John Adams
Second U.S. president
John Adams
John Adams was the second President of the United States (1797–1801), having earlier served as the first Vice President of the United States. An American Founding Father, he was a statesman, diplomat, and a leader of American independence from Great Britain. Well educated, he was an Enlightenment political theorist who promoted republicanism. Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution.
John Adams's personal information overview.
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MUSEUM REVIEW; Alexander Hamilton’s Renovated Grange - Review
NYTimes - over 5 years
When you look at Alexander Hamilton’s home comfortably nestled on the sloping hillside of St. Nicholas Park in an area of northern Manhattan that has long been known as Hamilton Heights, it almost seems to be ... well ... at home. Admittedly there are a few jarring juxtapositions with nearby buildings, none of which can claim anything close
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OPINION; If Obama Is a One-Term President
NYTimes - over 5 years
Princeton, N.J. ''I'D rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,'' President Obama confessed to ABC News' Diane Sawyer last year. Other than the ''really good'' part, Republicans would be happy to see this wish fulfilled. With waning approval ratings and a stagnant economy, the possibility that Mr. Obama will not
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WEEKEND MISER; The Last Throes of Summer
NYTimes - over 5 years
Cursing Irene for blowing your second-to-last summer weekend? Don't pack up your sundresses and swim trunks just yet. There's still time to kick away those fallen limbs, wipe that rain from your eyes and plunge once more into the (cheap) events that have made us lazy, hazy and crazy (in a good way) this summer. The Museum of Modern Art may have
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John Adams: Wait for football too long; season too fast - GoVolsXtra
Google News - over 5 years
You know how it goes. August drags along like a blocking sled being pushed by sportswriters. But once the college football season starts, the days fly by like plays in Oregon's offense. If August inches along for fans, you can make an
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John Adams: Experience pays off for Kirk Triplett - Knoxville News Sentinel
Google News - over 5 years
Kirk Triplett hoists the championship trophy after winning the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot with a 21-under at Fox Den Country Club Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Triplett shot 4-under for the day and finished two strokes ahead of second place winner
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John Adams: Coaching consistency will pay off for Vols - GoVolsXtra
Google News - over 5 years
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches a replay on the Jumbotron during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2011. One season isn't long enough to judge a football coach. But if you're already determined to
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Niles credits defense against John Adams - Youngstown Vindicator
Google News - over 5 years
In a fight to the finish, Niles defeated Cleveland John Adams 17-15 on Friday at Bo Rein Stadium. Niles led 17-7 after three quarters, but John Adams narrowed the scoring gap to two points with a fourth quarter touchdown when William Doyle
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John Adams: News Sentinel Open goes from survival to success - Knoxville News Sentinel
Google News - over 5 years
This News Sentinel Open doesn't look much different from the last one on first glance. John Daly is back. So are his fans and Loudmouth pants. The weather is good. The scores are even better. And tournament director Patrick Nichol is
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MUSIC REVIEW; Louis Langrée Leads Beethoven at Lincoln Center - Review
NYTimes - over 5 years
Just as you can put on a brave face to conceal your suffering, composers sometimes write works whose cheeriness belies a tortured state of mind. Beethoven began composing his vivacious Eighth Symphony in the summer of 1812, when he was enduring a painful affair of the heart with the woman he called “Immortal Beloved.” But there is
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Virtuosos Becoming A Dime A Dozen
NYTimes - over 5 years
THE latest young pianist from China to excite classical music audiences and earn raves from critics is the 24-year-old Yuja Wang, a distinctive artist with a comprehensive technique. That Ms. Wang is already a musician of consequence was made clear this year when Deutsche Grammophon released her first recording with an orchestra: performances of
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of John Adams
  • 1826
    Age 90
    On July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Adams died at his home in Quincy, at approximately 6:20 PM.
    More Details Hide Details Jefferson died earlier the same day. Adams' crypt lies at United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, with his wife Abigail and son John Quincy Adams. When Adams died, his last words included an acknowledgement of his longtime friend and rival: "Thomas Jefferson survives", though Adams was unaware that Jefferson had died several hours before. Adams never bought a slave and declined on principle to utilize slave labor, saying, "I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in such abhorrence, that I have never owned a negro or any other slave, though I have lived for many years in times, when the practice was not disgraceful, when the best men in my vicinity thought it not inconsistent with their character, and when it has cost me thousands of dollars for the labor and subsistence of free men, which I might have saved by the purchase of negroes at times when they were very cheap." Adams generally tried to keep the issue out of national politics, because of the anticipated southern response during a time when unity was needed to achieve independence. He 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. Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts about 1780, when it was forbidden by implication in the Declaration of Rights that John Adams wrote into the Massachusetts Constitution.
  • 1825
    Age 89
    Sixteen months before John Adams' death, his son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth president of the United States in 1825, the only son to succeed his father as President until George W. Bush in 2001.
    More Details Hide Details In early 1812, Adams reconciled with Jefferson. Their mutual friend Benjamin Rush, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence who had been corresponding with both, encouraged them to reach out to the other. On New Year's Day 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. Jefferson replied immediately with a cordial letter, and the two men revived their friendship, which they sustained by mail. The correspondence that they resumed in 1812 lasted the rest of their lives, and has been hailed as among their great legacies of American literature. Their letters represent an insight into both the period and the minds of the two revolutionary leaders and Presidents. The missives lasted fourteen years, and consisted of 158 letters–109 from Adams and 49 from Jefferson. 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 aristocrats 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.
  • 1804
    Age 68
    Though Hamilton had died in 1804 in a duel with Aaron Burr, Adams felt the need to vindicate his character against the New Yorker's vehement charges.
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  • 1803
    Age 67
    The years of retirement in the Adams' household were not without some temporary financial adversity; in 1803 the bank holding his cash reserves of about $13,000 collapsed.
    More Details Hide Details Son John Quincy came to the rescue by purchasing from him his properties in Weymouth and Quincy, including Peacefield, for the sum of $12,800. Daughter Abigail ("Nabby") was married to Representative William Stephens Smith, but she returned to her parents' home after the failure of the marriage; she died of breast cancer in 1813. His wife Abigail died of typhoid on October 28, 1818. His son Thomas and wife Ann, along with seven children, lived with Adams to the end of Adams' life, as well as Louisa Smith (Abigail's niece by her brother William).
  • 1800
    Age 64
    He published a three-year marathon of letters in the Boston Patriot newspaper, refuting line-by-line an 1800 pamphlet by Hamilton which attacked his conduct and character.
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    In the closing months of his term Adams became the first president to occupy the new, but unfinished President's Mansion (later known as the White House) beginning November 1, 1800. "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it," Adams wrote on his second night in the mansion. "May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."
    More Details Hide Details After his defeat in the hotly contested election, Adams was depressed when he left office. His son Charles had also recently died from alcoholism, and he was anxious to rejoin his wife Abigail, who had left for Massachusetts months before the inauguration. As a result, he did not attend Jefferson's inauguration, departing the White House at 4:00 a.m. that day, and making him one of only four presidents surviving in office not to attend his successor's inauguration. Adams' correspondence with Jefferson at the time is not indicative of the animosity and resentment that scholars have attributed to him. Adams named John Marshall as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States to succeed Oliver Ellsworth, who had retired due to ill health. Marshall's long tenure represents the most lasting influence of the Federalists, as he 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.
    In the presidential election of 1800, Adams and his fellow Federalist candidate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, opposed the Republican ticket of Jefferson and Burr.
    More Details Hide Details Hamilton tried his hardest to sabotage Adams' 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 providing the decisive margin. Adams' defeat resulted from 1) the stronger organization of the Democratic-Republicans, 2) Federalist disunity, 3) the controversy of the Alien and Sedition Acts, 4) the popularity of Jefferson in the south and 5) the effective politicking of Aaron Burr in New York State, where the legislature shifted from Federalist to Democratic-Republican on the basis of a few wards in New York City controlled by Burr's machine.
  • 1799
    Age 63
    In February 1799, Adams surprised many by sending diplomat William Vans Murray on a peace mission to France.
    More Details Hide Details Napoleon, realizing that the conflict was pointless, signaled his readiness for friendly relations. At the Convention of 1800 the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 was superseded and the United States was then free of foreign entanglements, as Washington had advised in his farewell address. Adams brought in John Marshall as Secretary of State and demobilized the emergency army. Adams proudly avoided war, but deeply split his party in the process. Despite the discredit of the XYZ Affair, the Democratic-Republicans' opposition persisted. In the midst of war, which included the reign of terror during the French Revolution, political tensions were incendiary. Some pro-French Democratic-Republicans even fostered a movement in America, similar to the French Revolution, to overthrow the Federalists. When Democratic-Republicans in some states refused to enforce federal laws, some Federalists voiced the intention to send in an army and force them to capitulate. As the hostility sweeping Europe bled over into America, calls for secession began to reach new heights. Some Federalists accused the French and their associated immigrants of provoking civil unrest. In an attempt to quell the uprising, the Federalists introduced, and the Congress passed, a series of laws collectively referred to as the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were signed by Adams in 1798.
  • 1798
    Age 62
    The majority of the legal actions began in 1798 and 1799, and went to trial on the eve of the 1800 presidential election–timing that hardly appeared coincidental, according to biographer Ferling.
    More Details Hide Details Other historians have cited evidence that the Alien and Sedition Acts were rarely enforced, namely: 1) only 10 convictions under the Sedition Act have been identified; 2) Adams never signed a deportation order; and 3) the sources of expressed furor over the acts were Democratic-Republicans. However, other historians have emphasized that the Acts were employed for political targeting from the outset, causing many aliens to leave the country. The Acts as well allowed for prosecution of many who opposed the Federalists, even on the floor of Congress. In any case, the election of 1800 in fact became a bitter and volatile contest, with each side expressing extraordinary fear of the other and its policies; after Democratic-Republicans prevailed in the elections of 1800, they used the acts against Federalists before the laws finally expired. The death of Washington in 1799 weakened the Federalists, as they lost the one man who united the party.
    In July 1798 Adams signed into law the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen, which authorized the establishment of a government-operated marine hospital service.
    More Details Hide Details Historians debate his decision to retain en masse the members of Washington's cabinet. Many felt he was oblivious to the political danger of such a decision, in light of the cabinet's loyalty to Hamilton. The "Hamiltonians who surround him," Jefferson soon remarked, "you are only a little less hostile to him than to me." Although aware of the Hamilton factor, Adams was convinced their retention ensured a smoother succession. Adams' economic programs maintained those of Hamilton, who indeed had regularly consulted with key cabinet members, especially the powerful Secretary of the Treasury, Oliver Wolcott, Jr. Adams was in other respects quite independent of his cabinet, often making decisions despite strong opposition from it. Such self-reliance enabled him to avoid war with France, despite a strong desire among his cabinet secretaries for the conflict. The Quasi-War with France resulted in the detachment from European affairs that Washington had sought. It also had psychological benefits, allowing America to view itself as holding its own against a European power.
  • 1796
    Age 60
    Adams' credentials as a revolutionary secured for him two terms as President George Washington's vice president (1789 to 1797) and also his own election in 1796 as the second president.
    More Details Hide Details In his single term as president, he encountered fierce criticism from the Jeffersonian Republicans, as well as the dominant faction in his own Federalist Party, led by his rival Alexander Hamilton. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts, and built up the army and navy in the face of an undeclared naval "Quasi-War" with France. The major accomplishment of his presidency was a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the face of Hamilton's opposition. Due to his strong posture on defense, Adams is "often called the father of the American Navy". He was the first U.S. president to reside in the executive mansion, now known as the White House. In 1800, Adams lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson, and retired to Massachusetts. He eventually resumed his friendship with Jefferson upon the latter's own retirement by initiating a correspondence which lasted fourteen years. He and his wife established a family of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family. Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States. He died on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Modern historians in the aggregate have ranked his administration favorably.
  • 1792
    Age 56
    He was re-elected Vice President in 1792.
    More Details Hide Details Washington seldom asked Adams for advice on policy and legal issues during his tenure as Vice President. At the start 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 derived from British Crown tradition, such as "His Majesty the President" or "His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties." Jefferson described Adams' proposed titles as "superlatively ridiculous." The plain "President of the United States" eventually won the debate. The perceived pomposity of his stance, along with his being overweight, led to Adams earning the nickname "His Rotundity." As president of the Senate, Adams cast a historic 31 tie-breaking votes. He thus protected the president's sole authority over the removal of appointees and influenced the location of the nation's capital. But his views did not always align with Washington, who joined Franklin as the object of Adams' ire, as shown in this quote: "The History of our Revolution will be one continued lie.... The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical Rod smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his Rod—and henceforth these two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislatures and War." 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.
  • 1789
    Age 53
    When Washington won the presidential election of 1789 with 69 votes in the electoral college, Adams came in second with 34 votes and became Vice President; in that capacity, he became under the Constitution the President of the United States Senate.
    More Details Hide Details Due to a delay in the decision of the electoral college, Adams first presided over the Senate on April 21. Washington was officially sworn in and gave his inaugural address on April 30. Beyond Adams' nominal position in the Senate (he was allowed a vote as a tiebreaker when required), he otherwise played a minor role in the politics of the early 1790s.
  • 1785
    Age 49
    Adams was appointed in 1785 the first American minister to the Court of St. James's (ambassador to Great Britain).
    More Details Hide Details When asked by a counterpart if he had any British relatives, Adams replied, "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". During her visit to Washington to mark the bicentennial of American independence in 1976, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom gave historical perspective to Adams' service: "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".
  • 1784
    Age 48
    In 1784 and 1785, he was one of the architects of extensive trade relations between the United States and Prussia.
    More Details Hide Details The Prussian ambassador in The Hague, Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer, was involved, as were Jefferson and Franklin, who were in Paris.
  • 1782
    Age 46
    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.
    More Details Hide Details The house that Adams bought during this stay in The Netherlands became the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.
    With the aid of the Dutch Patriot leader Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, Adams secured the recognition of the United States as an independent government at The Hague on April 19, 1782.
    More Details Hide Details In February 1782 the Frisian states was the first Dutch province to recognize the United States, while France had been the first European country to grant diplomatic recognition in 1778. He also negotiated a loan of five million guilders financed by Nicolaas van Staphorst and Wilhelm Willink. By 1794 a total of eleven loans were granted in Amsterdam to the United States with a value of 29 million guilders.
  • 1780
    Age 44
    Adams' preoccupation with political and governmental affairs–which caused considerable separation from his wife and children–ironically had a distinct familial context, which he articulated in 1780: "I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.
    More Details Hide Details My sons ought to study Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecutre, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine." The Massachusetts Constitution of that year, to which Adams was a primary contributor, structured its government closely on his views of politics and society; in 1779, he drafted the document together with Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin. It was the first constitution written by a special committee, then ratified by the people; and was also the first to feature a bicameral legislature. Included were a distinct executive–though restrained by an executive council–with a partial (two-thirds) veto, and a separate 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 and other European writers as to the viciousness of state government frameworks. 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. Adams' Defence is described as an articulation of the classical republican theory of mixed government. 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.
    In July 1780 Adams replaced Laurens as the ambassador to the Dutch Republic, then one of the few other Republics in the world.
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  • 1779
    Age 43
    In the fall of 1779 Adams was unanimously appointed a Minister Plenipotentiary, charged with negotiating a "treaty of peace, amity and commerce" with peace commissioners from Britain.
    More Details Hide Details Following the conclusion of the Massachusetts constitutional convention, he departed for Europe in November aboard the French frigate Sensible – accompanied by John Quincy and 9-year-old son Charles. In France, constant disagreement between Lee and Franklin eventually resulted in Adams assuming the role of tie-breaker in almost all votes on commission business; Adams also increased his usefulness by mastering the French language. In time Lee was recalled and Adams later developed his own enmity towards the older Franklin, whom the younger, more aggressive Adams felt was overly deferential to the French. The French foreign minister, Charles Gravier disapproved of Adams, so Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, and Henry Laurens were appointed to collaborate with Adams; nevertheless, Jefferson did not go to Europe and Laurens was posted to the Dutch Republic. Jay, Adams, and Franklin played the major part in the final negotiations. Overruling Franklin and distrustful of Vergennes, Jay and Adams decided not to consult with France; instead, they dealt directly with the British commissioners.
  • 1778
    Age 42
    His first stay in Europe, between April 1, 1778, and June 17, 1779, was otherwise unremarkable, and he returned to his home in Braintree in early August 1779.
    More Details Hide Details Back home, Adams became one of the founders and charter members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780.
    Adams joined Franklin and Arthur Lee in 1778 as a commissioner to France, replacing Silas Deane.
    More Details Hide Details He sailed for France with his 10-year-old son John Quincy aboard the frigate Boston early that year. The stormy trip was treacherous, with lightning injuring 19 sailors and killing one. Adams' ship was later pursued by several British frigates in the mid-Atlantic, but evaded them. Near 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 the crew before the ship arrived in France. Adams did not speak French, the international language of diplomacy at the time. He therefore assumed a less visible role, but emerged as the commission's chief administrator, imposing order and methods lacking in his delegation's finances and record-keeping affairs.
  • 1776
    Age 40
    In the spring of 1776 Adams advocated in Congress that independence was necessary in order to establish trade, and conversely trade was essential for the attainment of independence; he specifically urged negotiation of a commercial treaty with France.
    More Details Hide Details He was then appointed, along with Franklin, Dickinson, Benjamin Harrison V of Virginia and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, "to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers". Indeed, while Jefferson was laboring over the Declaration of Independence, Adams worked on the Model Treaty.
    Being quite unimpressed with General Howe, and also after payments to colonial volunteers were increased, Adams in September of 1776 said about the war, "We shall do well enough."
    More Details Hide Details Indeed, if Washington got his men, the British would be "ruined". In 1777, Adams began serving as the head of the Board of War and Ordnance; in fact, he sat on no less than ninety committees, chairing twenty-five. No other congressman approached the assumption of such a work load. As Benjamin Rush reported, he was acknowledged "to be the first man in the House." He was also referred to as a "one man war department", working eighteen-hour days and mastering the details of raising, equipping and fielding an army under civilian control. He also authored the "Plan of Treaties," laying out the Congress's requirements for the crucial treaty with France.
    After defeating the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, British Admiral Richard Howe mistakenly assumed a strategic advantage to be at hand, and requested the Second Continental Congress send representatives in an attempt to negotiate peace.
    More Details Hide Details A delegation, including Adams and Benjamin Franklin, met with Howe at the Staten Island Peace Conference on September 11. Howe's authority was premised on the Colonists' submission, so no common ground was to be found. When Lord Howe unhappily stated he could view the American delegates only as British subjects, Adams replied, "Your lordship may consider me in what light you please, except that of a British subject." Adams learned many years later that his name was on a list of people specifically excluded from Howe's pardon-granting authority.
    On June 7, 1776 he seconded the resolution, which stated, "These colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."
    More Details Hide Details Adams also championed the measure until it was adopted by Congress on July 2. Once the resolution passed, independence became inevitable, though it still had to be declared formally. The commitment was, as Adams put it, "independence itself". A Committee of Five was charged with drafting the Declaration, and included Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman. The Committee, after discussing the general outline that the document should follow, decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. Jefferson particularly thought Adams should write the document; but Adams persuaded the Committee to choose Jefferson while agreeing to consult with Jefferson personally. Adams recorded his exchange with Jefferson on the question: Jefferson asked, "Why will you not? You ought to do it." To which Adams responded, "I will not – reasons enough." Jefferson replied, "What can be your reasons?" And Adams responded, "Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can." "Well," said Jefferson, "if you are decided, I will do as well as I can." Adams concluded, "Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting." The Committee left no minutes, and the drafting process itself is uncertain – accounts written many years later by Jefferson and Adams, although frequently cited, are otherwise contradictory.
    Adams in the 1776 session of Congress drafted the preamble to the Lee resolution of colleague Richard Henry Lee (Virginia), which called on the colonies to adopt new independent governments.
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    Published anonymously just after mid-April 1776, it was titled simply Thoughts on Government and styled as "a Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend."
    More Details Hide Details Many historians agree that none of Adams' other compositions rivaled the enduring influence of this pamphlet. Adams advised that the form of government should be chosen to attain the desired ends–the happiness and virtue of the greatest number of people. He wrote that, "There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so because the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men." The treatise also defended bicameralism, 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 between the executive, 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. Thoughts on Government was referenced as an authority in every state-constitution writing hall.
  • 1775
    Age 39
    In October 1775, he was also appointed the chief judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court, but he never served, and resigned in February 1777.
    More Details Hide Details Over the next decade, Americans from every state gathered and deliberated on new governing documents, employing many of Adams' innovative positions. Prior tradition suggested that a society's form of government need not be codified in a single document. As radical as it was to write constitutions, what was equally profound was the revolutionary nature of American political thought as the summer of 1776 dawned. A number of delegates sought Adams' advice about forming new governments, and found his views so convincing they urged him to commit them to paper. He did so in separate letters to these colleagues, each missive a bit longer and more thoughtful. So impressed was Richard Henry Lee that, with Adams's consent, he had the most comprehensive letter printed.
    In June 1775, with a view of promoting union among the colonies, he nominated George Washington of Virginia as commander-in-chief of the army then assembled around Boston.
    More Details Hide Details His influence in Congress was great, and he then argued in favor of permanent severance from Britain.
    In the fall of 1775 no one in Congress labored more ardently than Adams to hasten America's separation from Great Britain.
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    By early 1775, Adams became convinced that Congress was moving in the proper direction – away from its relationship with Great Britain. "Reconciliation if practicable," he said publicly, yet he agreed with Benjamin Franklin's confidential observation that independence was inevitable.
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  • 1774
    Age 38
    In 1774, as a delegate to the First Constitutional Congress, John Adams renewed his push for the right to a jury trial, stating "Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty.
    More Details Hide Details Without them, we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swines and hounds.”
    But Adams felt strongly that the conservatives of 1774, men like Joseph Galloway and James Duane, were no different than Hutchinson and Peter Oliver, and he denigrated such men, telling Abigail that "Spiders, Toads, Snakes, are their only proper Emblems."
    More Details Hide Details Yet at that point his views were similar to those of conservative John Dickinson. He sought repeal of objectionable policies, but at the early stage he continued to see positive benefits for America remaining part of the British empire.
    Massachusetts sent Adams to the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and from 1775 to 1777 respectively.
    More Details Hide Details The Massachusetts delegation resolved to assume a largely passive role in the first Congress.
  • 1772
    Age 36
    Governor Thomas Hutchinson and his judges until 1772 received their salaries from the Massachusetts legislature.
    More Details Hide Details The Coercive Acts and the Tea Act were then passed by Parliament, and the British Crown assumed payment of those wages, drawn from customs revenues imposed upon that colony. According to biographer Ferling, the British government thus singled out Massachusetts for reprisals of previous rebellion and hoped in the process to force the other colonies into line. Boston radicals protested and asked John Adams to proclaim 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, as well as their allegiance, was exclusively with the king. 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 independence from England. Adams authored Novanglus; or, A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time; he repudiated the essays by Daniel Leonard which in turn defended Hutchinson's arguments for the absolute authority of Parliament over the colonies. In Novanglus ("New Englander") 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 (unwritten) British concepts of constitutionality. 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.
    In August 1772, therefore, Adams moved his family back to Boston.
    More Details Hide Details He purchased a large brick house on Queen Street, not far from his office. In 1774, due to the increasingly unstable situation in Boston, Adams and Abigail returned the family to the farm, and Braintree remained their permanent Massachusetts home.
  • 1771
    Age 35
    His law practice increased greatly from this exposure, as did the demands on his time. In 1771 he moved Abigail and the children to Braintree, but he kept his office in Boston, saying, "I shall spend more Time in my Office than ever I did."
    More Details Hide Details He also noted on the day of the family's move, "Now my family is away, I feel no Inclination at all, no Temptation, to be any where but at my Office. I am in it by 6 in the Morning – I am in it at 9 at night.... In the Evening, I can be alone at my Office, and no where else. I never could in my family." Nevertheless, after some time in the capital, he became disenchanted with the rural and "vulgar" Braintree as a home for his family.
  • 1768
    Age 32
    He moved the family to Boston in April of 1768, renting a clapboard house on Brattle Street, a place known locally as the "White House." He and Abigail and the children lived there for a year, then moved to Cold Lane; still later they moved again, to a larger house in Brattle Square in the center of the city. On March 5, 1770, a street confrontation, known as the Boston Massacre, resulted in British soldiers killing five civilians.
    More Details Hide Details The accused soldiers were arrested on criminal charges and expectedly had trouble finding legal representation. Adams ultimately agreed to defend them, though he feared it would hurt his reputation. In arguing their case, Adams made his legendary statement regarding jury decisions: "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." He also expounded upon Blackstone's Ratio: "It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, 'whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,' and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever." Adams won an acquittal for six of the soldiers. Two of them who had fired directly into the crowd were charged with murder but were convicted only of manslaughter. Adams was paid a small sum by his clients.
  • 1766
    Age 30
    In 1766, a town meeting of Braintree elected John Adams as a selectman.
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  • 1765
    Age 29
    In August 1765, reprising his pen name "Humphrey Ploughjogger", he contributed four articles to the Boston Gazette (republished in The London Chronicle in 1768 as True Sentiments of America, also known as A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law).
    More Details Hide Details He delivered a speech in December 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 given its assent to it. He later observed that many protests were sparked by an oft-reprinted sermon of the Boston minister, Jonathan Mayhew, invoking Romans 13 to justify insurrection.
    Adams in 1765 authored the "Braintree Instructions", a letter sent to the representatives of Braintree in the Massachusetts legislature, which served as a model for other towns' instructions.
    More Details Hide Details In the piece he explained that the Stamp Act should be opposed since it denied two fundamental 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 instructions were a succinct and forthright defense of colonial rights and liberties.
    Adams first rose to prominence leading widespread opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by the British Parliament without consulting the American legislatures, and requiring payment of a direct tax by the colonies for various stamped documents.
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    They had six children; Abigail "Nabby" in 1765, future president John Quincy Adams in 1767, Susanna in 1768, Charles in 1770, Thomas in 1772, and Elizabeth (who was stillborn) in 1777.
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  • 1764
    Age 28
    Adams married his third cousin Abigail Smith (1744–1818) on October 25, 1764.
    More Details Hide Details Her parents were Elizabeth Quincy and Rev. William Smith, a Congregational minister at Weymouth, Massachusetts.
  • 1763
    Age 27
    In 1763 he had published seven essays in Boston newspapers–treatises that represented his forging into the convoluted realm of political theory.
    More Details Hide Details The essays were offered anonymously, with Adams using the nom de plume "Humphrey Ploughjogger"; this author reappeared in the Boston Gazette in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act. While Adams was initially not as popular as his cousin Samuel, his influence emerged through his work as a constitutional lawyer and his in-depth analysis of historical examples, together with his dedication to the principles of republicanism. Even so, Adams often found his inborn contentiousness to be a constraint in his political career.
  • 1761
    Age 25
    From an early age, he developed the habit of writing descriptions of events and impressions of men which are scattered through his diary, which included his report of the 1761 argument of James Otis, Jr. in the Massachusetts Superior Court as to the legality of Writs of Assistance.
    More Details Hide Details Otis's argument inspired Adams to the cause of the American colonies.
  • 1758
    Age 22
    In 1758, he earned an A.M. from Harvard, and was also that year admitted to the bar, having completed his studies under Putnam.
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  • 1756
    Age 20
    Adams followed the usual course of reading the law in order obtain his license to practice. In 1756 he became an apprentice in the office of John Putnam, a leading lawyer in Worcester.
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  • 1754
    Age 18
    The French and Indian War began in 1754 and Adams began to struggle with the issue of a young man's responsibility in the conflict; contemporaries of his social position were largely spectators, while those who were less solvent joined the battle as a means to make some money.
    More Details Hide Details Adams later said, "I longed more ardently to be a Soldier than I ever did to be a Lawyer." He was acutely aware that he was the first in his family that "degenerated from the virtues of the house so far as not to have been an officer in the militia."
  • 1751
    Age 15
    At age sixteen, Adams entered Harvard College in 1751.
    More Details Hide Details He took all his courses under the tutorship of Joseph Mayhew who administered his entrance exam. He did not share his father's expectation that he become a minister. After graduating in 1755 with an A.B. degree, he taught school for a few years in Worcester, Massachusetts while pondering his permanent vocation. In the next four years he discerned a passion for prestige, saying that he craved "Honour or Reputation" and "more defference from his fellows"; and at age twenty-one he was determined to become "a great Man". He decided to become a lawyer to further those ends, writing his father that he found among lawyers "noble and gallant achievements" but among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces." Doctrinally, he later became a Unitarian, and dropped belief in predestination, eternal damnation, the divinity of Christ and most other Calvinist beliefs of his Puritan ancestors. Nevertheless, his remnant Puritanism frequently prompted reservations about his hunger for fame, which he once referred to as mere "trumpery", and he questioned his not properly attending to the "happiness of his fellow men."
  • 1735
    By the time of John Adams' birth in 1735, Puritan tenets such as predestination were no longer as widely accepted, and many of their stricter practices had moderated with time, but Adams "considered them bearers of freedom, a cause that still had a holy urgency."
    More Details Hide Details It was a value system he believed in and wished to live up to. Adams emphatically recalled that his parents, "held every Species of Libertinage in Contempt and horror," and portrayed "pictures of disgrace, or baseness and of Ruin" from any debauchery. Adams, as the eldest child, was under a mandate from his parents to obtain a formal education. This began at age six at a Dame school for boys and girls, which was conducted at a teacher's home, and centered upon The New England Primer. Shortly thereafter, Adams attended Braintree Latin School under Joseph Cleverly, where studies included Latin, rhetoric, logic and arithmetic. Adams' reflections on early education were in the negative mostly, including incidents of truancy, a dislike for his master and a desire to become a farmer. All questions on the matter ended when his father commanded that he remain in school saying, "You shall comply with my desires." Deacon Adams also retained a new school master, Joseph Marsh, and his son responded positively.
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