He was the first of the three children of John Adams, Sr. and Susanna Boylston Adams. His progenitors were Puritan Pilgrims who had come to the American continent to escape religious persecution a hundred years earlier. Throughout his entire life, he was devout in his Christian faith. He married Abigail Smith, his third cousin, with whom he had four children, Abigail, John Quincy (6th U.S. President), Susanna, Charles, Thomas Boylston, and Elizabeth (Stillborn).
During his life he held the following occupations and political offices: farmer, school teacher, law assistant, trial lawyer, Colonial Legislator for Massachusetts General Court, Massachusetts Delegate to the 1st and 2nd Continental Congresses, author of political philosophy, Minister Plenipotentiary to Europe, Ambassador to several European nations, first United States Ambassador to Great Britain, first Vice President to the United States of America (for two terms), and the second President of the United States of America.
In his youth, John Adams was taught to read by his father while working on the family farm. He received formal preparatory education from several community schools and tutors, most notably, Mr. Joseph Marsh. At age 16 he was accepted and began studies at Harvard College where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After graduating from Harvard he took a job as a schoolmaster in the nearby town of Worchester, but he soon became bored with this profession and began studying law under a prominent Worchester lawyer named James Putnam. He continued teaching school during the day and studying law at night until he was admitted to the bar and returned home to Braintree to began his own law practice.
In response to the Stamp Act of 1765, which was imposed by British Parliament in order to pay military expenses related to war with France and the constant British military presence in the colonies, John Adams authored several anonymous letters to the Boston Gazette. In these letters he argued that the Stamp Act violated basic rights of all Englishmen, namely the right to trial by jury of one's peers and the right to surrender taxation only by consent. The popularity of these letters led to Adams delivering a speech before the governing body of the colony wherein he declared the act invalid due to the fact the citizens of Massachusetts had no representation in parliament. British Parliament repealed the act a few months later.
After the infamous Boston Massacre the British soldiers, who were involved, being unable to find legal counsel among colonial lawyers, turned to John Adams to plea for his services. Despite the fact that their position was vastly unpopular in the region and that there would be little, if any, financial remuneration for his tiresome services Adams - along with Josiah Quincy - decided that the soldiers deserved legal representation, so he took the case. In the process of researching the circumstances of the case he became convinced that they were innocent of the charges of murder that they were facing. Firm in his convictions and contrary to popular opinion, John Adams went to trial where all of the soldiers were either acquitted or convicted of lesser charges.
President John Adams
Adams was elected to the Massachusetts General Court, and later he was sent as a delegate to the first and second Continental Congresses. It was at these conventions where he became the leading voice for the movement toward American independence. As a member of the committee assigned to write an official document declaring that the thirteen American colonies were free from British rule, he was instrumental in preparation of the Declaration of Independence. At the second convention Adams made the nomination of George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief of the continental army. It was also during this gathering that he wrote and published his Thoughts on Government as a response to all of the inquiries of him from legislators seeking direction for preparation of their state constitutions. The ideas put forth in this pamphlet became an integral part of the constitution of many states and, ultimately, the United States of America.
During the Revolutionary War, Adams resigned his post on the Massachusetts General Court and dedicated his time more fully to his several new congressional appointments, namely the head of the Board of War and Ordnance. It was in this capacity that he was sent to negotiate with General William Howe after the Continental Army was soundly defeated in the Battle of Long Island. Finding British General's terms unacceptable, negotiations ceased and the war continued.
In the midst of his service in Congress, he was appointed to travel to Europe twice. With the exception of a few months that he spent at home drafting the Massachusetts Constitution, Adams spent ten years in Europe working to win recognition and financial support for his new fledgling nation. During this time he served as Minister Plenipotentiary, Ambassador to the Dutch Republic, as well as Minister to the Court of St. James, and his accomplishments include securing desperately needed loans from the Dutch, establishing trade relations with Prussia, and negotiating commercial treaties with France and Spain.
By the time John Adams returned to America the Constitution had been ratified and the new nation was preparing for its first presidential election. He served as the first Vice President of the United States for two terms under President George Washington after which he served as the second President of the United States. At the end of his first and only term as President he became the first occupier of the new presidential mansion (later known as the Whitehouse) located in the new United States capital city on the marshy banks of the Potomac River.
John Adams' Farm, "Peacefield"
After leaving office, Adams returned home to his family in Braintree (which recently had officially become a part of the town of Quincy). For the rest of his life he worked his farm (which he affectionately referred to as Peacefield) and wrote countless letters to his friends and loved-ones. These correspondences provide for much of the history of his life as well as the lives of those with whom he kept contact. It was during this time that John Adams reignited and old friendship with a long-time associate and political rival, Thomas Jefferson. Their friendship and correspondence continued until both of their deaths - which occurred within a few hours of each other - on the 50th anniversary of the day that they signed the Declaration of Independence.
John Adam was born in the North District of Braintree, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America. He died at his home at Quincy (Formerly known as Braintree), State of Massachusetts, United States of America.
You won't find grand marble or granite statues of John Adams or monuments that bear his name in the midst of the tributes to our great founding fathers in Washington DC. History has not remembered him as fondly in this form as it has George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. It's been said that Adams wasn't as likeable a person as the other notable founders. That he wasn't a flowery orator or a handsome general whose hearty physical constitution and iron nerve commanded the respect of his subordinates is unquestionable. He was a very plain looking man whose excitable disposition seemed to rub his contemporaries the wrong way. But he was man of unyielding integrity, thrift, and enterprise who dedicated his life to preserving the freedom of his countrymen.
John Adams didn't care for politics or political parties. He much preferred the satisfaction of a hard day's work on his farm and the comfort of close association with the wife that he so adored. But in terms of time sacrificed - away from home - in the service of the cause of liberty, he stands second to none, and his absolute genius with respect to the philosophy of constitutional government contributed more to the realization of the miracle that the United States Constitution is than, arguably, any other contributor to it.
For more than two decades the world has seen unprecedented prosperity and liberty reaching far beyond the borders of this nation as a result of those founding principles, and that is a legacy of more surpassing honor than marble or granite could afford anyone.
Graves of John, Abigail & John Quincy Adams in Quincy, Massachusetts
December 23, 1775
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