|Adams 1798 portrait by John Singleton|
John Adams was born October 30, 1735 outside of Boston in Quincy, MA. Adams was a descendent of the Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Adams clan was socially prominent but middle class and John grew up with a deep appreciation for his family. He attended Harvard College, and eventually settled on a career in law. In 1764 just short of his 29th birthday he married Abigail Smith; their close and storied marriage lasted 54 years till Abigail’s death in 1818. The Adams union produced six children, four of whom lived to adulthood.
His career highlights include a prominent role in the Continental Congress, co-writing the Declaration of Independence, serving as representative of the Congress to France and other European countries during the Revolutionary War. He was first ambassador of the United States to England. Adams was two-time vice president under George Washington and held office as the second President of the United States from 1796-1800, when he became the first official resident of the newly constructed White House. Following his defeat to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams retired to his home and family in Quincy. Through the next quarter century he wrote both formally and informally on the nature of government and the meaning of the American Revolution. As is well known, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was nearly ninety-one when he died. He was buried alongside his wife in Hancock Cemetery in Quincy but was later moved to a specially built crypt across the street in the newly constructed United First Parish Church.
|Farmers and Evans in the Adams Pew - |
all ready for the preachin'
I said above the case can be made that John Adams may be the most influential Founding Father. What puts him at the head of the class? Here’s my argument?
- John Adams is the quintessential colonist – descendent of the Puritans who founded Massachusetts. Though he later adopted more of a Unitarian religious philosophy, his Puritan roots made him advocate the role of the Bible and the honor of God in moral and public affairs.
- He was an integral figure in two of the key events leading up to the American Revolution. Adams stood at the forefront of the opposition of the Stamp Act in 1765, and in doing so developed the argument that framed the ‘no taxation without representation’ stand giving political basis to the American Revolution. In 1770 he stood against public outcry and successfully defended the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre, thereby demonstrating that the rule of law in a democratic society was possible.
- John Adams is the only Founding Father to hold the top two executive offices – he was at the center of the formation of the presidency as it came into being. He also had a hand in the shaping of the Supreme Court by nominating John Marshall as chief justice. Marshall is generally considered to be the architect of the role of the judiciary in the balance of powers.
- Unlike many of the Founding Fathers (including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) Adams never owned a slave and maintained a principled conviction against slavery throughout his life. His opposition to slavery was passed down to his son John Quincy who, until his death in 1848 was the leading abolition voice in Congress.
- Adams' roles as minister and ambassador in Europe both during and after the war helped establish the sovereignty of the United States as an independent country.
- John Adams' quarter century of influence into the 1800’s allowed him and his family to continue to play a role in the formation of the new republic. His son, John Quincy Adams was sixth president of the United States and had a 52 year career as a major political force before, during and after his presidency. His grandson Charles Francis Adams was ambassador to England during the Civil War under Abraham Lincoln, and helped keep Great Britain neutral during the war.
|Drafting the Declaration of Independence with |
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson
|Copley portrait in 1824, two|
years before Adam's death
I do have a favorite John Adams moment. In his magisterial biography, David McCullough tells a great story about John Adams and Ben Franklin traveling to meet with British General Howe and stopping overnight at an inn. To save money they shared a room and a bed, but debated over whether it was healthier to keep the windows open or closed due to their differing germ theories. As McCullough writes,
|Adams statue across the street from United |
First Parish Church
|Your blogger with JA|
|Looking across the crypt from the John|
|Memorial plaque outside the crypt|