Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - "Facts are Stubborn Things" - My Family Connection to Two US Presidents

There is no question that George Washington was the true father of our country.  His tireless leadership in the American Revolution was critical to the successful forming of our country.

He is the only US President to ever be unanimously elected by the Electoral College (100% of the electoral vote).  He set precedence in almost every area of the office of President which every US President has followed since.   

What he did which was truly remarkable was that after two terms as President he stepped down and relinquished power.  He did not run for a 3rd term.  No revolution.  No coup.  No hand-picked successor.  Just an orderly transfer of power through popular election.  It is possible that this was the first time this had occurred since the pure democracies of ancient Greece.

His Vice President, John Adams, won the 2nd presidential election vs. Thomas Jefferson. John Adams was a revolutionary patriot, founding father and my distant cousin.

President John Adams and I share ancestors, Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith.  Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith were my 8th grandparents and President Adams' great-great grandparents.  This makes President Adams my 3rd cousin 6 times removed.  So not a close relative.

Here is the relationship in a little more detail.

President John Adam his parents were John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boylston
Susanna Boylston's parents were Peter Boylston and Ann White
Peter Boylston’s parents were Dr. Thomas Boylston and Mary Gardner
Mary Gardner's parents were Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith

Mary Gardner's sister was Abigail Gardner.  Abigail married Rev. John Wise (Rev Wise has some good stories to tell which I will be detailing in future postings)
They had a daughter, Lucy Wise who married Rev John White
Their son, William White moved to Cape Elizabeth, Maine and married Christian Simonton
Their daughter, Anna White married Israel Woodbury
Their daughter, Betsey Woodbury married John Armstrong
I have covered the relationship to John Armstrong and Betsey Woodbury extensively in my blog.

Did I happen to mention that President Adams' son, John Quincy Adams went on to be our 6th President?

When you find you are related to someone (even distantly) it does increase your interest in that historical figure.  

One of John Adams earliest known impact on history involved a famous event, but his role in that event is not nearly as widely known.

The event was the Boston Massacre.  

On March 5, 1770, British soldiers stationed in Boston shot and killed 5 civilians and wounded 6 others.  British soldiers had been stationed in Boston due to increasing unrest in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.   As the name "British Massacre" would infer, there was widespread outrage over the killing of civilians by the soldiers and the populace of Boston wanted to see the offending men hanged.

The British soldiers maintained their innocence that they fired in self-defense.

There was little chance of them receiving a fair or unbiased trial in Boston.

No one wanted to defend the British soldiers at trial knowing that it could ruin their reputation and their livelihood.  Eventually, they found one lawyer who would defend them in the search of the truth and justice....John Adams

During the trial, the future Pesident was able to root out the actual series of events which led to the shooting.

The incident started when a group of men were harassing a British soldier named Private Hugh White standing guard duty outside the Custom House on King's Street.  The men and the private exchanged insults.  The private struck one of the men and a mob started to form.  Over 300-400 people of Boston started to hurl insults, snow and small objects at the soldier as other soldier arrived to support him.

The crowd taunted the soldiers.  It is even said that some of them shouted, "Fire!"  The soldiers stood their ground and waited for commands from Captain Thomas Preston (who stood in front of his line of men).  No command was given to fire.

An object struck Private Montgomery, knocking him to the ground.  It is stated that he got up and shouted, "Damn you, fire!" and shot into the crowd.  From there one of the civilians hit one of the soldiers with a club and it unraveled quickly.  Without orders some of the soldiers shot into the crowd.  The main issue to be decided was did Captain Preston order his men to fire on unarmed civilians as the people of Boston believed or was this a question of self-defense.

The trial began in November 1770 and John Adams was able to prove to the jury that they had to treat the British soldiers not as despised British, but as any men accused of such as crime.  He convinced the jury of the evidence that these men were threatened and if they were guilty of anything it would be manslaughter and not murder.

In the end, Adams prevailed and six of the soldiers were found innocent of any wrong doing and two others were found guilty of manslaughter.

As part of his defense he issued his famous quote:
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
Try to think of the times and the quality of the man who was John Adams.  Revolutionary feelings were growing and the British were reviled in many parts of Boston.  It would have been easy to get caught up in the fervor of the times and wish ill on these men.  Watch innocent men hang.

Unlike when the revolutionary feelings and events were rushing toward a Declaration of Independence, at this time and in this event, John Adams stood alone to stand for truth and justice.  He showed a level of integrity which is always in short supply, whatever the time period.

It is heartening to know that a few of the genes that made him a man of such sterling integrity also are a part of my make-up.  Something to be proud of and something to remember when I am confronted with ethical problems and it is time for me to wonder, "What would John Adams do?"


  1. My 6th g-grandmother was an Adams. Also have Gardner ancestors. We are likely related some kind of way. I wonder if the dna results at ancestry would confirm that? samdennis1675 at

    1. We are probably are related. Did you do the AncestryDNA test? If so, we may see a connection on those test results.