John Adams was one of the founders of the American Revolution. He drafted the constitution for Massachusetts, which was later used in drafting the U.S. Constitution. He was a writer and lawyer, and believed passionately in the importance of having an honest and fair justice system.
- John Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1735. His mother belonged to a prominent medical family and his father was a deacon, a farmer, and a councilman. His father supervised school and road construction.
- Adams’ family were members of the Puritan faith. Adams thought that he had a responsibility to contribute to society. He said his greatest blessing was having a mother who believed in developing his character. Honesty and integrity were very important to him.
- He began attending school when he was six. He studied Latin, rhetoric, logic, and math. He didn’t always like school and sometimes played hooky.
- He graduated from Harvard and became a lawyer. He believed that all people deserved a fair trial and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He defended British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, a move that made him unpopular with his friends. He often found himself in this situation, but believed it was more important to do what he felt was right than to please others.
- He married Abigail Smith, a woman who was his match in intellect and temperament. She was a very good companion and they had a happy marriage. She was outspoken, intelligent, and passionate. She often counseled him.
- Adams was very involved in the events of the Revolutionary War. He served on the Continental Congress and recommended George Washington as military leader.
- John Adams was vice president to George Washington twice. He hated this role. He felt underutilized and bored.
- He was happy when he was elected as the second president of the United States. His presidency, however, did not go well. First, George Washington was beloved and idolized. Anything John Adams did that was different would be unpopular.
- John Adams faced conflict with France during his presidency. He managed to avoid war, but the conflict stirred up disagreement in the United States.
- He passed the Alien and Sedition Act, which said that people who were making rebellious comments against the country could be deported or punished. This act was seen by many as a restriction on free speech. John Adams lost favor and could not win reelection against Thomas Jefferson.
- John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were very good friends, until they became enemies when they ran against each other for president. They later resumed their friendship, writing many letters to each other. They died a few hours apart, on July 4, 1826.
Watch a video about John Adams.