John Adams: (Overshadowed) Architect of Liberty

Suffolk University

Robert Allison is a professor of history at Suffolk University and teaches in the Harvard Extension School. He has received the Extension School’s Petra Shattuck Award for teaching and has been awarded the Suffolk’s Student Government Association award for teaching three times. Professor Allison has written books about the American Revolution, the history of Boston, and the Barbary Wars, and is co-editor of The Essential Debate on the Constitution. He is an elected Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society, and President of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.




Overshadowed in his lifetime by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, John Adams predicted obscurity, stating that Monuments will never be erected to me.” But history remembers Adams—as the fiery patriot who defended the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, as the author of the world’s oldest functioning written constitution, and as a diplomat who secured French and Dutch support and ultimately British recognition of American independence.  Adams’s four years as President may be the least important of his long career.  In those years, the young country fought a war against a former ally, and Adams–the architect of liberty–oversaw the Alien and Sedition laws to silence his domestic adversaries.  Adams knew his legacy was too complicated to be turned into marble, and his character too interesting to be set in stone.


Recommended Reading:

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, by Joseph Ellis

John Adams, by David McCullough

First Family: Abigail and John Adams, by Joseph EllisLink to the Adams Papers, at the Massachusetts Historical Society:




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