Two hundred and fifty years ago, a Boston jury deliberated the fate of eight “enemy” British soldiers. Their unlikely attorney, and his profound legal defense, should encourage us today.
The scene was the 1770 Boston Massacre and the subsequent courtroom drama. The eight British soldiers involved in that deadly day needed legal counsel. A 35-year-old attorney stepped to the bar. His name: John Adams.
Tempering the passions of the time, Adams admonished a full courtroom, “The law, in all vicissitudes of government … will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations and wanton tempers of men.”
Adams further advised the jury that when considering evidence (or lack thereof) they should remember, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
On Dec. 5, 1770, the jury found six of the eight soldiers “not guilty.” Two were charged with manslaughter.
This event preambles the sincerity of Adam’s contributions to our founding documents. Just six years later his Continental Congress committee would declare, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Then 11 years later, just months after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, Adams would hope, “A declaration of rights I wish to see with all my heart: though I am sensible of the difficulty of framing one in which all the states can agree.”
His wish came four years later while he was vice president. Congress would pass the Bill of Rights and the first amendment protections for religion, speech, press, assembly and petitioning our government.
While these founding documents will celebrate their own quarter-century anniversaries in the years to come, today let us remember what came prior.
Let us remember the 250-year anniversary of John Adams navigating a heated moment of strife using undeviating law and stubborn facts.
Salt Lake City