August 21:- John Adams and the Law

​​"​I compleated a contract with M​r. Putnam, to study Law..."    (​Diary​)​​​

​When John Adams graduated in July of 1755, he had an Artium Baccalaureus ​(Bachelor of Arts), and not much else. Not even a diploma - Harvard would not start handing those out until 1813.

​​​Adams' father wanted him to enter the ministry. His friends persuaded him that he "should make a better lawyer than Divine." (​Autobiography​) And so, upon graduation, he became a - schoolteacher?

I'll let Mssr. Adams explain in the video below.​​​


​Adams took the job of a schoolteacher because it was offered to him. The town of Worcester needed a Latin master for their grammar school, and they recruited Adams. They paid for his lodgings and his work. For a fresh college graduate with no money, it was a great deal. But even with his new task, the law still beckoned. He became a bit of a "court groupie,"  attending the Courts of Justice in town whenever he could. 

Finally he could resist the idea no more, and sought ought local lawyer James Putnam, who agreed to take in Adams, lodge him for the amount the town was paying, and have his new apprentice pay him his sum when Adams found it convenient. The young Latin master leapt at the opportunity.

Adams read from Putnam's library day and night, admittedly faster than he should have, but his enthusiasm led Putnam to buy even more books to expand his library. After two years, Adams was ready to be presented  to the Court of Common Pleas in Worcester, to be admitted to the bar. Unfortunately, "an Error was committed at this time...which [Adams has] never been able to account for since." (​Autobiography.​) Putnam never showed.

​Eventually all was corrected, and Adams was admitted. However that took a while, and I will save that for another post. In the meanwhile, I will leave you with the quote from Adams' diary - an idea that Adams held fast to, throughout his career, thanks be to Providence.​​​​​​

John ​Adams


​But I set out with firm Resolutions I think never to commit any meanness or injustice in the practice of Law. The study and practice of Law, I am sure does not dissolve the obligations of morality or of Religion.

About the Author

The "founding father" of Historic Experience. Peyton is an actor-historian with over 15 years experience as a John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt interpreter, impersonator, speaker, or whatever descriptor speaks to you. Peyton Dixon is based in central New Jersey and travels across the country bringing American history to life.