Happy Birthday John Adams!
Happy Birthday John Adams!
John Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, on October 30, 1735.
In his youth, Adams was a bright yet indifferent student who preferred the outdoors to a classroom. At the age of 15, Adams entered Harvard College and graduated in 1755. He taught school for a few years and practiced law. In 1764, Adams married Abigail Smith. The couple had four children who survived infancy.
Adams was never a fiery orator or a popular leader in the growing independence movement. However, his essays combined a thorough knowledge of the law, careful analysis of historical perspectives, and inspiring pleas for liberty. In 1772, Adams successfully defended the British officers who were indicted for their roles in the Boston Massacre. The acquittal was unpopular, but Adams’ respect for the right to an adequate legal defense eventually enhanced his reputation. Adams gained further fame for his opposition to the Stamp Act, and he was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1773.
Adams served as Massachusetts’ delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses from 1774-78, where he nominated George Washington to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. By 1776, each colony had been encouraged to write its own state constitution. Adams penned an essay entitled “Thoughts on Government,” which was instrumental in shaping the writing of many of the state constitutions.
Adams was appointed to a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Although he was a compelling author, Adams left the writing to Thomas Jefferson and used his abilities to ensure that the document was adopted. For his efforts, Jefferson referred to Adams as “…the great pillar of support to the Declaration of Independence, and its ablest advocate and champion on the floor of the House.”
Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, sailed to France in 1779. During their two-year stay, Adams negotiated a critical alliance with France. France contributed money, munitions, and military force, which helped sustain the Continental Army during the American Revolution. A French naval presence helped ensure victory at the Battle of Yorktown.
In 1779, Congress chose Adams to negotiate treaties for peace and commerce with Great Britain. He served as the U.S. envoy to France and the Netherlands from 1780 to 1785, and negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.
In 1785, Adams was selected to serve as the U.S. Minister to Britain. In his new capacity, Adams was the first patriot of the War of Independence to meet King George III. Upon his return, Adams wrote the Massachusetts state constitution. Adams was also influential in writing the U.S. Constitution, with his finest contribution being the concept of three branches of federal government: executive, legislative, and judicial.
George Washington was the unanimous choice as President in the 1789 election. John Adams placed second, becoming our nation’s first vice president. Washington did not seek his vice president’s input on policy or legal matters, and Adams lamented, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” Nevertheless, Adams played an active role in the Senate, where he cast 31 tie-breaking votes and influenced the location of the national capital. Adams won his re-election bid in 1792.
Political parties began to form during Adams’ term in office. Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant man whose foreign birth made him ineligible for the nation’s highest office, led the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson, who advocated strong relations with France, led the opposing Democratic-Republican Party. Adams aligned himself with the Federalist Party, and was selected to be its presidential nominee in 1796. By a margin of only 3 votes, Adams won the presidency and Thomas Jefferson became his vice president. It was the only time in U.S. history that opponents held the nation’s two highest offices from different political parties.
In a move considered to be one of his greatest political mistakes, Adams kept George Washington’s entire Cabinet. The group’s allegiance was to Alexander Hamilton, which would weaken Adams’ administration. A deep rift formed between the two men’s factions within the Federalist Party.
The Quasi-War was a naval battle between the United States and France. Fought between 1798 and 1800, the undeclared war began with France’s seizure of American commercial ships that were trading with England. In 1796, France refused to receive the new U.S. Minister. The following year, Adams reported on France’s refusal and reminded Congress of the need to “place our country in a suitable posture of defense.” Congress then authorized Adams to acquire and man ships for war with France.
Congress officially rescinded its treaties with France, and the Quasi-War began on July 7, 1798. Four days later, the United States Navy and Marine Corps was created to help bring about the defeat of France and the restoration of America’s commercial shipping. Called upon to lead the Army once again, General George Washington insisted Alexander Hamilton be appointed to be his assistant, to the chagrin of President Adams.
Even though it had once seemed full-scale war was inevitable, the Quasi-War ended with the Treaty of Mortefontaine in 1800. However, Adams’ reputation and political career had been deeply damaged. He battled a rift in his own Federalist party, lost control of the U.S. Army to Hamilton, a political opponent who led the breakaway “High Federalist” movement, and served with a vice president from an opposing political party.
The 1799 death of George Washington shattered any remnants of unity within the Federalist Party, leaving Adams vulnerable as he sought re-election in 1800. Once ardent patriots who worked together to free a great nation from the tyranny of King George III, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams waged a bitter battle for the presidency. When the electoral votes were counted, Jefferson won by a margin of 73 to 65 votes.
Deeply depressed, Adams retired to his farm in Quincy without attending Jefferson’s inauguration. In 1804, the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. The Amendment altered the electoral process, doing away with the system that allowed members of opposing political parties to hold the two highest offices.
Adams lived to see his son, John Quincy Adams, win the presidential election in 1825. In his later years, Adams reconciled with Jefferson and they corresponded with each other for the rest of their lives. In fact, both men died on the same day, July 4, 1826.
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7 responses to "Happy Birthday John Adams! "
7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday John Adams! ”
While saluting John Adam’s memory, a brave man of principle from the start of the US against slavery, whose picture is barely present on the early US stamps, picture that deserved the post office’s attention as much as that of Jefferson, I feel that his wife Abigail Adams deserves to become the first lady depicted on one of the future US money bills. Her example and contribution to the creation of the US has been very significant.
I agree she is a worthy candidate and should be seriously considered—-even if it meant two women honored out paper bills. Why not?
The author might have added something about the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798. Adams’s support of them was a major factor in the election of 1800.
Great article! I learned so much that I didn’t know. for example:
1. why Alexander Hamilton could never become president.
2. the fact at the time that the runner-up to the presidency would always become vice-president, up to a point. And, strangely, only one time a member of the opposing party became vice-president. Seems as if there should have been many many such occurrences. but now I know why.
3. Adams’ rift with Hamilton and Jefferson, the latter occurrence lasting many years, then finally
ending quite differently, with both men dying on the same exact day – on a holiday, no less!
The second paragraph has the chronology of events a little out of order. The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament in 1765, and the Boston Massacre and Adams’ defense of the British soldiers was in 1770. Another reason for Adams to defer to Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence was that Adams wanted a Virginian to be the author so it wouldn’t appear that the push for independence was an all New England effort.
Always enjoy and usually learn a new fact thanks for this service.
Actually Hamilton could have been elected President. There was an early one-time provision that anyone born in the English colonies (Hamilton was) could become president since there was no USA before then. The provision lapsed after anyone of the eligible guys passed away.