John Adams: The Statesman's Symphony of Democracy
This above Video is a Documentary of John Adams
John Adams was the oldest son of John Boylston Adams and Susanna Boylston Adams. His two younger brothers were named Peter and Elihu. He was born in Braintree, now known as Quincy, Massachusetts on 30 October 1735. Born as a son of a farmer, a militia lieutenant, a Congregational Church’s deacon, and a shoemaker, he was very proud of his father and had a very close relationship with him. He completed his college degree from Harvard in 1755.
In college, he was often interested in reading ancient works in their original languages by writers like Plato, Tacitus, and Cicero. His father strongly desired for him to be a church minister but John’s heart wasn’t in it. So, he gave himself time after his graduation and started teaching in schools. Finally, he decided to be a lawyer. So, he pursued law in 1758 and became an eminent attorney in Boston. But when the French and Indian War began, he felt guilty for not being a militia officer like everyone in his family.
It was in 1764, when John Adams married a daughter of a minister named Abigail Smith, his third cousin. Initially, after the first impression, he called Abigail and her sisters “not fond or frank” but later, after marriage, Abigail became a trusted companion of him. She was intellectually sharp and educated. She often exchanged letters with John when he was away from Europe. Those letters are proof of her intelligence. They were blessed with six children out of which four survived. They were named Abigale Amelia Adams (also called Nabby), Charles Adams, Thomas Boylston Adams, and John Quincy Adams.
It was in the 1760s when Britain started oppressing America under unfair laws. Britain foisted unfair high taxes and tariffs which gave John Adams a strong reason to oppose the British authority and fight for the great interest of America. In 1765, when Britain passed Stamp Act, Adams stood to oppose it. It was an act to increase revenue by applying taxation on every stamped document. All of this happened without the consent of the American legislature. The direct tax was applied on stamped documents which was an unfair trade for Americans. Britain was making America directly pay for their wars through this act. John Adams took part in protest through his writing. He penned Braintree Instructions in 1765 which explained the basic fundamental rights of a White man. He wrote how The Stamp Act overlooked two basic rights which are- the right to be taxed only by their consent and the right to be tried by a Jury of one’s peers. He further wrote four articles under the pen name of Humphery Ploughjogger to the Boston Gazette.
While John Adams was protesting with his writing, Samuel Adams was actively revolutionizing Americans. In 1766, Britain introduced Townshend Act where there were forced tariffs on essential goods like paper, paint, china, glass, lead, and tea. Adams rose his voice against it. At the same time, mob protests were active and people were becoming aggressive. On March 1770, an incident resulted in Boston Massacre. One of the British Captain Thomas Preston’s sentry was detained by a mob. Eight of the soldiers tried to reinforce but the number of people in the crowd grew. Soldiers were attacked with rocks which caused them to open fire and it resulted in the death of five civilians. While no one was ready to stand for those soldiers in the court, Adams became their attorney and suggested that they deserve a fair trial. After a week of trial, Adams proved that the soldiers and the captain were innocent. He gained the hatred of people through it but when the topic was abated in 1768, Adams stayed in a house in Brattle Street with his family which was then locally known as the White Houseand practiced law.
The First Continental Congress was held to discuss the Intolerable laws of Britain in 1774. This suggestion was given by Samuel Adams. John Adams was one of the four people chosen by the legislature of Massachusetts to attend. After arriving in Philadelphia, he was appointed to draft a letter to King George III with a 23-member Grand Committee. At first, Adams judged the people who commended a conciliatory policy towards British and stated that colonies are obliged to remain true to Britain, but later his thinking aligned with them and he believed that it is important to maintain good relations with Britain. Later during the Battles of Lexington and Concord, he believed that independence is closer and it is a good thing that Congress was getting in a different direction from the Britain.
In June 1775, during American Revolutionary War, as a Second Continental Congress delegate he nominated George Washington as a commander of the colonial forces. John Adams attempted to create peace between colonies and Britain, but often failed. In October, he was chosen as a chief judge of the Superior Court of Massachusetts but he refused to take the position. By that time he was famously known and often called as “The Atlas of Independence.”
In 1776, Adams was constantly busy with Second Continental Congress, plans to dress armed ships, and setting rules for provisional navy governance. He constantly grew desperate to get Independence. He organized a Committee of Five which included him, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert R Livingston. A letter of resolution was then drafted by Jefferson which was approved by Congress on 2nd July. John Adams had already become the head of the Board of War and Ordnance in June. He was dedicated and focused to make the army stronger and more orderly. This hard work paid off when Britain was defeated by Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island.
Adams was highly motivated toward the welfare of America. He worked with Congress and concluded that America needs Independence to practice trade. His suggestion of a commercial treaty with France led him, Franklin, Dickinson, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris to form a treaty as a proposal to foreign powers. Adams wrote a Model Treaty which consisted of a commercial agreement with France excluding any public recognition and military suggestions.
This allowed both nations to trade conversely by relying on an agreed list of goods. In 1777, Philadelphia was captured by Britain which proved that trade ties between France and America was not enough. Military involvement is needed. Later, Adams replaced Silas Deane and was named commissioner of France. Adams accepted the post and left America for a while. But he soon came back and busied himself in farming. He was positioned as a chief farmer for the Massachusetts Constitution. Soon in 1779, he became a minister to offer negotiations and to make a commercial treaty with Britain which was done with the purpose of ending the war. So, he left for France again.
In 1783, Adams was appointed to negotiate the Treaty of Paris which was another step towards ending conflict between Britain and America. He wrote this treaty along with John Jay and Benjamin Franklin. This officially ended every conflict between America and Britain. Later in 1785, Adams served as the very first American Ambassador to Great Britain. He tried his best to keep the peace between the countries. At one point, it was very hard for both countries to follow the treaty. It pressurized Adams a lot. He soon left Europe, in 1788, resigning from his position to fulfill his other duties towards America.
After coming back, in 1789, Adams participated in Constitutional Convention to be a president and with 34 electoral votes got elected as Vice President while Washington with the highest votes became the first president. It is believed that a conspiracy was performed by Alexander Hamilton which became a hindrance for Adams to become the first President of the USA. The duration of Vice Presidency served by Adams was a torture to him. He was often bullied by others. He often became a topic of stretched controversy initially.
As a Vice President, he performed his duty with dedication. He supported Washington in opposing the anti-federalist republicans. It was a last-minute vote of Adams that kept New York as a capital otherwise when Jefferson, James Madison, and Hamilton, in 1790, offered a bargain for debt assumption plan of Hamilton to temporarily shift capital from New York to Philadelphia, they would’ve succeeded. Adams was not very active politically while being in the position of Vice President. Yet, he supported Washington in his every decision. He considered his own post as very ‘inactive’ and ‘mechanical’. It was later, when the Vice Presidency came to an end, that Washington started taking advice from Adams. When John Jay was sent to London for negotiations with the purpose to end the conflicts and he came back in 1795, Adams convinced Washington to sign the treaty to contain peace.
Adams was positioned as president on 4 March 1797. He became the second president of the United States and put efforts to represent civic virtues and republican values, just like Washington. In the initial year of his Presidency, Britain and France were in between the War because of the French Revolution. The whole of America was divided into two parts during that war. Hamilton and all the Federalists were in the support of Britain while Jefferson and the Republicans supported France.
Adams tried to avoid war as much as he can but France saw the whole America as a supporter of Britain. It was because of Jay Treaty that France had this mindset. France reacted by capturing American Merchant Ships that were trading with Britain. During a speech, on May 1797, Adams declared to increase the defense capabilities in case the war with France will take place, but before that, Adams wanted to send a peace commission to France. When this commission was introduced to France, french missionaries demanded a high bribe and refused to agree on terms without it. This was later named XYZ Affair.
In June 1798, Adams signed a series of laws passed by Congress which were referred as the Alien and Sedition Act. There were four measures under this Act which were the Neutralization Act, The Alien Friends Act, The Alien Enemies Act, and The Sedition Act. The first three acts were focused on immigrants by proving them with greater deportation authority and increasing their requirements of citizenship while the Sedition Act focused on declaring it a crime to publish any kind of false and scandalous writing against the government. Adams signed the measures even when he did not fully agree to it.
On the other hand, Quasi-War was taking place on the seas. It was in May 1798 that a vessel was seized by a French Privateer from the New York Harbor. This made the public aggressive and Quasi War took place. During this war, Adams tried to make the army stronger but the inner conflicts in America were becoming the hindrance. However, Adams was called the “Father of the American Navy” and he also established marine hospital services handled by the government.
At the beginning of October, America defeated the France in the Battle of the Nile which resulted the declination of War. After this, Adams heard that France wanted peace so he nominated William Vans Murray as a diplomat to set him off on a peace mission. Adams did not want to upset Republicans. So, he appointed Patrick Henry and Ellsworth to go along with Murray. After Henry rejected the proposal, Adams appointed William Richardson Davie. After long seven months, Adams set them off to the mission.
In 1800, John Adams became the first president to officially move to the white house. In the same year, John Marshall and Samuel Dexter were appointed as secretary of state and secretary of war respectively. During that period, French Revolution had taken heights with the help of Napoleon. By his Convention of 1800, America and France mutually agreed to return all the seized ships and allow the trade of essential goods to the enemy nation. On this, Senate voted in January 1801, which resulted in 16-14 votes but the Federalist insisted the Senate vote in favor. So a new proposal was offered which said France had to pay for all the damages. In February, the treaty passed and was signed by Adams. The result of the treaty took a long to come from France that new president was already elected and 1801 was the end of Adams’ Presidency.
After his Presidency, Adams resumed farming and indulged himself in writing. It was in 1808, that Adams resigned from Senate because of the politics of Federalists. After 1809, Adams wrote in Boston Patriot newspaper, disapproving Hamilton’s 1800 pamphlet. In 1813, Adams faced the early death of his daughter Abigale and later, his wife, Abigale followed in 1818 who suffered with typhoid. Adams remained politically active for some time through his writings but it did not make a huge impact on the society. He died of heart attack on July 4, 1826. Another great personality died on the same day, can you guess who was it? It was Thomas Jefferson who died just a few hours before John Adams. Even today, he is counted as one of the greatest founding fathers of America and is still respected in the history of independence. However, there is no memorial or statue in his honor.
Time Period : April 1789- March 1797
Served Under : George Washington
Successor : Thomas Jefferson
Time Period : April 1785- February 1788
Appointed By : Confederation Congress
Successor : Thomas Pinckney
Time Period : April 1782- March 1788
Appointed By : Confederation Congress
Successor : Charles W. F. Dumas
Time Period : October 1775- October 1779
Successor : Francis Lewis
Time Period : October 1775- February 1777
Appointed By : Provincial Congress
Predecessor : Peter Oliver
Successor : William Cushing
Time Period : September 1774- November 1777
Successor : Samuel Holten
|Academic references on John Adams|
|1. “John Adams: A Life” by John Ferling: This biography offers a comprehensive and well-researched study of John Adams’ life and his role in the founding of America.|
|2. “The Adams Papers”: This project, based at the Massachusetts Historical Society, publishes the papers and correspondence of John Adams, providing valuable insights into his thoughts and actions.|
|3. “John Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life” by Paul C. Nagel: In this book, Paul C. Nagel explores both the public and private aspects of John Adams’ life, offering a nuanced portrait of the man and his contributions.|
|4. “John Adams: Party of One” by James Grant: This work delves into John Adams’ presidency and his approach to politics and leadership.|
|5. “John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy” by Luke Mayville: This academic work examines John Adams’ concerns about the potential for oligarchy in America and its impact on his political philosophy.|
|6. “The Political Philosophy of John Adams” by Stephen L. Elkin: This scholarly book analyzes John Adams’ political thought and its influence on the formation of the United States.|
|7. “John Adams: A Life” by David McCullough: Another acclaimed biography, this book by David McCullough provides a detailed and engaging account of John Adams’ life and his contributions to American history.|
|Quotes By John Adams|
|“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”|
|“Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”|
|“To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”|
|“No man is entirely free from weakness and imperfection in this life.”|
|“To believe all men honest is folly. To believe none is something worse. “|
This Article will answer your questions like:
- Who was John Adams?
- Who was the Second President of America?
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- How did John Adams impact America?
- Famous Quote of John Adams.