President: John Adams

2nd President of the United States, 1797-1801

Biography Read: “John Adams” by David McCullough

Key Facts: Born in 1735 and Died in 1826. Father of four. He was a lawyer and farmer. He graduated from Harvard College.

Notable Observations:

  • John Adams didn’t come from a wealthy background. He gained notoriety through his practice of law.
  • He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and the 2nd cousin of Samuel Adams.
  • In 1751 (at the age of 15), John was accepted into Harvard which is very impressive by today’s standards. However, back then this was the only college. It had four buildings, seven professors, and near one hundred students. John’s father (Deacon John) sold 10 acres of land to pay his tuition (the only time he ever sold land).
  • John Adams was concerned he would never amount to anything.
  • He was mentored by Colonel Quincy (an officer in the militia and the wealthiest man in Braintree) which is where he met Hannah Quincy, the girl he wanted to marry, but it didn’t workout. Instead he married Abigail Smith, the daughter of Reverend William Smith of Weymouth.
  • Adams defended the soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre in court. He won most of the cases (8 soldiers, 1 captain) at trial. This didn’t make him popular.
  • John Dickinson was a wealthy and powerful man in Philadelphia that started a campaign to shun Adams when he refused to sign on to brokered peace with the British.
  • Unlike Jefferson, Adams had no debts and didn’t own slaves. He hated the idea of both.
  • No one pushed harder for independence than Adams.
  • New York was the only colony not to vote for independence.
  • John Adams was strongly against slavery and the first draft of the Declaration of Independence took issue with the king blaming him for slavery (this was written by Jefferson, a slave owner).
  • Adams was appointed commissioner to France and sailed out during the winter of 1778 with his 10 year old son John Quincy.
  • He wrote the Commonwealth of Massachusetts constitution which is the oldest still in use today.
  • Amsterdam was the location of America’s first embassy in a house purchased by Adams.
  • Adams later became the first diplomat from the US to meet with King George III (who was the subject of the Declaration of Independence) whom said to Adams “I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.”
  • Adam’s penned the line “all men are by nature free and equal.” He later explained that to mean no equal in fact, but “entitled to the same justice.”
  • He was the first Vice President despite a campaign against him. He found the position to be boring and useless.
  • Adams always signed his name with a period or coma at the end.
  • When Adams was elected President, the runner up (Jefferson) became his Vice President.
  • The first lady once intervened to get a black “free man” into school when local whites objected.
  • Adam’s signed the Alien and Seditions Acts.
  • Hamilton (upset that Adams wouldn’t go to war with France) distributed a book against Adams causing him to lose re-election. Hamilton and Adams were in the same party.
  • Before losing, he was the first president to stay in the unfinished White House.
  • Adam’s was live to see his son John Quincy elected 6th President of the United States.
  • John Adams, the voice of the Declaration of Independence, 2nd President of the United States, and member of the Federalist Party died on the same day as his life long friend and political opponent Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President of the United States, and member of the Democratic-Republican Party. That day was July 4th, 1826, the fiftieth birthday of the United States.

David McCullough did an amazing job with this book. The details were unbelievable (which explains why he won a Pulitzer). It really made me feel like I was back in 1776 watching everything unfold.

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