Continental Congresses

The same year as the Boston Massacre, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts General Court and served as clerk of the Suffolk County Bar Association. He continued to practice law but became increasingly involved in intercolonial politics as tensions between the mother country and colonies escalated. After taking a brief break from politics for much of 1771 and 1772, he was reelected to the General Court in 1773, and, in June 1774, he was appointed to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the First Continental Congress. He and his cousin, Samuel Adams, became leaders of the radical faction at the Philadelphia convention, and both were disappointed by Congress’s reluctance to go beyond written protest to Parliament as a means to repeal the Coercive Acts (1774). Already committed to independence, Adams returned to Boston later that year and wrote a series of essays against the loyalist Daniel Leonard using the pseudonym Novanglus, in which he questioned not only Parliament’s right to tax the colonies but its declared authority in North America. At the Second Continental Congress, following the battles of Lexington and Concord, Adams once again took a leading role. He was involved in as many as ninety committees, chairing twenty-five of them, and worked diligently on the Board of War to equip the Continental army and build an American navy. One of his first acts was to nominate George Washington to take command of the Continental army, and, as early as 1775, he proposed independence from Britain. In a move to secure Virginia’s allegiance to the independence movement, in 1776, he asked Congress to appoint Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, a document that both he and Benjamin Franklin helped to edit and which he signed after it had passed through Congress. Working tirelessly, that year Adams also helped to draft The Plan of Treaties, a foreign policy manual that influenced American politics for years to come, and wrote Thoughts on Government, a political treatise on the superior merits of balanced governments, intended to assist North Carolinians in framing a new constitution.

The First Continental Congress First Continental Congress 1774 Delegates in the Second Continental Congress Best Delegate

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