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Our Second President John Adams

By Ruth Browning

John Adams was born October 30, 1735, in Braintree, Massachusetts Bay Colony. His birthplace is now part of Adams National Historical Park. He attended Harvard at the age of 15 and became a lawyer. In 1764 he married Abigail Smith and they had five children, including John Quincy, who became the sixth president.  Adams served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and was a leader in the movement for American independence. He was not as popular a leader as his second cousin Samuel Adams. His value lay in his thorough knowledge of the law and his dedication to the principles of republicanism. On June 7, 1776, Adams seconded the resolution introduced by Richard Henry Lee that “these colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states” and worked tirelessly for the adoption of the resolution. He was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. Years later, Thomas Jefferson, who did much of the writing of the Declaration, hailed Adams as “The Colossus of Independence” because of Adams’ championing of the Declaration and his work in getting it adopted. Adams was sent to France and Holland during the Revolutionary War to secure their assistance for the Americans’ fight, and he helped negotiate the treaty of peace with England at the close of the war. In 1785 he was appointed the first American ambassador to Great Britain. He became the first Vice President of the United States in 1789 and was reelected in 1792. The national capital was at that time in Philadelphia.  In the presidential campaign of 1796, Adams was the candidate for the Federalist Party and Thomas Pinckney, the Governor of South Carolina, his running mate. His opponent was former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson of Virginia whose running mate on the Democratic-Republican ticket was Senator Aaron Burr of New York. Because of the way elections were set up originally in the Constitution, Adams ended up winning the presidency with 71 electoral votes and Jefferson became Vice President with 69 votes, the next highest total.  On November 1, 1800, John and Abigail Adams arrived in Washington, D.C, the nation’s new capital, and were the first to live in the White House, which had just been completed. On his second evening in the damp, unfinished rooms of the White House, Adams wrote, “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.”  Adams served one term, losing to Jefferson in the election of 1800. Jefferson would not take office until March 4, 1801, under the Constitution at that time. One of his achievements during office was the building up of the U.S. Navy.  Adams died July 4, 1826, (the same day as Thomas Jefferson died) but lived to see his son John Quincy be elected President in 1825.

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