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President John Adams

Updated on January 6, 2017

John Adams (1735-1826) was the 2nd President of the United States.

Born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, graduate, Harvard, 1755. In 1764, he married Abigail Smith; they had five children, one of whom was John Quincy Adams. Adams practiced law in Braintree and Boston.

He opposed the Stamp Act and became involved in anti-British politics, partly through the influence of his more radical cousin, Samuel Adams. After 1774, he was a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses, where he distinguished himself as a moderate revolutionist. He helped Thomas Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence and sponsored George Washington as commander of the armed forces.

In 1777 he was sent as commissioner to France and spent most of the next decade in Europe. He was in France and the Netherlands during the Revolution and was one of the drafters of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war. In 1785 he became the first US minister to Great Britain, where he tried to reestablish normal trade relations. Frustrated in those efforts, he asked to be recalled in 1788.

In 1789, Adams was chosen vice president. His eight years in that office were distinguished but personally frustrating to him. Washington s adm1n1strat1on, which began as nonpartisan, soon separated into fact1ons. Adams acted as mediator between the conservative faction, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the liberal faction, led by Thomas Jefferson. Naturally a conservative Adams moved closer to the conservative, or Federalist, faction. He was the Federalist candidate for president in 1796, running against Jefferson. Adams won by a small margin and Jefferson was elected v1ce president.

Adams's four years in office were marked by his efforts to steer a middle course between the pro-French faction of the Jeffersonians and the Federalists, who were violently anti-French. Only Adams's calm diplomacy (particularly in the XYZ Affair) avoided open war with France. His administration was not a popular success, however, and he was defeated for re-election by Jefferson. He retired to Quincy, where he died on July 5, 1826.


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