2. John Adams (1797-1801)
Source: Library of Congress
The Presidential "Good":
The Presidential "Bad":
His Legacy: Adams was the first President to lose an election because of the Constitutional 3/5 rule, which allowed the Southern states to count 60% of their slave population for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives and also the electoral college. Though this would remain in place until the Civil War, it was one of many divides that would clearly present themselves between the northern and southern states on a continuous basis. Many feel that if Adams had won a second term, that his Presidency might hold more weight than it does today; he likely would have been able to accomplish more in another four years. Even though Adams had done a great deal for of service for his country for decades, it would be his one-term as President that many would judge him upon; this would leave him out of the "ranks of greatness" that included people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson & even Benjamin Franklin. Adams would once write that there would be no monuments for him; some could say that was a vain & self-pitying remark, but today there are no monuments for him so one must give him credit that he was astute enough to know where he stood in the minds of the public. But on a positive note, Adams himself had hopes for all future individuals that would hold the position of President. During his second night living at the partly finished White House, just a couple months before he would leave office, he wrote a letter to his wife Abigail which included a beautiful sentiment that many still quote today: "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."
- Born into a modest farming family in Braintree, Massachusetts, fifteen miles south of Boston; his father also served as a Deacon and was a shoemaker
- Was the oldest; had two younger brothers
- Loved the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing
- As a child, it was his ambition to be a farmer when he became older, but his father insisted that he receive a formal education, as he hoped that his son would become a clergyman
- Attended a local school where he learned reading & writing, and then continued his studies at a Latin school, which was a prep school for those who planned to attend college
- Had many internal struggles between his Puritan upbringing and his secret ambitions for success and fame; he was diligent in keeping a journal where he would debate himself in these types of matters
- Excelled in his studies and was admitted to Harvard College when he was 15; he would earn a four year degree
- As he had no interest in being a clergyman, he instead taught in a Latin school after he graduated from Harvard; with his earnings from teaching, he used them to pay Harvard tuition fees towards obtaining a law degree
- Courted and married Abigail Smith, the daughter of a Congregational minister
- Had five children within eight years, though one, Susanna, died in infancy; they also lost an unborn child while John was in Philadelphia serving as a representative of Massachusetts at the Continental Congress
- His work often kept him away from home, sometimes for months or even years at a time; it put a great strain on Abigail, leaving her feeling quite lonely, though she often viewed her suffering as a patriotic sacrifice. Despite his distance, they loved each other deeply.
- Though he was often away, Adams wrote as often as he could to his wife, though she often wished he would write more; the correspondence between the two is some of the most famous in history
Before the Presidency:
- Served as a lawyer in Boston, though it took him three years to win his first case
- Wrote countless essays for Boston newspapers on legal, social & political issues
- Defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre; they were found not guilty
- From 1774 to 1777, served in the Continental Congress as one of the four representatives from Massachusetts; he served on 90 committees (more than any other delegate), and chaired 20 of them, one of which oversaw the operations of the Continental Army
- Along with Benjamin Franklin, he assisted Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence
- Was sent overseas to Europe to help secure financial aid needed for the war against Britain, and was part of a commission that negotiated the Treaty of Paris, which brought an end to the American Revolutionary War
- Helped draft the Massachusetts Constitution, which was used as a model for the U.S. Constitution
- Served as the first U.S. Minister to England; it was a crucial role considering the recent separation between England and the U.S.
- Served as the first U.S. Vice President during George Washington's two terms, though he found the position boring and in no way did it take advantage of his experience or talents; on the positive side, he felt that if he stayed the position would almost guarantee that he would be the next President
After the Presidency:
- John & Abigail spent their remaining days (26 years) at Peacefield, the 1731 farm they had acquired in Quincy, Massachusetts; it would become the residence of the Adams family for four generations. (Note: His retirement would be the longest retirement of any President until Herbert Hoover who surpassed it in 1958; Jimmy Carter now continues to hold the record)
- The couple seldom left their home, and their children (and spouses & their children) would often come to visit and sometimes live there for periods of time; this included the widow and children of their second son Charles, who had died of alcoholism in 1800, and their daughter Abigail ("Nabby"), who would die from breast cancer in 1813
- His dear wife Abigail would pass away of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818
- He threw himself into writing and commentary, which included letters to many individuals and even wrote an autobiography. In his final years he felt it was important to look back at his life and explain the actions he took. He also enjoyed talking about anything imaginable, from history, political philosophy or even his manure piles at the farm.
- After Thomas Jefferson left Presidential office, the two re-started a correspondence that would last until their deaths on July 4, 1826, exchanging hundreds of letters of correspondence, which has served a great source in preserving our history
- On Tuesday, July 4, 1826 at 6:20pm, John Adams would die at his home from heart failure. It is said that when he was at one point awake and asked what day it was - to which he was told it was the 4th - he answered clearly "It is a great day. It is a good day."
To Learn More (Adults):
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To Learn More (Children):
Related Places to Visit:
Adams National Historical Park
Tours begin at:
The Galleria at President's Place
1250 Hancock Street
Quincy, MA 02169
This extensive tour includes three homes:
Visitors are allowed inside the homes, but only through guided tours that can fill up quickly. Photography is not allowed inside the home (hence why there are no pictures shown here), but you can find some on their website.
There is a lot to see on each tour & they do move quickly (another reason why there are not a lot of photos; there were a lot of people they day this author took the tour!), but the stories are fascinating and the generations of the Adams family have done a great job providing the park with family heirlooms.
The tour does not include the burial place of John & Abigail Adams, but it is within walking distance of the tour's starting point in downtown Quincy.
United First Parish Church
1306 Hancock Street
Quincy, MA 02169
Many members of the Adams family, including John, Abigail & their children, were members of the United First Parish Church. The establishment itself first started in 1636 and remained an historic part of that area for centuries to come, as well as a cemetery just across the street that contains many of the founders of what is now known as Quincy.
John Adams donated the current structure; not only the land, but the Quincy granite that the structure is comprised of came from the Adams family quarry. The building replaced the Hancock Meeting House on the same site, where John Hancock (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) was baptized.
John's son, President John Quincy Adams, would be asked what pew he would like assigned for his family. Without knowing the plans of the church floor, he told them pew 54, as pew 54 is known as "The President's Pew" at St. John's Church in Washington D.C., where John Quincy & his family were attending while he was President. He would have no idea that Pew 54 is one of the best seats in the church (center of the church & a few rows back), and is marked today.
The tombs of John & Abigail Adams, along with John Quincy Adams & his wife Louisa Catherine, are in a crypt within the basement church.
To see the church & crypt you must go through a tour given by church volunteers. Tours are only given in April to November (check their website for more information).
The cemetery is open to the public.
Authors note: There are a few additional photographs of this location relative to John Quincy Adams; they will be found on his website page once launched.
Independence National Historical Park
520 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Independence Hall is where the United States was formed; it was the meeting place of the Continental Congress members, the Declaration of Independence was first read here & then signed, & the U.S. Constitution was also drafted & signed here. Men representing each of the 13 colonies met in these rooms, often during the hot, miserable summer months, debating a separation from Britain & more importantly, what this new form of government would look like & how it would be able to stand the test of time.
In December 1790, the capital of the U.S. was moved from New York City to Philadelphia. This had been part of a negotiation early on as everyone had opinions on where the capital should be. New York City was too far north, and Philadelphia was given its time in the spotlight mainly because of the historical significance. Several of the buildings used to run the government are part of the Park. Ten years later in May 1800, the U.S. capital was moved to its final place of Washington City (now Washington, D.C.). The area chosen was considered to be centrally located between the northern and southern states, but the land chosen was nothing but swamp land so the city had to be built from scratch, mostly with slave labor.
In addition to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and more than a dozen other buildings are on the property to visit. Benjamin Franklin's grave is also within walking distance.