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?