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The young lawyer – 1762 to 1767

As a young lawyer with a thriving practice John was ready to settle down. In 1762 he proposed Abigail Smith but because of her young age, she was seventeen, they agreed upon a two year engagement before the weeding. In October 25th, 1764 they finally married, John was twenty eight and Abigail nineteen. During this period JA experimented with politics, getting a taste and increasing his popularity as an aspiring politician by writing articles about constitutional law.

 

James Otis’ influence in young John Adams

The year John married Abigail the political situation in America was changing. Britain had fought a long war with France and had accumulated an escalating debt. In order to pay for the newly stationed soldiers they decided to raise revenue by taxing its colonies, as a result British parliament passed the American Revenue Act of 1764 also known as the Sugar Act. It imposed taxes on sugar, molasses and other commodities imported by the colonies. Massachusetts was the first colony to protest, at the Boston Town Meeting James Otis delivered a Statement on the Rights of the Colony under which he stated that “taxation without representation was unconstitutional”. A non political Adams was distracted by his new marriage and his own practice to pay much attention to British colonial taxation. However, Adams wrote in his diary that Otis’ writings and actions had profoundly influenced his thinking at the time.

 

The courthouse in Boston was constructed in 1713 it is currently known as the “Old State House”.

Experimenting with political activism

In 1765 the Stamp Act was passed, its purpose was to raise revenue by making consumers pay for a special stamp that applied to legal documents, any printed material, newspaper, pamphlets, posters and even playing cards and dice. The reaction of colonial residents was immediate and violent in many cases, it became so intense that the act that was due to take effect on November 1st, 1765 never materialized. Adams deplored the mob’s violence however he was an intellectual instigator, writing for the Boston Gazette an article called “A Dissertation on Cannon and Feudal Law” which pleaded for freedom, he also wrote articles on British Constitution and American rights known as the Clarendon Letters.

Adams was a member of the Sons of Liberty, headed by James Otis and Samuel Adams, a cousin of John. He frequently attended their meetings but adopted a passive role in the movement. By 1765 his practice had appreciable increased in Suffolk County as well as in other towns around Massachusetts and Maine but by November 1st of 1765, the day the Stamp Act was to take effect, Samuel Adams was unemployed. Newspapers were not published and courts were closed for business as there were no stamps or stamp collectors. Three days later John was chosen as a council to the Town of Boston, along with other reputable lawyers such as James Otis and Jeremiah Gridley, to request Governor Francis Bernard for permission to conduct legal business. The Governor, unwilling to defy the Crown, denied permission.

By the spring of 1766 life had begun to return to normal; the Stamp Act was repealed. Adams won a seat as Selectman for the town of Braintree which he hoped would increase his connections. During the winter of 1766-1767 he published eleven essays under the pseudonyms of “Humphrey Ploughjogger”, “Misanthrop” and “Governor Winthrop”. These essays were answers to Jonathan Seawall’s series of essays in which he defended Governor Bernard and Hutchinson stating that it was their duty to enforce Britain’s legislation and that they were the real patriots while the British government was the villain. Adams argued that the protestors had acted selflessly while royal officials sought fame, power and fortune while enforcing orders from London.

By 1767 Adams was an accomplished lawyer and his practice absorbed most of his time. He spent long periods separated from his family commuting from Boston, where most of his cases were, to Braintree, his place of residence. In April 1768 he moved the family to Boston.

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