John Adams Biography
- 2nd President of the United States.
- Years Served as President: 1797-1801
- Vice President: Thomas Jefferson
- Party: Federalist
- Age at Inauguration: 61
- Home State: Massachusetts
- Date of Birth: October 30, 1735
- Died: July 4, 1826
- Married: Abigail Smith
- Children: Abigail (“Nabby”), John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, Elizabeth
- Nickname: The Colossus of Independence, Old Sink or Swim, His Rotundity
What is John Adams known for?
John Adams was one of the Founding Fathers. He helped America gain its independence from the British, and he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
He was also the first vice president of the United States under George Washington. He was a Federalist, meaning he favored a strong federal government.
John Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1735. He was the descendant of Puritan colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
His parents, John and Susanna, had two other sons. John was the eldest.
John was an excellent student, and he eventually graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree in 1755. Although his father wanted him to become a minister, John decided to be a lawyer.
Soon after graduating from Harvard, John began practicing law in Boston. He was a highly successful lawyer and known as one of the best in Boston.
In 1764, John married Abigail Smith. They had six children, although only four survived to adulthood: their daughter “Nabby” and their three sons John, Charles, and Thomas.
Like John, Abigail was highly intelligent. Letters written between the couple show that she was John’s trusted confidante and played an influential role in his career.
Around the time of his marriage, John began challenging Great Britain’s rule over colonial America. He spoke out against many of Great Britain’s policies.
He became a member of the Massachusetts legislature and served as the state’s representative at the First and Second Continental Congress, where he worked on the Declaration of Independence with Thomas Jefferson.
During the American Revolution, John did diplomatic work in Europe raising funds and securing alliances.
He worked on the Treaty of Paris with John Jay and Benjamin Franklin. The treaty ended the Revolutionary War.
From 1785 to 1788, John stayed in Europe and served as America’s first ambassador to Britain. After that, he returned to America and was elected as the country’s first vice president.
John did not enjoy being vice president. He felt that the role was mostly ceremonial. He thought it was boring and unimportant.
After George Washington retired in 1796, John Adams ran for the presidency.
He won over Thomas Jefferson, who became his vice president. (At the time, the presidential candidate who received the second highest number of votes became vice president.)
During John Adams’ presidency, France and Britain were at war. Both nations wanted help from the United States.
Some Americans wanted to help France, since they had helped America during the Revolutionary War. Other Americans sided with Britain.
An undeclared naval war broke out between France and the United States in 1798. The Federalists (John Adams’ political party) wanted to officially declare war on France.
Despite all these tensions, John Adams kept the United States out of war. It wasn’t a popular decision at the time, but he felt it was best for the new nation.
John Adams ran for a second term, but this time he lost to his former vice president Thomas Jefferson.
After the Presidency
John Adams retired to Quincy, Massachusetts with his wife Abigail. During his retirement, he wrote columns, books, and letters.
Abigail died in 1818. John died at the age of 90 on July 4, 1826.
Fun Facts About John Adams
John Adams was the first president to live in the White House.
He was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president. The other was his vice president, Thomas Jefferson.
His first-born son, John Quincy Adams, went on to become the sixth president of the United States.
John Adams was the only Federalist to ever become president.
Abigail and John were married for 53 years.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were both great rivals and great friends. In 1812, Adams was encouraged to begin exchanging letters with Jefferson.
They wrote to each other for the rest of their lives, on topics including religion, politics, philosophy, and family.
In fact, John Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.” However, it turned out that Jefferson had died just a few hours earlier.
Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the fiftieth anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence.
Related: Read about the Constitutional Amendments.