John Adams

John Adams

Overview
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 (1797–1801). Hailing from New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, Adams, a prominent lawyer and public figure in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, was highly educated and represented Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 values promoting republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

. A Federalist, he was highly influential and one of the key Founding Fathers of the United States
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

.

Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.
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Quotations

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.

Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials (4 December 1770)

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

Notes for an oration at Braintree (Spring 1772)

A government of laws, and not of men.

The "Novanglus" Papers, Boston Gazette (1774- 1775), No. 7; this was incorporated into the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 File:Abigail Adams.jpg|144px|thumb|right|You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first.

Metaphysicians and politicians may dispute forever, but they will never find any other moral principle or foundation of rule or obedience, than the consent of governors and governed.

The "Novanglus" papers, Boston Gazette (1774 - 1775), No. 7

A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

Letter to Abigail Adams (17 July 1775)

I agree with you that in politics the middle way is none at all.

Letter to Horatio Gates (23 March 1776)
Encyclopedia
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 (1797–1801). Hailing from New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, Adams, a prominent lawyer and public figure in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, was highly educated and represented Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 values promoting republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

. A Federalist, he was highly influential and one of the key Founding Fathers of the United States
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

.

Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. As a delegate from Massachusetts
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

 to the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence. He assigned Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 the role of drafting the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 in 1776, and assisted him in that process. As a representative of Congress in Europe, he was a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 with Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

, and chiefly responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 bankers. A political theorist and historian, Adams largely wrote the Massachusetts state constitution in 1780 which soon after ended slavery in Massachusetts, but was in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 when the federal Constitution was drafted on similar principles later in the decade. One of his greatest roles was as a judge of character: in 1775, he nominated George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 to be commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

, and 25 years later nominated John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

 to be Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

.

Adams' revolutionary credentials secured him two terms as George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

's vice president and his own election in 1796 as the second president. During his one term, he encountered ferocious attacks by the Jeffersonian Republicans, as well as the dominant faction in his own Federalist Party led by his bitter enemy Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts
Alien and Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalists in the 5th United States Congress in the aftermath of the French Revolution's reign of terror and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War. They were signed into law by President John Adams...

, and built up the army and navy especially in the face of an undeclared naval war (called the "Quasi War") with France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, 1798–1800. The major accomplishment of his presidency was his peaceful resolution of the conflict in the face of Hamilton's opposition.

In 1800 Adams was defeated for re-election by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 and retired to Massachusetts. He later resumed his friendship with Jefferson. He and his wife, Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, who was the second President of the United States, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth...

, founded an accomplished family line of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family
Adams political family
The Adams family was a prominent political family in the United States during the late 18th century through early 20th centuries. Based in eastern Massachusetts, they formed part of the Boston Brahmin community.-Members:...

. Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, the sixth President of the United States. His achievements have received greater recognition
Historical rankings of United States Presidents
In political science, historical rankings of Presidents of the United States are surveys conducted in order to construct rankings of the success of individuals who have served as President of the United States. Ranking systems are usually based on surveys of academic historians and political...

 in modern times, though his contributions were not initially as celebrated as those of other Founders.

Early life


John Adams, Jr., the eldest of three sons, was born on October 30, 1735 (October 19, 1735 Old Style, Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

), in what is now Quincy
Quincy, Massachusetts
Quincy is a city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Its nicknames are "City of Presidents", "City of Legends", and "Birthplace of the American Dream". As a major part of Metropolitan Boston, Quincy is a member of Boston's Inner Core Committee for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council...

, Massachusetts (then called the "north precinct" of Braintree
Braintree, Massachusetts
The Town of Braintree is a suburban city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Although officially known as a town, Braintree adopted a municipal charter, effective 2008, with a mayor-council form of government and is considered a city under Massachusetts law. The population was 35,744...

, Massachusetts), to John Adams, Sr., and Susanna Boylston
Susanna Boylston
Susanna Boylston Adams Hall was a prominent early-American socialite, mother of the second U.S. President, John Adams and grandmother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams....

 Adams. Adams' birthplace is now part of Adams National Historical Park
Adams National Historical Park
Adams National Historical Park, formerly Adams National Historic Site, in Quincy, Massachusetts, preserves the home of Presidents of the United States John Adams and John Quincy Adams, of U.S...

. His father, also named John (1691–1761), was a fifth-generation descendant of Henry Adams, who emigrated from Somerset in England to Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

 in about 1638. John Adams, Sr. was a farmer, a Congregationalist (that is, Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

) deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

, a lieutenant in the militia and a selectman, or town councilman, who supervised schools and roads; Susanna Boylston Adams was a descendant of the Boylstons of Brookline
Brookline, Massachusetts
Brookline is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States, which borders on the cities of Boston and Newton. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town was 58,732.-Etymology:...

.

Adams was born to a modest family, but he felt acutely the responsibility of living up to his family heritage: the founding generation of Puritans, who came to the American wilderness in the 1630s and established colonial presence in America. The Puritans of the great migration "believed they lived in the Bible. England under the Stuarts
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 was Egypt; they were Israel fleeing ... to establish a refuge for godliness, a city upon a hill." By the time of John Adams's birth in 1735, Puritan tenets such as predestination were no longer as widely accepted, and many of their stricter practices had mellowed with time, but John Adams "considered them bearers of freedom, a cause that still had a holy urgency." It was a value system he believed in, and a heroic model he wished to live up to.

Young Adams went to Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 at age sixteen in 1751. His father expected him to become a minister, but Adams had doubts. After graduating in 1755 with an A.B., he taught school for a few years in Worcester
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

, allowing himself time to think about his career choice. After much reflection, he decided to become a lawyer and studied law in the office of John Putnam, a prominent lawyer in Worcester. In 1758, after earning an A.M.
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 from Harvard, Adams was admitted to the bar. From an early age, he developed the habit of writing descriptions of events and impressions of men which are scattered through his diary. He put the skill to good use as a lawyer, often recording cases he observed so that he could study and reflect upon them. His report of the 1761 argument of James Otis
James Otis, Jr.
James Otis, Jr. was a lawyer in colonial Massachusetts, a member of the Massachusetts provincial assembly, and an early advocate of the political views that led to the American Revolution. The phrase "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny" is usually attributed to him...

 in the superior court of Massachusetts as to the legality of Writs of Assistance
Writ of Assistance
A writ of assistance is a written order issued by a court instructing a law enforcement official, such as a sheriff, to perform a certain task. Historically, several types of writs have been called "writs of assistance". Most often, a writ of assistance is "used to enforce an order for the...

 is a good example. Otis's argument inspired Adams with zeal for the cause of the American colonies.

On October 25, 1764, five days before his 29th birthday, Adams married Abigail Smith
Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, who was the second President of the United States, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth...

 (1744–1818), his third cousin and the daughter of a Congregational
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....

 minister, Rev. William Smith, at Weymouth, Massachusetts
Weymouth, Massachusetts
The Town of Weymouth is a city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 census, Weymouth had a total population of 53,743. Despite its city status, it is formally known as the Town of Weymouth...

. Their children were Abigail (1765–1813); future president John Quincy
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 (1767–1848); Susanna (1768–1770); Charles
Charles Adams (1770–1800)
Charles Adams was the second son of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams. He died of alcoholism in 1800....

 (1770–1800); Thomas Boylston
Thomas Boylston Adams
Thomas Boylston Adams was the third and youngest son of John and Abigail Adams.Adams lived with relatives in Haverhill, Massachusetts during his father’s diplomatic missions in Europe, after Abigail Adams joined him in 1784...

 (1772–1832); and the stillborn
Stillbirth
A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

 Elizabeth (1777).

Adams was not a popular leader like his second cousin, Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

. Instead, his influence emerged through his work as a constitutional lawyer and his intense analysis of historical examples, together with his thorough knowledge of the law and his dedication to the principles of republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

. Adams often found his inborn contentiousness to be a constraint in his political career.

Opponent of Stamp Act 1765


Adams first rose to prominence as an opponent of the Stamp Act of 1765, which was imposed by the British Parliament without consulting the American legislatures. Americans protested vehemently that it violated their traditional rights as Englishmen. Popular resistance, he later observed, was sparked by an oft-reprinted sermon of the Boston minister, Jonathan Mayhew
Jonathan Mayhew
Jonathan Mayhew was a noted American minister at Old West Church, Boston, Massachusetts. He is credited with coining the phrase "no taxation without representation." -Early life:...

, interpreting Romans 13
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

 to elucidate the principle of just insurrection.

In 1765, Adams drafted the instructions which were sent by the inhabitants of Braintree
Braintree, Massachusetts
The Town of Braintree is a suburban city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Although officially known as a town, Braintree adopted a municipal charter, effective 2008, with a mayor-council form of government and is considered a city under Massachusetts law. The population was 35,744...

 to its representatives in the Massachusetts legislature, and which served as a model for other towns to draw up instructions to their representatives. In August 1765, he anonymously contributed four notable articles to the Boston Gazette
Boston Gazette
The Boston Gazette was a newspaper published in Boston, Massachusetts, in the British North American colonies. It began publication December 21, 1719 and appeared weekly.-Brief history:...

 (republished in The London Chronicle in 1768 as True Sentiments of America, also known as A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law). In the letter he suggested that there was a connection between the Protestant ideas that Adams's Puritan ancestors brought to New England and the ideas behind their resistance to the Stamp Act. In the former he explained that the opposition of the colonies to the Stamp Act
Stamp Act
A stamp act is any legislation that requires a tax to be paid on the transfer of certain documents. Those that pay the tax receive an official stamp on their documents, making them legal documents. The taxes raised under a stamp act are called stamp duty. This system of taxation was first devised...

 was because the Stamp Act deprived the American colonists of two basic rights guaranteed to all Englishmen, and which all free men deserved: rights to be taxed only by consent and to be tried only by a jury of one's peers.

The "Braintree Instructions
Braintree Instructions
The Braintree Instructions was a document sent on September 24, 1765 by the town meeting of Braintree, Massachusetts to the town's representative at the Massachusetts General Court, or legislature, which instructed the representative to oppose the Stamp Act, a tax regime which had recently been...

" were a succinct and forthright defense of colonial rights and liberties, while the Dissertation was an essay in political education.

In December 1765, he delivered a speech before the governor and council in which he pronounced the Stamp Act invalid on the ground that Massachusetts, being without representation in Parliament, had not assented to it.

Boston Massacre


In 1770, a street confrontation resulted in British soldiers
29th Regiment of Foot
The 29th Regiment of Foot was, from 1694 to 1881, an infantry regiment of the British Army. It now forms part of the Mercian Regiment.-Formation:...

 killing five civilians in what became known as the Boston Massacre
Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre, called the Boston Riot by the British, was an incident on March 5, 1770, in which British Army soldiers killed five civilian men. British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support...

. The soldiers involved were arrested on criminal charges. Not surprisingly, they had trouble finding legal counsel to represent them. Finally, they asked Adams to defend. He accepted, though he feared it would hurt his reputation. In their defense, Adams made his now famous quote regarding making decisions based on the evidence: "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." Six of the soldiers were acquitted. Two who had fired directly into the crowd were charged with murder but were convicted only of manslaughter. Adams was paid eighteen guineas by the British soldiers, or about the cost of a pair of shoes.

Despite his previous misgivings, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts General Court
Massachusetts General Court
The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the Colonial Era, when this body also sat in judgment of judicial appeals cases...

 (the colonial legislature) in June 1770, while still in preparation for the trial.

Dispute concerning Parliament's authority


In 1772, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson announced that he and his judges would no longer need their salaries paid by the Massachusetts legislature, because the Crown would henceforth assume payment drawn from customs revenues. Boston radicals protested and asked Adams to explain their objections. In "Two Replies of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to Governor Hutchinson" Adams argued that the colonists had never been under the sovereignty of Parliament. Their original charter was with the person of the king and their allegiance was only to him. If a workable line could not be drawn between parliamentary sovereignty and the total independence of the colonies, he continued, the colonies would have no other choice but to choose independence.

In Novanglus; or, A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time Adams attacked some essays by Daniel Leonard
Daniel Leonard
Daniel Leonard was a lawyer from colonial Massachusetts and a Loyalist in the American Revolution.Born in Norton, Massachusetts, Leonard was a member of a prominent family who made their fortune from their iron works in Taunton, Massachusetts...

 that defended Hutchinson's arguments for the absolute authority of Parliament over the colonies. In Novanglus Adams gave a point-by-point refutation of Leonard's essays, and then provided one of the most extensive and learned arguments made by the colonists against British imperial policy.

It was a systematic attempt by Adams to describe the origins, nature, and jurisdiction of the unwritten British constitution. Adams used his wide knowledge of English and colonial legal history to argue that the provincial legislatures were fully sovereign over their own internal affairs, and that the colonies were connected to Great Britain only through the King.

Continental Congress


Massachusetts sent Adams to the first and second Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

es in 1774 and from 1775 to 1777. In June 1775, with a view of promoting union among the colonies, he nominated George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 of Virginia as commander-in-chief of the army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 then assembled around Boston. His influence in Congress was great, and almost from the beginning, he sought permanent separation from Britain.

Over the next decade, Americans from every state gathered and deliberated on new governing documents. As radical as it was to write constitutions (prior tradition suggested that a society's form of government need not be codified, nor its organic law written down in a single document), what was equally radical was the revolutionary nature of American political thought as the summer of 1776 dawned.

Declaration of Independence


In May 1776 Adams persuaded congress to approve his resolution calling on the colonies to adopt new (presumably independent) governments. He then assembled a preamble to this resolution which elaborated on it, and which congress approved on May 15. These two resolutions were, as Adams put it, "independence itself" and set the stage for the formal passage of the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

. Once the initial resolution and preamble passed in May, independence became inevitable, though had to be declared formally. On June 7, 1776, Adams seconded the resolution of independence introduced by Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

 which stated, "These colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states," and championed the resolution until it was adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776.
He was appointed to a committee
Committee of Five
The Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress drafted and presented to the Congress what became known as America's Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776...

 with Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, Robert R. Livingston
Robert Livingston (1746-1813)
Robert R Livingston was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat from New York, and a Founding Father of the United States. He was known as "The Chancellor," after the office he held for 25 years....

 and Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

, to draft the Declaration of Independence, which was to be ready when congress voted on independence. Because the committee left no minutes, there is some uncertainty about how the drafting process proceeded—accounts written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, although frequently cited, are contradictory and not entirely reliable. What is certain is that the committee, after discussing the general outline that the document should follow, decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. The committee in general, and Jefferson in particular, thought Adams should write the document, but Adams persuaded the committee to choose Jefferson and promised to consult with Jefferson personally. Although the first draft was written primarily by Jefferson, Adams continued to occupy the foremost place in the debate on its adoption. After editing the document further, congress approved it on July 4. Many years later, Jefferson hailed Adams as "the pillar of [the Declaration's] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered."

After the defeat of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 at the Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island
The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

 on August 27, 1776, Admiral Lord Richard Howe
Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe KG was a British naval officer, notable in particular for his service during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He was the brother of William Howe and George Howe.Howe joined the navy at the age of thirteen and served...

 requested the Second Continental Congress send representatives in an attempt to negotiate peace. A delegation including Adams and Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 met with Howe
Staten Island Peace Conference
The Staten Island Peace Conference was a brief meeting held in the hope of bringing an end to the American Revolution. The conference took place on September 11, 1776, at Billop Manor, the residence of Colonel Christopher Billop, on Staten Island, New York...

 on Staten Island
Staten Island
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...

 on September 11. Both Howe's authority and that of the delegation were limited, and they were unable to find common ground. When Lord Howe unhappily stated he could only view the American delegates as British subjects, Adams replied, "Your lordship may consider me in what light you please, [...] except that of a British subject." Lord Howe then addressed the other delegates, stating, "Mr. Adams appears to be a decided character." Adams learned many years later that his name was on a list of people specifically excluded from Howe's pardon-granting authority. In 1777, Adams began serving as the head of the Board of War and Ordnance, as well as serving on many other important committees.

Thoughts on Government


Several representatives turned to Adams for advice about framing new governments. Adams got tired of repeating the same thing, and published the pamphlet "Thoughts on Government
Thoughts on Government
Thoughts on Government, or in full Thoughts on Government, Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies, was written by John Adams during the spring of 1776 in response to a resolution of the North Carolina Provincial Congress which requested Adams's suggestions on the establishment of...

" (1776), which was subsequently influential in the writing of state constitutions. Using the conceptual framework of Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

, the patriots believed it was the corrupt and nefarious aristocrats, in the British Parliament, and their minions stationed in America, who were guilty of the British assault on American liberty.

Adams advised that the form of government should be chosen to attain the desired ends, which are the happiness and virtue of the greatest number of people. With this goal in mind, he wrote in "Thoughts on Government",

The treatise also defended bicameralism
Bicameralism
In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

, for "a single assembly is liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual." He also suggested that there should be a separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 between the executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, the judicial, and the legislative branches, and further recommended that if a continental government were to be formed then it "should sacredly be confined" to certain enumerated powers
Enumerated powers
The enumerated powers are a list of items found in Article I, section 8 of the US Constitution that set forth the authoritative capacity of the United States Congress. In summary, Congress may exercise the powers that the Constitution grants it, subject to explicit restrictions in the Bill of...

. "Thoughts on Government" was enormously influential and was referenced as an authority in every state-constitution writing hall.

In Europe



Congress twice dispatched Adams to represent the fledgling union in Europe, first in 1777, and again in 1779. Accompanied, on both occasions, by his eldest son, John Quincy
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 (who was ten years old at the time of the first voyage), Adams sailed for France aboard the Continental Navy
Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...

 frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

 Boston on February 15, 1778. The trip through winter storms was treacherous, with lightning injuring 19 sailors and killing one. Adams' ship was then pursued by and successfully evaded several British frigates in the mid-Atlantic. Toward the coast of Spain, Adams himself took up arms to help capture a heavily armed British merchantman ship, the Martha. Later, a cannon malfunction killed one and injured five more of Adams' crew before the ship finally arrived in France.

Adams was in some regards an unlikely choice inasmuch as he did not speak French, the international language of diplomacy at the time. His first stay in Europe, between April 1, 1778, and June 17, 1779, was largely unproductive, and he returned to his home in Braintree in early August 1779.

Between September 1 and October 30, 1779, he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution
Massachusetts Constitution
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the 50 individual state governments that make up the United States of America. It was drafted by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin during the...

 together with Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 and James Bowdoin
James Bowdoin
James Bowdoin II was an American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts during the American Revolution. He served in both branches of the Massachusetts General Court in the colonial era and was president of the state's constitutional convention...

. He was selected in September 1779 to return to France and, following the conclusion of the Massachusetts constitutional convention, left on November 14th aboard the French frigate Sensible.

On the second trip, Adams was appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary charged with the mission of negotiating a treaty of amity and commerce with Britain. The French government, however, did not approve of Adams's appointment and subsequently, on the insistence of the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes was a French statesman and diplomat. He served as Foreign Minister from 1774 during the reign of Louis XVI, notably during the American War of Independence....

, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 and Henry Laurens
Henry Laurens
Henry Laurens was an American merchant and rice planter from South Carolina who became a political leader during the Revolutionary War. A delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Laurens succeeded John Hancock as President of the Congress...

 were appointed to cooperate with Adams, although Jefferson did not go to Europe and Laurens was posted to the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

. In the event Jay, Adams, and Franklin played the major part in the negotiations. Overruling Franklin and distrustful of Vergennes, Jay and Adams decided not to consult with France. Instead, they dealt directly with the British commissioners.

Throughout the negotiations, Adams was especially determined that the right of the United States to the fisheries along the Atlantic coast should be recognized. The American negotiators were able to secure a favorable treaty, which gave Americans ownership of all lands east of the Mississippi, except East
East Florida
East Florida was a colony of Great Britain from 1763–1783 and of Spain from 1783–1822. East Florida was established by the British colonial government in 1763; as its name implies it consisted of the eastern part of the region of Florida, with West Florida comprising the western parts. Its capital...

 and West Florida
West Florida
West Florida was a region on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico, which underwent several boundary and sovereignty changes during its history. West Florida was first established in 1763 by the British government; as its name suggests it largely consisted of the western portion of the region...

, which were transferred to Spain. The treaty was signed on November 30, 1782.

After these negotiations began, Adams had spent some time as the ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 in the Dutch Republic, then one of the few other Republics in the world (the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 and the Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

 being the other notable ones). In July 1780, he had been authorized to execute the duties previously assigned to Laurens. With the aid of the Dutch Patriot
Patriots (faction)
The Patriots were a political faction in the Dutch Republic in the second half of the 18th century. They were led by Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, gaining power from November 1782....

 leader Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol
Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol
Joan Derk, Baron van der Capellen tot den Pol was a Dutch nobleman who played a prominent role in the formation of the Batavian Republic and the revolutionary events that preceded its formation...

, Adams secured the recognition of the United States as an independent government at The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 on April 19, 1782. During this visit, he also negotiated a loan of five million guilders financed by Nicolaas van Staphorst
Nicolaas van Staphorst
Nicolaas van Staphorst was a Dutch banker and a conservative republican. Up till 1794 he was involved in a total of eleven loans that were granted in Amsterdam to the United States with a value of 29 million guilders, and in the Holland Land Company.-Life:In 1782, the brothers led discussions with...

 and Wilhelm Willink. In October 1782, he negotiated with the Dutch a treaty of amity and commerce, the first such treaty between the United States and a foreign power following the 1778 treaty with France. The house that Adams bought during this stay in The Netherlands became the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil anywhere in the world. For two months during 1783, Adams lodged in London with radical publisher John Stockdale
John Stockdale
John Stockdale was an English publisher whose London shop became a salon for the political classes and who had to face two actions for defamation...

.

In 1784 and 1785, he was one of the architects of far-going trade relations between the US and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

. The Prussian ambassador in The Hague, Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer
Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer
Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer or Frederick William von Thulemeier was born or baptized on November 9, 1735. He died July 6, 1811, also in Berlin. In 1763 he was sent by Frederick the Great as a diplomat in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces. In 1784/85 he was one of the architects of a...

, was involved, as were Jefferson and Franklin, who were in Paris.

In 1785, John Adams was appointed the first American minister to the Court of St. James's
Court of St. James's
The Court of St James's is the royal court of the United Kingdom. It previously had the same function in the Kingdom of England and in the Kingdom of Great Britain .-Overview:...

 (ambassador to Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

). In his diary he mentions an exchange between himself and another ambassador who asked if he had often been in England and if he had English relations to which Adams explained he had only been to England once for a two month visit back in 1783 and that he had no relations in the country. The ambassador asked "None, how can that be? you are of English extraction?" to which Adams relied "Neither my father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, great grandfather or great grandmother, nor any other relation that I know of, or care a farthing for, has been in England these one hundred and fifty years; so that you see I have not one drop of blood in my veins but what is American".

When he was presented to his former sovereign, George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

, the King intimated that he was aware of Adams's lack of confidence in the French government. Adams admitted this, stating: "I must avow to your Majesty that I have no attachment but to my own country."

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 referred to this episode on July 7, 1976, at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

. She said:

John Adams, America's first Ambassador, said to my ancestor, King George III, that it was his desire to help with the restoration of 'the old good nature and the old good humor between our peoples.' That restoration has long been made, and the links of language, tradition, and personal contact have maintained it.


While in London, John and Abigail had to suffer the stares and hostility of the Court, and chose to escape it when they could by seeking out Richard Price
Richard Price
Richard Price was a British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the...

, minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church
Newington Green Unitarian Church
Newington Green Unitarian Church in north London is one of England's oldest Unitarian churches. It has had strong ties to political radicalism for over 300 years, and is London's oldest Nonconformist place of worship still in use...

 and instigator of the Revolution Controversy
Revolution Controversy
The Revolution Controversy was a British debate over the French Revolution, lasting from 1789 through 1795. A pamphlet war began in earnest after the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France , which surprisingly supported the French aristocracy...

. Both admired Price very much, and Abigail took to heart the teachings of the man and his protegee Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book...

, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects , written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th...

.

Adams's home in England, a house off London's Grosvenor Square
Grosvenor Square
Grosvenor Square is a large garden square in the exclusive Mayfair district of London, England. It is the centrepiece of the Mayfair property of the Duke of Westminster, and takes its name from their surname, "Grosvenor".-History:...

, still stands and is commemorated by a plaque. He returned to the United States in 1788 to continue his domestic political life.

Constitutional ideas


Massachusetts's new constitution
Massachusetts Constitution
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the 50 individual state governments that make up the United States of America. It was drafted by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin during the...

, ratified in 1780 and written largely by Adams himself, structured its government most closely on his views of politics and society. It was the first constitution written by a special committee and ratified by the people. It was also the first to feature a bicameral legislature, a clear and distinct executive with a partial (two-thirds) veto (although he was restrained by an executive council), and a distinct judicial branch.

While in London, Adams published a work entitled A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (1787). In it he repudiated the views of Turgot
Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune , often referred to as Turgot, was a French economist and statesman. Turgot was a student of Francois Quesnay and as such belonged to the Physiocratic school of economic thought...

 and other European writers as to the viciousness of the framework of state governments. Turgot argued that countries that lacked aristocracies needn't have bicameral legislatures. He thought that republican governments feature "all authorities into one center, that of the nation." In the book, Adams suggested that "the rich, the well-born and the able" should be set apart from other men in a senate—that would prevent them from dominating the lower house. Wood (2006) has maintained that Adams had become intellectually irrelevant by the time the Federal Constitution was ratified. By then, American political thought, transformed by more than a decade of vigorous and searching debate as well as shaping experiential pressures, had abandoned the classical conception of politics which understood government as a mirror of social estates. Americans' new conception of popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

 now saw the people-at-large as the sole possessors of power in the realm. All agents of the government enjoyed mere portions of the people's power and only for a limited time. Adams had completely missed this concept and revealed his continued attachment to the older version of politics. Yet Wood overlooks Adams's peculiar definition of the term "republic," and his support for a constitution ratified by the people. He also underplays Adams's belief in checks and balances. "Power must be opposed to power, and interest to interest," Adams wrote; this sentiment would later be echoed by James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

's famous statement that "[a]mbition must be made to counteract ambition" in The Federalist No. 51
Federalist No. 51
Federalist No. 51 is an essay by James Madison, the fifty-first of the Federalist Papers. It was published on Friday February 8, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published. One of the most famous of the Federalist Papers, No...

, in explaining the powers of the branches of the United States federal government under the new Constitution. Adams did as much as anyone to put the idea of "checks and balances" on the intellectual map.

Adams's Defence can be read as an articulation of the classical republican
Classical republicanism
Classical republicanism is a form of republicanism developed in the Renaissance inspired by the governmental forms and writings of classical antiquity. The earliest examples of the school were classical writers such as Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero...

 theory of mixed government
Mixed government
Mixed government, also known as a mixed constitution, is a form of government that integrates elements of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. In a mixed government, some issues are decided by the majority of the people, some other issues by few, and some other issues by a single person...

. Adams contended that social classes exist in every political society, and that a good government must accept that reality. For centuries, dating back to Aristotle, a mixed regime balancing monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy—that is, the king, the nobles, and the people—was required to preserve order and liberty.

Adams never bought a slave and declined on principle to employ slave labor. Abigail Adams opposed slavery and employed free blacks in preference to her father's two domestic slaves. John Adams spoke out in 1777 against a bill to emancipate slaves in Massachusetts, saying that the issue was presently too divisive, and so the legislation should "sleep for a time." He also was against use of black soldiers in the Revolution, due to opposition from southerners. Adams generally tried to keep the issue out of national politics, because of the anticipated southern response. Though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date on which slavery was abolished in Massachusetts, a common view is that it was abolished no later than 1780, when it was forbidden by implication in the Declaration of Rights that John Adams wrote into the Massachusetts Constitution.

Vice Presidency



While Washington won the presidential election of 1789 with 69 votes in the electoral college
United States Electoral College
The Electoral College consists of the electors appointed by each state who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Since 1964, there have been 538 electors in each presidential election...

, Adams came in second with 34 votes and became Vice President. According to David McCullough
David McCullough
David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award....

, what he really might have wanted was to be the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He presided over the Senate but otherwise played a minor role in the politics of the early 1790s; he was reelected in 1792. Washington seldom asked Adams for input on policy and legal issues during his tenure as vice president.

In the first year of Washington's administration, Adams became deeply involved in a month-long Senate controversy over the official title of the President. Adams favored grandiose titles such as "His Majesty the President" or "His High Mightiness" over the simple "President of the United States" that eventually won the debate. The pomposity of his stance, along with his being overweight, led to Adams earning the nickname "His Rotundity."

As president of the Senate, Adams cast 29 tie-breaking votes—a record that only John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

 came close to tying, with 28. His votes protected the president's sole authority over the removal of appointees and influenced the location of the national capital. On at least one occasion, he persuaded senators to vote against legislation that he opposed, and he frequently lectured the Senate on procedural and policy matters. Adams's political views and his active role in the Senate made him a natural target for critics of the Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 administration. Toward the end of his first term, as a result of a threatened resolution that would have silenced him except for procedural and policy matters, he began to exercise more restraint. When the two political parties formed, he joined the Federalist Party
Federalist Party (United States)
The Federalist Party was the first American political party, from the early 1790s to 1816, the era of the First Party System, with remnants lasting into the 1820s. The Federalists controlled the federal government until 1801...

, but never got on well with its dominant leader Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

. Because of Adams's seniority and the need for a northern president, he was elected as the Federalist nominee for president in 1796, over Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, the leader of the opposition Democratic-Republican Party
Democratic-Republican Party (United States)
The Democratic-Republican Party or Republican Party was an American political party founded in the early 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Political scientists use the former name, while historians prefer the latter one; contemporaries generally called the party the "Republicans", along...

. His success was due to peace and prosperity; Washington and Hamilton had averted war with Britain with the Jay Treaty
Jay Treaty
Jay's Treaty, , also known as Jay's Treaty, The British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,, and...

 of 1795.

Adams's two terms as Vice President were frustrating experiences for a man of his vigor, intellect, and vanity. He complained to his wife Abigail, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."

Election of 1796



The 1796 election was the first contested election under the First Party System
First Party System
The First Party System is a model of American politics used by political scientists and historians to periodize the political party system existing in the United States between roughly 1792 and 1824. It featured two national parties competing for control of the presidency, Congress, and the states:...

. Adams was the presidential candidate of the Federalist Party and Thomas Pinckney
Thomas Pinckney
Thomas Pinckney was an early American statesman, diplomat and veteran of both the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.-Early life in the military:...

, the Governor
Governor of South Carolina
The Governor of the State of South Carolina is the head of state for the State of South Carolina. Under the South Carolina Constitution, the Governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the South Carolina executive branch. The Governor is the ex officio...

 of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, was also running as a Federalist (at this point, the vice president was whoever came in second, so no running mates existed in the modern sense). The Federalists wanted Adams as their presidential candidate to crush Thomas Jefferson's bid. Most Federalists would have preferred Hamilton to be a candidate. Although Hamilton and his followers supported Adams, they also held a grudge against him. They did consider him to be the lesser of the two evils. However, they thought Adams lacked the seriousness and popularity that had caused Washington to be successful and feared that Adams was too vain, opinionated, unpredictable, and stubborn to follow their directions.

Adams's opponents were former Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, who was joined by Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 on the Democratic-Republican
Democratic-Republican Party (United States)
The Democratic-Republican Party or Republican Party was an American political party founded in the early 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Political scientists use the former name, while historians prefer the latter one; contemporaries generally called the party the "Republicans", along...

 ticket.

As was customary, Adams stayed in his home town of Quincy
Quincy, Massachusetts
Quincy is a city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Its nicknames are "City of Presidents", "City of Legends", and "Birthplace of the American Dream". As a major part of Metropolitan Boston, Quincy is a member of Boston's Inner Core Committee for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council...

 rather than actively campaign for the Presidency. He wanted to stay out of what he called the silly and wicked game. His party, however, campaigned for him, while the Democratic-Republicans
Democratic-Republican Party (United States)
The Democratic-Republican Party or Republican Party was an American political party founded in the early 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Political scientists use the former name, while historians prefer the latter one; contemporaries generally called the party the "Republicans", along...

 campaigned for Jefferson.

It was expected that Adams would dominate the votes in New England, while Jefferson was expected to win in the Southern states. In the end, Adams won the election by a narrow margin of 71 electoral votes to 68 for Jefferson (who became the vice president).

Presidency: 1797–1801


As President, Adams followed Washington's lead in making the presidency the example of republican values, and stressing civic virtue
Civic virtue
Civic virtue is the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. The identification of the character traits that constitute civic virtue have been a major concern of political philosophy...

; he was never implicated in any scandal. Adams continued not just the Washington cabinet but all the major programs of the Washington Administration as well. Adams continued to strengthen the central government, in particular by expanding the navy and army. His economic programs were a continuation of those of Hamilton, who regularly consulted with key cabinet members, especially the powerful Secretary of the Treasury, Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
Oliver Wolcott, Jr.
Oliver Wolcott, Jr. was United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1795 to 1800 and the 24th Governor of Connecticut from 1817 to 1827.-Youth and education:...

 Historians debate his decision to keep the Washington cabinet. Though they were very close to Hamilton, their retention ensured a smoother succession. He remained quite independent of his cabinet throughout his term, often making decisions despite strong opposition from it. It was out of this management style that he avoided war with France, despite a strong desire among his cabinet secretaries for war. The Quasi-War
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

 with France resulted in the disentanglment with European affairs that Washington had sought. It also, like other conflicts
Battle of New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory the United States had acquired with the...

, had enourmous psychological benefits, as America saw itself as holding its own against a European power.

Historian George Herring argues that Adams was the most independent-minded of all the founders. Though he aligned with the Federalists, he was more his own party, disagreeing with the Federalists almost as much as he did the Democratic-Republican opposition. Though often described as "prickly", his independence meant that he had a talent for making good decisions in the face of almost universal hostility. Indeed, it was Adams' decision to push for peace with France, rather than to continue hostilities, that hurt his popularity. Though this decision played an important role in his reelection defeat, he was ultimately thrilled with that decision, so much so that he had it engraved on his tombstone. Adams spent much of his term at his home in Massachusetts, ignoring the details of political patronage that were not ignored by others. Adams' combative spirit did not always lend itself to presidential decorum, as Adams himself admitted in his old age: "[As president] I refused to suffer in silence. I sighed, sobbed, and groaned, and sometimes screeched and screamed. And I must confess to my shame and sorrow that I sometimes swore."

Quasi-War and Peace with France



Adams' term was marked by intense disputes over foreign policy, in particular a desire to stay out of the expanding conflict
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 in Europe. Britain and France were at war
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

; Hamilton and the Federalists favored Britain, while Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans favored France. The French wanted Jefferson to be elected president, and when he wasn't, they became even more belligerent.
When Adams entered office
John Adams 1797 presidential inauguration
The inauguration of John Adams as the second President of the United States took place on Saturday, March 4, 1797. The inauguration marked the commencement of the four-year term of John Adams as President and Thomas Jefferson as Vice President...

, he realized that he needed to continue Washington's policy of staying out of the European war. Indeed, the intense battle over the Jay Treaty
Jay Treaty
Jay's Treaty, , also known as Jay's Treaty, The British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,, and...

 in 1795 permanently polarized politics up and down the nation, marking the start of the First Party System
First Party System
The First Party System is a model of American politics used by political scientists and historians to periodize the political party system existing in the United States between roughly 1792 and 1824. It featured two national parties competing for control of the presidency, Congress, and the states:...

. The French saw America as Britain's junior partner and began seizing American merchant ships that were trading with the British. Americans remained pro-French, due to France's assistance during the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. Because of this, Americans wouldn't rally behind Adams, nor anyone else, to stop France.

That problem ended with the XYZ Affair
XYZ Affair
The XYZ Affair was a 1798 diplomatic episode during the administration of John Adams that Americans interpreted as an insult from France. It led to an undeclared naval war called the Quasi-War, which raged at sea from 1798 to 1800...

, in which the French demanded huge bribes before any discussions could begin. Before this event, Americans mostly supported France, but after the event, most opposed France. The Jeffersonians, who were friends to France, were embarrassed and quickly became the minority as Americans began to demand full scale war. Adams and his advisors knew that America would be unable to win such a conflict, as France at the time was successfully fighting much of Europe. Instead, Adams pursued a strategy whereby American ships would harass French ships in an effort to stop the French assaults on American interests. This was the undeclared naval war between the U.S. and France, called the Quasi-War
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

, which broke out in 1798. There was danger of invasion from the much larger and more powerful French forces, so Adams and the Federalist congress built up the army, bringing back Washington at its head. Washington wanted Hamilton be his second-in-command, and given Washington's fame Adams reluctantly gave in. Given Washington's age, as everyone knew, Hamilton was truly in charge. Adams rebuilt the Navy, adding six fast, powerful frigates
Six original United States frigates
The United States Congress authorized the original six frigates of the United States Navy with the Naval Act of 1794 on 27 March 1794 at a total cost of $688,888.82...

, most notably the USS Constitution
USS Constitution
USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America, she is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel...

. To pay for the new Army and Navy, Congress imposed new taxes on property: the Direct Tax of 1798. It was the first (and last) such federal tax. Taxpayers were angry, nowhere more so than in southeast Pennsylvania, where the bloodless Fries's Rebellion broke out among rural German-speaking farmers who protested what they saw as a threat to their republican liberties and to their churches.

Hamilton assumed a high degree of control over the War department, and the rift between Adams and Hamilton's supporters grew wider. They acted as though Hamilton were president by demanding that he control the army. They also refused to recognize the necessity of giving prominent Democratic-Republicans positions in the army, which Adams wanted to do in order to gain Democratic-Republican support. By building a large standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

, Hamilton's supporters raised popular alarms and played into the hands of the Democratic-Republicans. They also alienated Adams and his large personal following. They shortsightedly viewed the Federalist party as their own tool and ignored the need to pull together the entire nation in the face of war with France. Overall, however, due to patriotism and a series of naval victories, the war remained popular and Adams' popularity remained high.

Adams knew victory in an all out war against imperial France would be impossible, so despite the threats to his popularity, he sought peace. In February 1799, he stunned the country by sending diplomat William Vans Murray
William Vans Murray
William Vans Murray was an American lawyer, politician, and statesman. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates . He next was elected to the US House of Representatives from the fifth district of Maryland, serving from 1791 until 1793. He then represented the eighth district from 1793 to...

 on a peace mission to France. Napoleon, realizing that the conflict was pointless, signaled his readiness for friendly relations. At the Convention of 1800 the Treaty of Alliance of 1778
Treaty of Alliance (1778)
The Treaty of Alliance, also called The Treaty of Alliance with France, was a defensive alliance between France and the United States of America, formed in the midst of the American Revolutionary War, which promised military support in case of attack by British forces indefinitely into the future...

 was superseded and the United States could now be free of foreign entanglements, as Washington advised in his farewell address. He brought in John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

 as Secretary of State and demobilized the emergency army. Adams avoided war, but deeply split his own party in the process. As he suspected would happen, peace hurt his popularity. Nevertheless, Adams was extremely proud of having kept the nation out of war; later in life he even asked that his tombstone read "Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of Peace with France in the year 1800."

Alien and Sedition Acts



Though the Democratic-Republicans were discredited by the XYZ Affair
XYZ Affair
The XYZ Affair was a 1798 diplomatic episode during the administration of John Adams that Americans interpreted as an insult from France. It led to an undeclared naval war called the Quasi-War, which raged at sea from 1798 to 1800...

, their opposition to the Federalists remained high. In an environment of war, and with recent memories of the reign of terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, nerves remained explosive. Democratic-Republicans had supported France, and some even seemed to want an event similar to the French Revolution to come to America to overthrow the Federalists. When Democratic-Republicans in some states refused to enforce federal laws, and even threatened possible rebellion, some Federalists threatened to send in an army and force them to capitulate. As the paranoia sweeping Europe was bleeding over into America, calls for secession reached unparalleled heights, and America seemed ready to rip itself apart. Some of this was seen by Federalists as having been caused by French and French-sympathizing immigrants. Federalists in Congress therefore passed the Alien and Sedition Acts
Alien and Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalists in the 5th United States Congress in the aftermath of the French Revolution's reign of terror and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War. They were signed into law by President John Adams...

, which were signed by Adams in 1798.

There were four separate acts, the The Naturalization Act
Naturalization Act of 1798
The Naturalization Act, passed by Congress on June 18, 1798, increased the amount of time necessary for immigrants to become naturalized citizens in the United States from five to fourteen years...

, the Alien Act, the Alien Enemies Act, and the Sedition Act. These four acts were passed to cool down the opposition by stopping their most extreme firebrands. The Naturalization Act changed the period of residence required before an immigrant could attain American citizenship to 14 years (naturalized citizens tended to vote for the Democratic-Republicans).
The Alien Friends Act and the Alien Enemies Act allowed the president to deport any foreigner he thought dangerous to the country. The Sedition Act made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or its officials. Punishments included 2–5 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. Although Adams had not originated or promoted any of these acts, he nevertheless signed them into law.

Those acts, and the high-profile prosecution of a number of newspaper editors and one member of Congress by the Federalists, became highly controversial. Some historians have noted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were relatively rarely enforced, as only 10 convictions under the Sedition Act have been identified and as Adams never signed a deportation order, and that the furor over the Alien and Sedition Acts was mainly stirred up by the Democratic-Republicans. However, other historians emphasize that the Acts were highly controversial from the outset, resulting in many aliens leaving the country voluntarily, and created an atmosphere where opposing the Federalists, even on the floor of Congress, could and did result in prosecution. The election of 1800 became a bitter and volatile battle, with each side expressing extraordinary fear of the other party and its policies. After Democratic-Republicans won in 1800, they used the acts against Federalists before the acts finally expired.

Reelection campaign 1800



The death of Washington, in 1799, weakened the Federalists, as they lost the one man who symbolized and united the party. In the presidential election of 1800, Adams and his fellow Federalist candidate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Cotesworth “C. C.” Pinckney , was an early American statesman of South Carolina, Revolutionary War veteran, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was twice nominated by the Federalist Party as their presidential candidate, but he did not win either election.-Early life and...

, went against the Republican duo of Jefferson and Burr. Hamilton tried his hardest to sabotage Adams's campaign in the hope of boosting Pinckney's chances of winning the presidency. In the end, Adams lost narrowly to Jefferson by 65 to 73 electoral votes, with New York casting the decisive vote.

Adams was defeated because of better organization by the Republicans and Federalist disunity; by the controversy of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the popularity of Jefferson in the south, and the effective politicking of Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 in New York State
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, where the legislature (which selected the electoral college) shifted from Federalist to Democratic-Republican on the basis of a few wards in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 controlled by Burr's machine. Ultimately, however, Jefferson owed his election victory to the South's inflated number of Electors, which counted slaves under the three-fifths compromise
Three-fifths compromise
The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves would be counted for representation purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the...

.

In the closing months of his term Adams became the first president to occupy the new, but unfinished President's Mansion
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 (later known as the White House), beginning November 1, 1800. Since 1800 was not a leap year, he served one less day in office than all other one-term presidents.

Midnight Judges



The lame-duck session of Congress enacted the Judiciary Act of 1801, which created a set of federal appeals courts between the district courts and the Supreme Court. The purpose of the statute was twofold -- first, to remedy the defects in the federal judicial system inherent in the Judiciary Act of 1789
Judiciary Act of 1789
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 was a landmark statute adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress establishing the U.S. federal judiciary...

, and, second, to enable the defeated Federalists to staff the new judicial offices with loyal Federalists in the face of the party's defeat in presidential and congressional elections in 1800. As his term was expiring, Adams filled the vacancies created by this statute by appointing a series of judges, whom his opponents called the "Midnight Judges
Midnight Judges
The Midnight Judges Act represented an effort to solve an issue in the U.S. Supreme Court during the early 19th century. There was concern, beginning in 1789, about the system that required the justices of the Supreme Court to “ride circuit” and reiterate decisions made in the appellate level...

" because most of them were formally appointed days before the presidential term expired. Most of these judges lost their posts when the Jeffersonian Republicans enacted the Judiciary Act of 1802, abolishing the courts created by the Judiciary Act of 1801 and returning the structure of the federal courts to its original structure as specified in the 1789 statute. One of Adams' greatest legacies was his naming of John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

 as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 to succeed Oliver Ellsworth
Oliver Ellsworth
Oliver Ellsworth was an American lawyer and politician, a revolutionary against British rule, a drafter of the United States Constitution, and the third Chief Justice of the United States. While at the Federal Convention, Ellsworth moved to strike the word National from the motion made by Edmund...

, who had retired due to ill health. Marshall's long tenure represents the most lasting influence of the Federalists, as Marshall infused the Constitution with a judicious and carefully reasoned nationalistic interpretation and established the Judicial Branch as the equal of the Executive and Legislative branches.

Major presidential actions

  • Built up the U.S. Navy
    United States Navy
    The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

  • Fought the Quasi War with France, 1798-1800
  • Signed Alien and Sedition Acts
    Alien and Sedition Acts
    The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalists in the 5th United States Congress in the aftermath of the French Revolution's reign of terror and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War. They were signed into law by President John Adams...

     of 1798
  • Ended war with France through diplomacy, 1799-1800
  • Appointed John Marshall
    John Marshall
    John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

     to Supreme Court, 1801

State of the Union Address

  • First State of the Union Address (November 22, 1797)
  • Second State of the Union Address, (December 8, 1798)
  • Third State of the Union Address, (December 3, 1799)
  • Fourth State of the Union Address, (November 22, 1800)

Administration, Cabinet and Supreme Court Appointments 1797–1801



Post presidency



Following his 1800 defeat, Adams retired into private life. Depressed when he left office, he did not attend Jefferson's inauguration, making him one of only four surviving presidents (i.e., those who did not die in office) not to attend his successor's inauguration. Adams's correspondence with Jefferson at the time of the transition suggests that he did not feel the animosity or resentment that later scholars have attributed to him. He left Washington before Jefferson's inauguration as much out of sorrow at the death of his son Charles Adams (due in part to the younger man's alcoholism) and his desire to rejoin his wife Abigail, who had left for Massachusetts months before the inauguration. Adams resumed farming at his home, Peacefield
Peacefield
Peacefield, also called Old House, is a historic home formerly owned by second President of the United States, John Adams, and other members of the Adams family, located in Quincy, Massachusetts near Boston...

, near the town of Quincy, which had absorbed his birthplace, Braintree
Quincy, Massachusetts
Quincy is a city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Its nicknames are "City of Presidents", "City of Legends", and "Birthplace of the American Dream". As a major part of Metropolitan Boston, Quincy is a member of Boston's Inner Core Committee for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council...

. He began to work on an autobiography (which he never finished), and resumed correspondence with such old friends as Benjamin Waterhouse
Benjamin Waterhouse
Benjamin Waterhouse was a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School...

 and Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, humanitarian and a Christian Universalist, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania....

. He also began a bitter and resentful correspondence with an old family friend, Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren was a political writer and propagandist of the American Revolution. In the eighteenth century, topics such as politics and war were thought to be the province of men. Few women had the education or training to write about these subjects. Warren was the exception...

, protesting how in her 1805 history of the American Revolution she had, in his view, caricatured his political beliefs and misrepresented his services to the country.

After Jefferson's retirement from public life in 1809 after two terms as President, Adams became more vocal. For three years he published a stream of letters in the Boston Patriot newspaper
Boston Patriot (newspaper)
The Boston Patriot was a semiweekly newspaper founded in 1809 to promote the interests of the Democratic party. Between 1809 and 1812, it published a series of autobiographical letters by John Adams....

, presenting a long and almost line-by-line refutation of an 1800 pamphlet by Hamilton attacking his conduct and character. Though Hamilton had died in 1804 from a mortal wound sustained in his notorious duel with Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

, Adams felt the need to vindicate his character against the New Yorker's vehement attacks.

In early 1812, Adams reconciled with Jefferson. Their mutual friend Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, humanitarian and a Christian Universalist, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania....

, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 who had been corresponding with both, encouraged each man to reach out to the other. On New Year's Day 1812, Adams sent a brief, friendly note to Jefferson to accompany the delivery of "two pieces of homespun," a two-volume collection of lectures on rhetoric by John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

. Jefferson replied immediately with a warm, friendly letter, and the two men revived their friendship, which they conducted by mail. The correspondence that they resumed in 1812 lasted the rest of their lives, and thereafter has been hailed as one of their greatest legacies and a monument of American literature.
Their letters are rich in insight into both the period and the minds of the two Presidents and revolutionary leaders. Their correspondence lasted fourteen years, and consisted of 158 letters. It was in these years that the two men discussed "natural aristocracy." Jefferson said, "The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society. May we not even say that the form of government is best which provides most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?" Adams wondered if it ever would be so clear who these people were, "Your distinction between natural and artificial aristocracy does not appear to me well founded. Birth and wealth are conferred on some men as imperiously by nature, as genius, strength, or beauty. . . . When aristocracies are established by human laws and honour, wealth, and power are made hereditary by municipal laws and political institutions, then I acknowledge artificial aristocracy to commence." It would always be true, Adams argued, that fate would bestow influence on some men for reasons other than true wisdom and virtue. That being the way of nature, he thought such "talents" were natural. A good government, therefore, had to account for that reality.

Sixteen months before John Adams's death, his son, John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, became the sixth President of the United States (1825–1829), the only son of a former President to hold the office until George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 in 2001.

Adams's daughter Abigail ("Nabby") was married to Representative William Stephens Smith, but she returned to her parents' home after the failure of her marriage. She died of breast cancer in 1813. His son Charles died as an alcoholic in 1800. Abigail, his wife, died of typhoid on October 28, 1818. His son Thomas and his family lived with Adams and Louisa Smith (Abigail's niece by her brother William) to the end of Adams's life.

Death


Less than a month before his death, John Adams issued a statement about the destiny of the United States, which historians such as Joy Hakim
Joy Hakim
Joy Hakim is an American author who has written a ten-volume history of the United States, A History of US, and Freedom: A History of US , all published by Oxford University Press...

 have characterized as a "warning" for his fellow citizens. Adams said:

My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.


On July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Adams died at his home in Quincy. Told that it was the Fourth, he answered clearly, "It is a great day. It is a good day." His last words have been reported as "Thomas Jefferson survives" (Jefferson himself, however, had died hours before he did). His death left Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a wealthy Maryland planter and an early advocate of independence from Great Britain. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and later as United States Senator for Maryland...

 as the last surviving signatory of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams died while his son John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 was president.

His crypt lies at United First Parish Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents) in Quincy. Originally, he was buried in Hancock Cemetery
Hancock Cemetery
Hancock Cemetery is a historic cemetery on Hancock Street in Quincy Square in Quincy, Massachusetts, United States. It is named after Reverend John Hancock , father of Founding Father John Hancock....

, across the road from the Church. Until his record was broken by Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 in 2001, he was the nation's longest-living President (90 years, 247 days) maintaining that record for 175 years.

Religious views


Adams was raised a Congregationalist
Congregational church
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....

, becoming a Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 at a time when most of the Congregational churches around Boston were turning to Unitarianism. Adams was educated at Harvard when the influence of deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 was growing there, and used deistic terms in his speeches and writing. He believed in the essential goodness of the creation, but, being a Unitarian, his beliefs excluded the divinity of Christ. He also believed that regular church service was beneficial to man's moral sense. Everett (1966) concludes that "Adams strove for a religion based on a common sense sort of reasonableness" and maintained that religion must change and evolve toward perfection. Fielding (1940) shows that Adams's beliefs synthesized Puritan, deist, and humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 concepts. Adams thought Christianity had originally been revelatory
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

, but was being misinterpreted and misused in the service of superstition, fraud, and unscrupulous power. Goff (1993) acknowledges Fielding's "persuasive argument that Adams never was a deist because he allowed the suspension of the laws of nature and believed that evil was internal, not the result of external institutions." Frazer (2004) notes that, while Adams shared many perspectives with deists, "Adams clearly was not a deist. Deism rejected any and all supernatural activity and intervention by God; consequently, deists did not believe in miracles or God's providence....Adams, however, did believe in miracles, providence, and, to a certain extent, the Bible as revelation." Fraser concludes that Adams's "theistic rationalism, like that of the other Founders, was a sort of middle ground between Protestantism and deism." By contrast, David L. Holmes has argued that John Adams, beginning as a Congregationalist, ended his days as a Christian Unitarian, accepting central tenets of the Unitarian creed but also accepting Jesus as the redeemer of humanity and the biblical account of his miracles as true.

In common with many of his contemporaries, Adams criticized the claims to universal authority made by the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1796, Adams denounced political opponent Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

's criticisms of Christianity in his book The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a deistic pamphlet, written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible, the central sacred text of...

, saying, "The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will."

The Unitarian Universalist Historical Society provides information about Adams's religious beliefs. They quote from his letter to Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, humanitarian and a Christian Universalist, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania....

, an early promoter of Universalist thought, "I have attended public worship in all countries and with all sects and believe them all much better than no religion, though I have not thought myself obliged to believe all I heard." The Society also relates how Rush reconciled Adams to his former friend Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 in 1812, after many bitter political battles. This resulted in correspondence between Adams and Jefferson about many topics, including philosophy and religion. In one of these communications, Adams told Jefferson, "The Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 and the Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

 contain my religion." In another letter, Adams reveals his sincere devotion to God, "My Adoration of the Author of the Universe is too profound and too sincere. The Love of God and his Creation; delight, Joy, Tryumph, Exaltation in my own existence, tho' but an Atom, a molecule Organique, in the Universe, are my religion." He continues by revealing his Universalist sympathies, rejection of orthodox Christian dogma, and his personal belief that he was a true Christian for not accepting such dogma, "Howl, Snarl, bite, Ye Calvinistick! Ye Athanasian Divines, if You will. Ye will say, I am no Christian: I say Ye are no Christians: and there the Account is ballanced. Yet I believe all the honest men among you, are Christians in my Sense of the Word." The Society also demonstrates that Adams rejected orthodox Christian doctrines of the trinity, predestination, yet equated human understanding and the human conscience to "celestial communication" or personal revelation from God. It is also shown that Adams held a strong conviction in life after death or otherwise, as he explained, "You might be ashamed of your Maker."

Ancestry





Biographies


The first notable biography of John Adams appeared as the first two volumes of The Works of John Adams, Esq., Second President of the United States, edited by Charles Francis Adams and published between 1850 and 1856 by Charles C. Little and James Brown in Boston. This biography's first seven chapters were the work of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, but the rest of the biography was the work of Charles Francis Adams
Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
Charles Francis Adams, Sr. was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat and writer. He was the grandson of President John Adams and Abigail Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams....

.

The first modern biography was Honest John Adams, a 1933 biography by the noted French specialist in American history Gilbert Chinard, who came to Adams after writing his acclaimed 1929 biography of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

. For a generation, Chinard's work was regarded as the best life of Adams, and it is still a key factor in determining the themes of Adams biographical and historical scholarship. Following the opening of the Adams family papers in the 1950s, Page Smith
Page Smith
Charles Page Smith , who was known by his middle name, was a U.S. historian, professor, author, and newspaper columnist....

 published the first major biography to use these previously inaccessible primary sources; his biography won a 1962 Bancroft Prize
Bancroft Prize
The Bancroft Prize is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. It was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft...

 but was criticized for its scanting of Adams's intellectual life and its diffuseness. In 1975, Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw may refer to:* Peter Shaw , English physician and medical author* Peter Shaw , kidnapped in June 2002* Peter Shaw , British actor and film producer, husband of actress Angela Lansbury...

 published The Character of John Adams, a thematic biography noted for its graceful prose and its psychological insight into Adams's life. The 1992 character study by Joseph J. Ellis, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, was Ellis's first major publishing success and remains one of the most useful and insightful studies of Adams's personality. In 1993, the Revolutionary War historian and biographer John E. Ferling
John E. Ferling
John E. Ferling is a professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia. As a leading historian in the American Revolution, he has appeared in television documentaries on PBS, the History Channel, C-SPAN Book TV, and the Learning Channel...

 published his acclaimed John Adams, also noted for its psychological sensitivity; many scholars regard it as the best biography to date.

In 2001, the popular historian David McCullough
David McCullough
David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award....

 published a large biography of John Adams that won various awards and general acclaim. McCullough's biography was developed into a 2008 TV miniseries
John Adams (TV miniseries)
John Adams is a 2008 American television miniseries chronicling most of President John Adams's political life and his role in the founding of the United States. Paul Giamatti portrays John Adams. The miniseries was directed by Tom Hooper. Kirk Ellis wrote the screenplay based on the book John...

) in which Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti
Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti is an American actor. Giamatti began his career as a supporting actor in several films produced during the 1990s including Private Parts, The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan, The Negotiator, and Man on the Moon, before earning lead roles in several projects in the...

 portrayed John Adams. Finance writer James Grant
James Grant (finance)
James Grant is an American writer and publisher. The founder of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, a twice-monthly journal of the financial markets, he is the author of Money of the Mind , The Trouble with Prosperity , John Adams: Party of One and Mr. Speaker: The Life and Times of Thomas B...

 published John Adams, Party of One in 2005.

See also

  • John Adams Building
    John Adams Building
    The John Adams Building is one of three library buildings of the Library of Congress in the United States. The building was originally built simply as an annex to the Library's Main Building . It opened its doors to the public on January 3, 1939...

     of the Library of Congress
  • Suffolk County Courthouse
    Suffolk County Courthouse
    The Suffolk County Courthouse, also known as the "John Adams Courthouse", is a historic courthouse building on Pemberton Square in Boston, Massachusetts that is home to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court....

    , also known as the "John Adams Courthouse"
  • Novanglus Essays

Primary sources

  • Adams, C.F. The Works of John Adams, with Life (10 vols., Boston, 1850–1856)
  • Butterfield, L. H. et al., eds., The Adams Papers (1961– ). Multivolume letterpress edition of all letters to and from major members of the Adams family, plus their diaries; still incomplete.
  • Cappon, Lester J. ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams (1988).
  • Carey, George W., ed. The Political Writings of John Adams. (2001). Compilation of extracts from Adams's major political writings.
  • Diggins, John P., ed. The Portable John Adams. (2004)
  • John A. Schutz and Douglass Adair, eds. Spur of Fame, The Dialogues of John Adams and Benjamin Rush, 1805–1813 (1966) ISBN 978-0-86597-287-2
  • C. Bradley Thompson, ed. Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, (2001) ISBN 978-0-86597-285-8
  • John Adams, Novanglus; or, A History of the Dispute with America (1774) online version
  • Brinkley, Alan, and Davis Dyer. The American Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin company, 2004.
  • Hogan, Margaret and C. James Taylor, eds. My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Taylor, Robert J. et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  • Wroth, L. Kinvin and Hiller B. Zobel, eds. The Legal Papers of John Adams. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  • Butterfield, L. H., ed. Adams Family Correspondence. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

External links


  • John Adams: A Resource Guide at the Library of Congress
    Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

  • John Adams at the White House
    White House
    The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

  • John Adams Exhibit at Mass.gov
  • John Adams and the Massachusetts Constitution at Mass.gov
  • The John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library
    Boston Public Library
    The Boston Public Library is a municipal public library system in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States, the first large library open to the public in the United States, and the first public library to allow people to...

  • Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive at the Massachusetts Historical Society
    Massachusetts Historical Society
    The Massachusetts Historical Society is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history...

  • American President: John Adams (1735–1826) at the Miller Center of Public Affairs
    Miller Center of Public Affairs
    The Miller Center of Public Affairs is a non-partisan research institute that is part of the University of Virginia.Founded in 1975, the Miller Center is a leading public policy institution that serves as a national meeting place where engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives and...

    , University of Virginia
  • John Adams Papers at the Avalon Project
    Avalon Project
    The Avalon Project is a digital library of documents relating to law, history and diplomacy. The project is part of the Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library....

  • John Adams: "Inaugural Address", March 4, 1797 at The American Presidency Project
  • State of the Union Addresses, at The American Presidency Project: 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800
  • "Thoughts on Government" Adams, April 1776 at the Constitution Society
    Constitution Society
    The Constitution Society is a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Austin, Texas, U.S., founded in 1994 by Jon Roland, a self-employed computer and management consultant...

  • The Health and Medical History of President John Adams at DoctorZebra
  • John Adams at The American Revolution website
  • John Adams at American Presidents: Life Portraits, C-SPAN
    C-SPAN
    C-SPAN , an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is an American cable television network that offers coverage of federal government proceedings and other public affairs programming via its three television channels , one radio station and a group of websites that provide streaming...

  • John Adams at the Jewish Encyclopedia
    Jewish Encyclopedia
    The Jewish Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia originally published in New York between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. It contained over 15,000 articles in 12 volumes on the history and then-current state of Judaism and the Jews as of 1901...




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