston Massacre.

Richardson draws some parallels between Adams’s insistence that the British soldiers get a fair trial and the case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Here is a taste:

Message boards and blogs are full of angry people calling for Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be tortured or killed. Or both. Immediately. After all, it’s pretty clear he’s guilty, right? Why waste tax dollars on this guy with a long, expensive trial? 
And anyway, who ever said a terrorist who murders Americans should get a fair trial? 
Well, Founding Father John Adams, for one. Right here in Boston…
But by insisting on a fair trial for his country’s enemies, Adams served his cause far better than if he had bowed tothe popular desire to mete out mob justice. Adams and his team established that Massachusetts—and by extension, the new nation Massachusetts men wanted to create—would put no man, even a killer, beneath the law, and no man above it. Theirs would be a nation based not on popular sentiment, but on law. “Facts are stubborn things,” Adams said in defense of the soldiers, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates or our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” He went on: “The law no passion can disturb. ‘Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ‘Tis . . . written reason, retaining some measure of the divine perfection. It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but, without any regard to persons, commands that which is good and punishes evil in all, whether rich or poor, high or low.”
What do you think of this comparison?

3 thoughts on “John Adams Took The Case

  1. I've read a lot of comments on facebook and news articles that start with, I don't care why he did it I just want him to suffer, or I don't care who he is, what motivated him he needs to pay.

    Maybe it's the History major in me or my strengths finder of Context being my first strength; but my first question is always “Why”

    I think people are sometimes afraid of the answer they will get if they ask “why”.


  2. This episode really illustrates how fear can drive people to ignore the foundations of our nation in order to satisfy base feelings. Instead of developing an understanding of what happened and more importantly why it happened, they are only interested in a quick and ultimately meaningless gratification. Executing the bomber will not bring anyone back from the dead, but learning why he did what he did will give us a lot of answers we can use to head off future homegrown terrorists.


  3. I'm glad somebody still believes in the rule of law! It baffles me that so many Americans forget the very foundation of our republic, and are so willing to ignore the rule of law and rights that we all posses, simply because it somebody “else”. I wonder what they would say when it's their turn.


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