BORN: October 30, 1735 at Quincy, MA
FAMILY:Married Abigail Smith on October 25, 1764
3 Sons and 2 Daughters
*Son John Quincy Adams was our 6th President
PROFESSION: Attorney (He successfully defended British soldiers after Boston Massacre)
POLITICAL PARTY: Federalist
HOME STATE: Massachusetts
POLITICAL OFFICES: Delegate to Continental Congress, Signer of Declaration of Independence, Diplomat to
France and Holland, Vice President under George Washington
NICKNAME: "Upholder of the Constitution"
DIED: July 4, 1826 (Age - 90)
LAST WORDS: "Thomas Jefferson survives."
BURIED: First Unitarian Church, Quincy, Massachusetts
"Liberty�is an intellectual quality. Let the human mind loose."
"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter
inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."
John Adams in a letter to Abigail on his second night in the presidential home that became the White House.
More on John Adams
More on John Adams
Learned and thoughtful, John Adams was more remarkable as a political
philosopher than as a politician. "People and nations are forged in the
fires of adversity," he said, doubtless thinking of his own as well as the
Adams was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1735. A Harvard-educated
lawyer, he early became identified with the patriot cause; a delegate to the
First and Second Continental Congresses, he led in the movement for
During the Revolutionary War he served in France and Holland in diplomatic
roles, and helped negotiate the treaty of peace. From 1785 to 1788 he was
minister to the Court of St. James's, returning to be elected Vice President
under George Washington.
Adams' 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."
When Adams became President, the war between the French and British
was causing great difficulties for the United States on the high seas and
intense partisanship among contending factions within the Nation.
His administration focused on France, where the Directory, the ruling group,
had refused to receive the American envoy and had suspended commercial
Adams sent three commissioners to France, but in the spring of 1798
word arrived that the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand and the Directory had
refused to negotiate with them unless they would first pay a substantial bribe.
Adams reported the insult to Congress, and the Senate printed the
correspondence, in which the Frenchmen were referred to only as "X, Y, and
The Nation broke out into what Jefferson called "the X. Y. Z.
fever," increased in intensity by Adams's exhortations. The populace
cheered itself hoarse wherever the President appeared. Never had the Federalists
been so popular.
Congress appropriated money to complete three new frigates and to build
additional ships, and authorized the raising of a provisional army. It also
passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, intended to frighten foreign agents out of
the country and to stifle the attacks of Republican editors.
President Adams did not call for a declaration of war, but hostilities began
at sea. At first, American shipping was almost defenseless against French
privateers, but by 1800 armed merchantmen and U.S. warships were clearing the
Despite several brilliant naval victories, war fever subsided. Word came to
Adams that France also had no stomach for war and would receive an envoy with
respect. Long negotiations ended the quasi war.
Sending a peace mission to France brought the full fury of the
Hamiltonians against Adams. In the campaign of 1800 the Republicans were united
and effective, the Federalists badly divided. Nevertheless, Adams polled only a
few less electoral votes than Jefferson, who became President.
On November 1, 1800, just before the election, Adams arrived in the
new Capital City to take up his residence in the White House. On his second
evening in its damp, unfinished rooms, he wrote his wife, "Before I end my
letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that
shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under
Adams retired to his farm in Quincy. Here he penned his elaborate letters to
Thomas Jefferson. Here on July 4, 1826, he whispered his last words:
"Thomas Jefferson survives." But Jefferson had died at Monticello a
few hours earlier.