Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
John Adams (1735-1826) was the second president of the United States and an ardent supporter of the American Revolution. A Massachusetts lawyer, Adams gained prominence during the controversy surrounding the Stamp Act (1765) as a brilliant defender of American rights under British law. As a member of the Continental Congress, he sat on the committee charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence; during the Revolutionary War, he served as a commissioner to France. At the war's end, Adams was appointed to the American delegation to Paris that negotiated the treaty ending the war with Britain.
In the summer of 1776, Adams and others helped Virginia pass its state constitution, including a bicameral legislature with a house and senate. In his Thoughts on Government (spring 1776), he wrote that the purpose of government was the "greatest quantity of human happiness," a notion which he derived from Cicero, an ancient Roman philosopher. Adams was a fairly devout Unitarian and thus did not believe in the Trinity, predestination, or the divinity of Christ. He thought that religion should be a private matter, unrelated to the workings of government. He signed his name to a 1797 treaty that declared, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."