John Adams

John Adams (October 30, 1735[lower-alpha 1] – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain and during the war, served as a diplomat in Europe. He was twice elected vice president, serving from 1789 to 1797 in a prestigious role with little power. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important contemporaries, including his wife and adviser Abigail Adams as well as his friend and rival Thomas Jefferson.

John Adams
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1800–1815
2nd President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1797  March 4, 1801
Vice PresidentThomas Jefferson
Preceded byGeorge Washington
Succeeded byThomas Jefferson
1st Vice President of the United States
In office
April 21, 1789  March 4, 1797
PresidentGeorge Washington
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byThomas Jefferson
1st United States Minister to Great Britain
In office
April 1, 1785  February 20, 1788[1]
Appointed byCongress of the Confederation
Succeeded byThomas Pinckney
1st United States Minister to the Netherlands
In office
April 19, 1782  March 30, 1788[1]
Appointed byCongress of the Confederation
Succeeded byCharles W. F. Dumas (acting)
United States Envoy to France
In office
November 28, 1777[2][3]  March 8, 1779
Preceded bySilas Deane
Succeeded byBenjamin Franklin
Chairman of the Marine Committee
In office
October 13, 1775  October 28, 1779
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byFrancis Lewis (Continental Board of Admiralty)
12th Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature
In office
October 1775  February 1777
Appointed byProvincial Congress
Preceded byPeter Oliver
Succeeded byWilliam Cushing
Delegate from Massachusetts
to the Continental Congress
In office
September 5, 1774  November 28, 1777
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySamuel Holten
Personal details
Born(1735-10-30)October 30, 1735
Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America (now Quincy)
DiedJuly 4, 1826(1826-07-04) (aged 90)
Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting placeUnited First Parish Church
Political party
(m. 1764; died 1818)
Children6, including Abigail, John Quincy, Charles, and Thomas
EducationHarvard University (AB, AM)
  • Politician
  • lawyer

A lawyer and political activist prior to the Revolution, Adams was devoted to the right to counsel and presumption of innocence. He defied anti-British sentiment and successfully defended British soldiers against murder charges arising from the Boston Massacre. Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress and became a leader of the revolution. He assisted Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. As a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain and secured vital governmental loans. Adams was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which influenced the United States constitution, as did his essay Thoughts on Government.

Adams was elected to two terms as vice president under President George Washington and was elected as the United States' second president in 1796. He was the only president elected under the banner of the Federalist Party. During his single term, Adams encountered fierce criticism from the Jeffersonian Republicans and from some 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 undeclared naval war (called the "Quasi-War") with France. During his term, he became the first president to reside in the executive mansion now known as the White House.

In his bid for reelection, opposition from Federalists and accusations of despotism from Jeffersonians led to Adams losing to his vice president and former friend Jefferson, and he retired to Massachusetts. He eventually resumed his friendship with Jefferson by initiating a correspondence that lasted fourteen years. He and his wife generated a family of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family, which includes their son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. John Adams died on July 4, 1826 – the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – hours after Jefferson's death. Adams and his son are the only presidents of the first twelve who never owned slaves. Surveys of historians and scholars have favorably ranked his administration.

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