John Adams

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Personal

  • Born: October 30, 1735 in Braintree, Norfolk, Massachusetts
  • Died: July 4, 1826 in Braintree, Massachusetts
  • Spouse: Abigail Smith Adams
  • Children: Abigail Amelia Adams (1765-1813); John Quincy Adams (1767-1848); Susanna Adams (1768-70); Charles Adams (1770-1800); Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832)
  • Level of Education: Graduated from Harvard College (1755)
  • Religion: Unitarian
  • Prior Professions: Lawyer;Member of Continental Congress,1774-78; Commissioner to France, 1778; Minister to the Netherlands, 1780; Minister to England, 1785; Vice President, 1789-97 (under Washington)
  • Military Service:

Presidency

  • President: Second
  • Political Party: Federalist
  • Served: 1797 - 1801
  • Number of Terms: 1
  • Nickname: "Atlas of Independence"
  • Vice President: Thomas Jefferson

Cabinet

  • Secretary of State: Timothy Pickering, continuing from the administration of George Washington, his resignation was requested May 10, 1800 but he declined to resign and was dismissed May 12, 1800; Charles Lee (interim), May 13, 1800; John Marshall (interim), May 13, 1800, entered upon duties June 6, 1800, served ad interim again from February 4, 1801 to March 3, 1801
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Oliver Wolcott, Jr. continued from preceding administration; Samuel Dexter, January 1, 1801
  • Secretary of War: James McHenry, continuing from preceding administration; Benjamin Stoddert (interim), June 1, 1800 to June 12, 1800; Samuel Dexter, May 13, 1800, entered upon duties June 12, 1800, served again ad interim beginning January 1, 1801
  • Attorney General: Charles Lee, continuing from preceding administration
  • Postmaster General: Joseph Habersham, continuing from preceding administration
  • Secretary of the Navy: Benjamin Stoddert, May 21, 1798, entered upon duties June 18, 1798

Biography

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 American experience.

John Adams was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1735, and was a Harvard educated lawyer. He became identified with the patriot cause early on, and served in both the First & Second Continential Congresses. He was a prime figure in the movement for Independence.

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."

The Adams Administration oversaw the infamous "X,Y and Z" foreign affair (relating to international politics and bribery) and the passing of the 'Alien and Sedition Acts'.

The effects of the French & British War cost Adams a second term as President, but he occupied the newly constructed White House late in his term. 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 this roof."

Adams retired to his farm in Quincy, where 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.

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