Over the course of the next two years, no man worked as hard or played as important a role in the movement for independence.Adams chaired the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence; he founded the American Navy; he drafted America's first Model Treaty; and, working 18-hour days, he served as a one-man Department of War and Ordnance.
Shortly after the battles at Lexington and Concord, Adams began to argue that it was time for the colonies to declare independence and to constitutionalize the powers, rights, and responsibilities of self-government.
In May 1776, following Adams's leadership, Congress advised the various colonial assemblies to draft constitutions and construct new governments.
Adams most clearly enunciated what he meant by the "principles of liberty" in his 1765 essay, "A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law." The "Dissertation" is an essay in moral education; its purpose was to define and rekindle the American "spirit of liberty" in the shadow of the Stamp Act. Spiritedness for Adams united in body and soul certain "sensations of freedom" and certain "ideas of right." Adams sought to inspire the colonists "sensations of freedom" by imploring all patriots to recall the hardships endured by the first settlers in order to guarantee present freedoms.
On a deeper level, however, the revolution for Adams was about certain "ideas of right," and so he appealed to the colonists' reason, imploring them to study the philosophical foundations of their rights and liberties in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, and Locke.
Oddly, Mc Cullough has almost nothing to say about Adams's political thought.
The contours of Adams's thought are best seen through a distinction that Adams himself made between the "principles of liberty" and the "principles of government." The first are concerned with the nature of justice and political right, and the second with constitutional design and construction.On July 1, Congress considered final arguments on the question of independence.John Dickinson argued forcefully against independence. When no one responded to Dickinson, Adams rose and delivered a rhetorical tour de force that moved the assembly to vote in favor of independence.n July 4th, 1826, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died.From his deathbed, Adams whispered those famous last words: "Thomas Jefferson survives."Literally speaking, he was mistaken. In another sense, though, he was right: the Jefferson legacy continued to live and prosper, while Adams's reputation, figuratively speaking, died an ignominious death.To argue that Adams was America's greatest founding statesman, the true "Atlas of American Independence," is a bold claim.Mc Cullough's brief for Adams's greatness is persuasive.It was, arguably, the most important speech in American history.Years later, Thomas Jefferson recalled that so powerful in "thought & expression" was Adams, that he "moved us from our seats." He was, Jefferson said, "our Colossus on the floor."Adams spent much of the 1780s in Europe as a diplomat and propagandist for the American Revolution.Liberty, for Adams, meant freedom from foreign domination, freedom from unjust government coercion, freedom from other individuals, and freedom from the tyranny of oneself.A free people ought to be jealous of their rights and liberties, and they must always stand on guard to protect them.