As part of his conclusion of his legal defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, John Adams said, “The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men.”
We want justice to be blind; we do not want legal arguments to be an acceptable defense for some yet an invalid one for others. We find courage in those willing to stand up for a principle even when it applies to those we may not like, or, like Thomas More, when it means great personal sacrifice.
Today, however, is an era of justice for the favored—to the point of absurdity—on display in the daily news. The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers are being made to comply with the HHS Mandate while companies like Visa and Exxon Mobile are given exemptions. Apple CEO Tim Cook takes public stands against religious freedom laws that would protect cake designers, photographers, and florists from being forced to create art in violation of their beliefs and yet Apple argues that the government mandating it to create computer code to bypass iPhone security is “compelled speech” violating the First Amendment.
Sadder still is not cowardice in the face of risk, which is all too human, but rather when self-interest is held up as being courageous. Notre Dame will present the Laetare Medal jointly to Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner. Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins defends the controversial decision by saying, “It is a good time to remind ourselves what lives dedicated to genuine public service in politics look like.” Never mind that the award was established to honor a Catholic who “illustrated the ideals of the Church,” ideals that Biden has long actively opposed.
And this from a university that gave into the HHS mandate. As William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Principles are a fine thing—just don’t let them get in the way of a comfortable place in society.”
Years after the Boston Massacre trial, John Adams wrote, “The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.”
Who has been manly in what has procured anxiety? The Little Sisters of the Poor.