Essay student contest winner: John Adams contributed to U.S. law

  • Published
  • By Dien Dewever
  • Michael Anderson Elementary School Student
Editor's Note: The winner of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing Legal Office's Law Day Essay Contest is Dien Dewever. Dien is a 6th grader at Michael Anderson Elementary School who says his favorite subject is math. His essay is about how the second president, John Adams, influenced American law. 

John Adams was a very important man. He changed the law and the government forever. He was not only a lawyer, but the second president of the United States of America. That made him the first lawyer president. He believed in the law over passion and in the phrase, "innocent until proven guilty."

He helped defend many people in court, whose cases nobody else would take. During the Boston Massacre, townspeople chucked rocks, clubs, shells and sharp ice that rained upon British soldiers. In self defense, the soldiers fired into the crowd. Five of the shots found their marks killing a boy or a man. When brought to court, John Adams defended the soldiers, even when he knew the popular opinion was against him and the soldiers. Everybody just wanted them condemned to death, but with John defending their case; all but two soldiers were acquitted. The two men found guilty go off with only branded thumbs. John Adams had simply looked at the facts, not the passion and law provided.

John Adams did much more than defend people in court, though. He influenced the law in more ways than we can count. He made it so that all criminals get their fair trial, their own day in court. Even if you were caught on camera murdering or stealing, you still had the right to a fair trial. Timothy McVay, of the Oklahoma City bombings, and the terrorists of 9/11 all are guaranteed the right to a fair trial even though the people of the U.S. had already decided they were guilty. They all got their fair day. John Adams is a continual example through time of how law has separated from passion.

He also did something that will have him remembered forever. He elected George Washington to lead the Continental Army. This was important because George Washington represented Virginia, which brought the Southern support for the war. George Washington led his troops to victory and won the independence of the U.S.
John Adams also wrote one document that sticks with us today. He wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, the oldest constitution in the world. The current U.S. Constitution is based off of it. The Massachusetts Constitution says that judges are appointed, not elected. It also divides the government into three separate parts, all with equal power, and that provide a check and balance for each other. His influence on the U.S. Constitution is felt worldwide because so many countries have based their constitution on the U.S.'

Lastly, John Adams signed a document that has influenced us both good and bad. He signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. This gave the president the right to kick out or arrest foreigners who are related to a country we are at war with or are considered dangerous in any way. Their ancestors could be the ones related to the country. It didn't matter. This gave the government the right to put the Japanese in internment camps during World War II. This law is still on the books today. What is strange about John Adams signing off on this is that he believed that everyone has equal rights under the law. The Sedition Act allowed the government to arrest anyone who demonstrated or wrote anything offensive about the government. Immediately, everyone was upset as this was considered unconstitutional because of the right of freedom of speech. The Sedition Act was removed one day before John Adams' term as president ended, but the government can still use the Alien Enemies Act against our own people in times of war.

John Adams was a great man. His influence was both good and bad. His passion for the law without passion lives on through the practice of law today. The greatest documents of the U.S. were touched by him and even his mistakes are examples that Americans can learn from. Whether loved or hated, he is recognized for his great contributions.