John Adams in Childhood
John Adams was born in Quincy, Massachusetts on October 30, 1735. As a young man, John Adams desired to follow in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. However, his parents desired for him to be educated. Adams hated school until he came under the influence of a tutor, Joseph Marsh. Marsh took a “broader approach to his work that ignited a love of books and self-discipline” in Adams. [HH] He became a lifelong learner due to Marsh’s influence.
John Adams The Lawyer
After graduating from Harvard with his B.A. (1755) and his M.A. (1758), Adams studied law. He became a prominent attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon his father’s death, John Adams inherited the family home and seven acres of land.
His most famous representation was of eight English soldiers who shot and killed six colonists and wounded a seventh who opposed the British king’s Stamp Act. Colonial lawyers were unwilling to risk their lives before the mob-like colonists who were angry over the senseless killings.
John Adams strongly believed in a fair trial, and through his representation, “Six of the soldiers were acquitted, and two were charged with manslaughter and branded on their hands, then released. None were executed.” [HH]
“The Part I took in Defense of Captain Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my Country.”
“Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul as a stain upon this Country as the executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right.” ~John Adams [HH]
Leader at Home and Abroad
John Adams was a delegate in the First and Second Continental Congress and was instrumental in aiding Thomas Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence.
Adams aided Benjamin Franklin and John Jay in officially ending the hostilities between Britain and America through the Treaty of Paris. Adams was the United States’ first ambassador to Britain, serving as ambassador for three years. Adams returned with the following conviction.
“[The] belief that government must contain and control emotional forces [within], to construct a political system capable of balancing the ambitions of individuals and competing social classes.” ~John Adams [E]
Upon his return to America, Adams participated in the Constitutional Convention which elected Washington as the nation’s first president and Adams as the first vice president.
Serving as the nation’s first vice president proved to be eight years of frustration for John Adams.
“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” ~John Adams1
Adams the Second President
During this time, the political parties did not put forth a president and vice president of the same political bent as we do today. The president and vice president were simply the two highest recipients of votes.
John Adams as a Federalist believed in a strong federal government that was neutral, and desired to maintain ties with Great Britain. His vice president, Thomas Jefferson as a Democratic-Republican (forerunner of the modern Democratic Party) supported state and local governments and desired to maintain an alliance with France.2
Adams’s attempts to lead from the middle brought criticism from both partisan groups. His decision to negotiate peace with France instead of declaring war equaled a major foreign policy triumph but ruined him politically at home.
This coupled with Adams’s greatest domestic error, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, meant Adams only served one term as president.
Retirement: Farming and Writing
John Adams spent his remaining twenty-five years farming and writing. Adams was admired as a great intellectual and regarded as a remarkable political philosopher.
John Adams died at his home, Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1826 (the Declaration of Independence’s 50th anniversary), at the age of 90.
This is a great little video of John Adams: https://www.britannica.com/video/172697/overview-John-Adams
My collection of writings for Writing Together for 31 Days Writing Challenges – Strength with Dignity
1 John Adams. Originally published by History.com Editors on October 27, 2009; updated March 22, 2022. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from John Adams – Presidency, Facts & Children (history.com)
2 Ellis, Joseph J. [E] John Adams –President of United States. Published by Britannica and last updated September 5, 2023. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from John Adams | Biography, Political Party, Children, Presidency, & Facts | Britannica [This information was taken from the site’s video.]
John Adams – A Life from Beginning to End. Published by Hourly History [HH] in 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
Video retrieved October 2, 2023, from Life of the Second U.S. President John Adams examined | Britannica