'President John Adams' visits Suffield Historical Society

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Suffield - posted Mon., Oct. 24, 2011
George Baker portrays President John Adams. Photo by Jennifer Coe.
George Baker portrays President John Adams. Photo by Jennifer Coe.

John Adams, in colonial dress and buckle shoes, arrived to present a first-hand account of America’s second President to the Suffield Historical Society. The presentation, made by George Baker in the role of Adams, packed the meeting room and necessitated extra seating to be brought in. Baker, an attorney like Adams, practices out of New Canaan, Conn., but travels all over the U.S ., speaking to groups while in the character of Adams.

“There’s nothing like having the real person,” said Baker of why his “act” is so popular with history lovers. He believes that Americans, and not just native-New Englanders, love Adams because he was the son of a farmer, was plain-spoken and considered to be a straightforward founding father. He was also one of the only founding fathers not marred by sexual scandal or the owning of slaves.

“For Adams, his father was a farmer,” said Baker. “He had a basic common-ness that appealed to a lot of the people.” Baker also supposes that history lovers like the ones he spoke to in Suffield have also probably read the extremely popular book written by David McCullough, simply titled: “John Adams.” While Baker likes the book, he doesn’t like every depiction out there of Adams. “I didn’t like the HBO special,” he said. “I thought they had miscast Adams and made him too curmudgeonly and whiney,” said Baker.

As someone who has intimate knowledge of the man from his years portraying him to live audiences of up to 600 people at a time, Baker should know. “If there is every any President similar to him, it is Harry Truman,” said Baker. Adams was “very inspiring,” said Baker. “He was a person who was just taken up by the majesty that this country has,” he reflected.

As the presentation began, Baker quickly softened up the crowd with humor and maintained it throughout his whole presentation, even bringing up current events. In the character of Adams, Baker described that when Adams told his father that he wanted to become an attorney, his father did not approve. Grudgingly, Adams agreed to teach school for a few years, but it ended up teaching him how to speak in public. “Teaching taught me how to be persuasive,” he said which came in handy later when he was a member of the Continental Congress.

After teaching, Adams set up a law practice in Braintree, Mass. where he ultimately ended up taking on the very controversial case of the British soldiers who had killed 6 colonists in the Boston Massacre. By that time, tension between the colonists and the garrisoned British troops was high, and it initially won him no popularity to be defending them in court. “I didn’t want these soldiers to receive rough mob justice,” said Baker as Adams. “I had to prove to myself that we lived by the rule of law.” In the end, Adams felt it gained people’s trust because he had been willing to take on the tough case.

Baker went on to tell more stories of how Adams influenced the originators of our country in small and large ways.

“I travel all over the country doing this,” said Baker who loves speaking to groups about Adams’ story and unique place in American history. He feels that Adams’ story has modern relevance and that Adams had an idealistic and yet pragmatic role in politics.

“Everyone is looking for a bit of assurance [these days] of the moral foundation of our country,” said Baker.

Coming up: Members of the Suffield Historical Society will be handing out candy to costumed youngsters on Halloween, Oct. 31, at the King House from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

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