John Adams

John Adams Jr. was born on October 30, 1735, in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams was the first Vice-President and the second President of the United States, from 1797 to 1801.

His son, John Quincy Adams, later became America’s sixth President. John Adams was author, lawyer, diplomat, and statesman, and was one of the leaders of the American movement to gain independence from Great Britain.

John Adams was a descendant of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritan colonists and he graduated from Harvard University in 1755, just 20 years old. He subsequently studied law in the law offices of prominent lawyer James Putnam, although his father had wished he became active for in the ministry.

In 1758, John was admitted to the bar after he had earned a Master’s degree from Harvard University. He married Abigail Smith on October 25, 1764, just before he turned 29, and the couple had six children. John Adams was a member of the First Continental Congress (1774) and he helped draft the United States Declaration of Independence.

It wasn’t long before Adams Jr. became an advocate for the patriot cause. He opposed the 1765 British Stamp Act. He publicly denounced the Act as invalid when he delivered a speech to the governor’s Council of Massachusetts. When the British Parliament imposed the Act, he wrote an essay titled ‘Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law,’ which appeared in the Boston Globe.

Later, in 1770, John Adams represented British soldiers that were on trial for the so-called Boston Massacre where 5 civilians were killed. Adams justified his actions saying he felt that a case’s facts and juridical aspects were more important than the passionate beliefs of the people. Though Adams’s defense made his law practice suffer, in a later stadium these actions enhanced Adams’ standing as a righteous, courageous, fair, and generous man.

It was also in 1770 that John Adams became an elected member of the Massachusetts Assembly and he was among the five men who, in 1774, represented the British colony at the 1st Continental Congress. When Congress decided to form the American Continental Army (1775), John Adams appointed Virginia’s George Washington as its first commander-in-chief. Adams went on to draft the Declaration of Independence together with Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Benjamin Franklin which was approved on July 4, 1776.

Adams subsequently served on more committees in the newly formed government than any other member of Congress, and he was appointed head of the Board of War & Ordinance in 1777 overseeing the Continental army. Adams was also part of the American diplomatic group that negotiated the 1779 Treaty of Paris, the end of the Revolutionary War.

Adams stayed in Europe after the war, to become the first United States Minister to England in 1785. After some ten years in Europe, Adams returned to America in 1788, to take part in the first U.S. presidential elections of 1789. George Washington became (as expected) the first president, and in line with the Constitutional provision in those days, Adams became Vice President. The same thing occurred in 1792. And Adams became increasingly frustrated with this position.

In 1796, Adams won the presidential elections by a narrow margin as the Federalist nominee, to become the 2nd president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson had led the Democratic-Republican Party opposition and became Vice President.

During his presidency, Adams was confronted with a French – British war that caused quite some political difficulties for the young American nation. Adams’ diplomatic efforts to restore commercial relations with France failed which led to several naval hostilities though Adams had not declared war. The undeclared war ended in 1800, but Adams’ popularity had suffered, so he lost the 1800 elections to Thomas Jefferson, his Democratic-Republican party rival.

When his presidency was over, John Adams went back to the family farm in Quincy with Abigail, and he corresponded intensely with his dear friend Thomas Jefferson. Isn’t it remarkable that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day in 1828, July 4, the 50th anniversary of American independence?

The last words Adams spoke were: ‘Jefferson survives.’ Adams’ son, John Quincy, eventually became America’s sixth President, although he had become a member of the Democratic-Republicans, the opposition party.

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