John Adams knew what was right, and he did it.
Forgive the bolt out of the blue, but yes, I am talking about the patriot, Founding Father, and second President of the United States, John Adams of Boston. All of these titles make it seem rather a “no-brainer” to approve and applaud him and his actions. In retrospect it is easy to accord him accolades and approval, because he was on the winning side, the right side – our side; we approve.
Tonight, for no reason I can identify, rather than read during my soup dinner, I watched a video on my iPad. I never do this – can’t remember the last time I did it. Not wanting to waste my time too badly, I chose to watch the respectable miniseries “John Adams.”
In the first episode, in the wake of the Boston Massacre, John Adams represents in court the accused British soldiers. Now Adams is no Tory, and he sympathizes with the colonists in their subjugation by colonial rule. But even for these odious enforcers of oppression, he risks his reputation and his family’s safety to see that justice be done. It is all very stirring. The irony is that Adam’s principled stand on behalf of the hated British actually increases his standing as a man of integrity, adding to his credibility as one who would speak against the injustice that afflicts the colonists, which brings him to a leading role in the fledgling Continental Congress.
That’s history, as they say. Why should you endure a recap of my midweek dinner entertainment? Because, I dare say, Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe. And if this be true, then what John Adams did was neither rash nor foolish, but prudent and good.
You see, everything John Adams valued and desired was being threatened by those same troops. Almost every person whose opinion he valued hated those troops. The troops were cooperating in a mechanism of oppression and injustice. The result of those troops’ action was clearly evil. Had he chosen the path that the circumstances, that politics, indicated, he would have declined the case. To us now the result seems to have been fore-ordained, but it was not. Adams was more free than any political system could make him, because he knew the truth.
What he did then is right and good not because of what public opinion then thought, expected or approved; nor because of the comprehensive result of his combined actions. No, it was right and good because it was right and good. Because what is right and good is clearly identifiable to our human mind, he was not only capable of identifying it, but obliged to follow it. And so are we.
Thus it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Unless you and I ground our decisions upon a truth of this caliber, then we are following merely short-term goals. Politics throw up on the shores of our awareness myriad considerations and demands, but none of them stand this test.
By all that is holy, good, and true, I despise politics, but acknowledge it to be a reality of our fallen state. Nonetheless, I also acknowledge with awe that John Adams knew what was right and did it. I am grateful because it reveals, even through the distorting lens of an HBO miniseries, that I, too, am capable of acting in the same way for the same reasons.
No longer crowned kings like George III, but to this day potentates and pretenders jockey for our loyalty, and lay down conditions for our continued acceptance in suitable society. But our liberty, which we must defend in every instance, is grounded in our acknowledgement not of our own sovereignty, but of Him who is our source and summit. He has made us capable of knowing Him, and of serving Him by our own discernment and decision. We are rebels and revolutionaries, but not political; we are free, because Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe.Monsignor Smith