John Adams: Youth
Firstly, John Adams was born on October 19, 1735, in Quincy, Massachusetts. His father noticed that Adams had a strong aptitude for learning. Consequently, his father hired Mr. Marsh as Adams’ teacher. Mr. Marsh also taught several students who played a large part in the American Revolution. Adams later graduated from Harvard College in 1755.
Adams chose law for his profession. He studied under Samuel Putnam. Putnam introduced Adams to Jeremy Gridley, the attorney general of the province of Massachusetts Bay. Adams and Gridley quickly became friends. Gridley proposed Adams for admission to the Suffolk bar. Soon after his admission to the bar, Mr. Gridley led Adams into a private chamber. He pointed to a bookcase and said, “There is the secret of my eminence.” The bookcase held a collection of treatises on civil law. John Adams spent many days and nights, mastering the principles of the law.
John Adams’ law career rose from a small practice to a well-established firm with clients as prominent as John Hancock. Adams gained notoriety and became one of Boston’s most sought after attorneys.
Secondly, Massachusetts elected Adams as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. Adams proposed George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He also nominated Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence.
In 1777, the Continental Congress appointed him as a Joint Commissioner to negotiate Peace with Great Britain. The assignment obligated Adams to travel to Europe. John Adams took his oldest son, John Quincy Adams, on his diplomatic mission to France to give the boy international experience.
Thirdly, Adams’ contributions to the nation’s building made him a popular choice for the office of Vice-President in the election of 1788. After eight years of service as the nation’s first Vice-President, John Adams succeeded George Washington as the second President of the United States.
Fourthly, John Adams’ term of office was one of the most difficult in U.S. History. The turmoil that embroiled Europe threatened to spill across the Atlantic. The French Government was impatient for U.S. support. The French Navy attacked American ships at sea. Adams avoided war by building up the American Navy to protect U.S. ships at sea. During his presidency, John Adams founded the Department of the Navy.
Fifthly, the Year 1800 was bittersweet for John Adams. The Convention of Montefontaine ended hostilities between France and the United States. Adams considered the resolution of this crisis as his greatest accomplishment as President. In November, John and Abigail Adams became the first occupants of the White House in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, their son, John Quincy Adams, was distinguishing himself abroad as U.S. Minister to Prussia.
Eleven months of relative joy was soon overshadowed by a December that brought sadness. The Adams family suffered the death of their second son, Charles. Adams also lost the presidential election to Thomas Jefferson.
Although Adams respected the people’s will, he checked the Republican Party. During the four months before Jefferson’s inauguration, the Federalist majority in the old Congress passed a new Judiciary Act. The Judiciary Act increased the number of judges in federal courts. President Adams appointed Federalists to these positions, working until late in the evening of his last day in office signing the new judges’ commissions. The most significant appointment made by Adams was John Marshall of Virginia as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Thomas Jefferson considered Adams’ “Midnight Appointments” the acts of a sore loser. The once close friendship between the two decayed to the point that Adams did not attend Jefferson’s inauguration. As Adams returned home on March 4, 1801, he may have regretted the falling out between him and his friend. However, he consoled himself in the belief that he had done what was in the United States’ best interest.
Finally, John Adams also looked forward to returning to his estate in Quincy. The former President appreciated having a close and supportive family when Abigail died in 1818. His family’s love, joy, and pride tempered his grief.
One of the most satisfying accomplishments of John Adams’ final years was achieving reconciliation with Thomas Jefferson. In 1812, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a mutual friend of Jefferson and Adams, wrote to the former Presidents and suggested that they start a correspondence with each other. Time allowed passions to recede, and their friendship rekindled through correspondence. In this correspondence, these two men put forth their different visions of America’s future.
These two men played in the beginning of American liberty. Their deaths were also remarkable. They died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence.
On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83. (History Channel)
Both men were proud of their contributions to the United States’ founding. However, Adams was proud that his son, John Quincy Adams, continued the family’s legacy to public service. John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States. in the nation’s highest office.