John Adams, the second President of the United States, headed the young country through some of its toughest times. He was the Vice President during George Washington’s administration and followed him as the next President. During his presidency, the government moved to Washington, and John Adams was the first President to live in the White House. Although John Adams made a lot to the formation of the United States, his personality stays in the shadow of the significance of his colleagues (G. Washington, T. Jefferson, J. Madison). Because of his unlikeable character, Adams had only few friends in his opposition and even in his party; his enemies outnumbered his friends. Adams often adopted a passive posture, letting others take the lead, when he should have acted decisively. People used to misunderstand him, but there were several persons, who knew about another part of his personality. Adams diary and personal letters show his genial, affectionate nature. The relationships between John Adams and his wife deserve a special attention since they considered as America’s first power couple. Learning several books with the biography of John Adams and reviewing some of his personal letters has helped to understand that his importance is far greater than commonly understood.
Early life. The beginning of the career
John Adams born in Braintree, Mass., on October, 30, 1735. His father was a militia officer, a deacon of the first Parish of Braintree, and a farmer. His mother was a daughter of Brookline and Boston merchants and physicians. John was the eldest of three sons and his parents expected much of him. Susanna and John Adams hoped their son would become a minister. But he aimed for the law. Adams’ youth appeared all fear and trembled for entrance examinations at Harvard at the age of 15. But he passed, then graduated in 1755, and then he taught elementary school in Worcester, Mass. After about a year, John Adams began his law studies under James Putnam of Worcester. He was ready for the practice in 1758, and he gradually built up a good business in and around Boston.
John Adams became associated with colonial opposition to British tax and other policies in the 1760’. Like others, he expressed outrage at the Stamp Act of 1765: in that time he has been working on an essay (the first extended political work), but “it was not a call to arms or mob action” (McCullough 59). He endorsed the colonists’ refusal to pay tax in the form of a stamp placed on legal papers, playing cards, and a host of other items.
In September 1774, the Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia, where the future President was a delegate from Massachusetts. In May 1775, he was reelected to the Second Continental Congress, and in June 1775 he became the commander of the Continental army. In June 1776, he joined Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingstone and Roger Sherman on the committee to draw up the Declaration of Independence.
In 1778, Adams was sent to France to find aid for the Revolutionary cause. He returned home only ten years later. By that time the government has wrote the Constitutions and has been forming the new government. People chose John Adams as the first Vice President of the country and he served two-terms as Vice President. As political parties developed during George Washington’s administration, he joined the Federalist Party. And in 1796, Adams and Jefferson, leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, became candidates for the presidency.
Adam’s Administration, 1797-1801
During the elections for the President’s post, Adams received only three more votes than Jefferson did, thereby the political oppose became now the President and the Vice President. It was hard for Adams to become the Washington’s heir apparent. It is undoubtedly that John Adams belonged to one of the most irreproachable and capable men of the foundation generation. But unlike Washington, who was the practician of the politics, Adams was the theorist of the politics. He had a brilliant mind, but he couldn’t make decisions and act decisively, but he should. In that time, the American-France relationships were tense and difficult. After the French Revolution, European warships attacked the American warships; the United Stated had to defend itself. The authority intended to stay neutral in order to avoid a war. In the same time, John Adams was expected to improve the relationship with France and to find the ways to keep the peace.
The XYZ Affair. The negotiations with French government representatives began in 1797. Adams sent his ministers to sign the agreements, which would satisfy both sides. In turn, French officials suggested signing a truce in case the United States would give a bribe to the foreign minister of France. Adams rejected the offer and stopped the negotiations. Jefferson was disappointed with the results of the negotiations and accused Adams’ administration of disrupting the peace talks. In response, Adams published the report from the meeting, where he hid the names of the three French diplomats and the X, Y and Z initials appeared instead of the names. The XYZ Affair led to the first undeclared war in the United States.
Quasi-War. The war between the United States and France broke out in 1798 and lasted two years in the Caribbean Sea and on the east coast of the United States. The Franco-American alliance of 1788 was annulated; Adams started an active reorganization of the Navy and Army. When the full-scale war seemed unavoidable, John Adams appointed a new diplomatic mission. The sides signed The Treaty of Mortefontaine in 1800, and the war was ended. “The treaty did not give the Americans all they desired, but it did resolve the crisis. And as the principal scholars of the Federalist era have argued, it was probably the best accommodation that could have been reached” (Staloff 225).
The last year of the Adams’ presidency was a tough one. The Alien and Sedition Acts, which were passed by the President, were designed to limit the criticism of the government. A lot of journalists were arrested because of the support of Jefferson and the violation of the Sedition Act. These laws caused a lot of disapproval and the next elections ended with Jefferson’s triumph.
Personal life of John Adams
Abigail Smith (the future Adams’ wife) born in 1744. Frail as a child, she was not allowed to attend school. She was a minister’s daughter, and her parents taught her to read and write. She was no beauty, but her brilliance attracted John when he met Abigail in the early of 1760’s. Both were Puritans with a strong sense of duty. Both were interested in books and conversations. Abigail Smith and John Adams could have been considered a perfect match. They have five children – Abigail, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles and Thomas. “They were well-matched partners who shared a passionate devotion to the Revolution, as well as a love of history and reading, a cheerful sense of humor, a literary gift and deep affection for each other” (Kakutani). During their 54 years of marriage, Abigail smoothed Adams’ rough edges. She was his friend and adviser, as well as his wife. However, being President’s wife was quite a difficult mission. And the first relationships’ challenges had arisen during Adams’ stay in France: “His moods swung from high to low, then lower still with the arrival of packet of letters from Abigail filled with abject loneliness and accusing him of neglecting her What he wrote, she said, was always too brief, cold and impersonal” (McCullough 211). Nevertheless all the troubles the spouses had experienced, they were together until the end of the life.
Life after the Presidency
At the age of 66, John Adams left the politics. He was too tired to continue his career as a lawyer. Thus, he spent his last 25 years in his home in Quincy with his lovely wife and grown children. Adams seldom left home; he spent much of his time reading the books, writing an autobiography and corresponding. The thoughts about his experience, the American Revolution and the course of the history in general took the form of literary-philosophical cogitation. The cogitation reflected in the correspondence with his antagonist Jefferson and helped Adams to accept his defeat. John Quincy Adams, the John Adams’ son, became the President of the United States in 1824. Two years later, July, 4, John Adams died at the age of 90. It was the day of 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Behn, Richard J. History Founders. The Lehrman Institute, 2010. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
Blum, Susan, et al. The world book of America’s Presidents: Portraits of the Presidents. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 2001. Print.
Kakutani, Michiko. “As a Nation Was Born, They Wrote and Wrote.” New York Times. New York Times, 11 December 2007. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008. Print.
Miller Center, University of Virginia. American President: John Adams (1735-1826). Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
Staloff, Darren. Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.