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John Adams (1735-1826)


John Adams. Pastel by Benjamin Blyth, c. 1766

John Adams was born in the North Precinct of Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, on October 30, 1735, the eldest son of John and Susanna (Boylston) Adams. After graduating from Harvard College in 1755, he studied and practiced law, and married Abigail Smith of Weymouth on October 25, 1764. Although already active in the Patriot cause, in 1770 Adams and Josiah Quincy, Jr., defended the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre Trials, successfully winning acquittals or reduced sentences for all the defendants.

From 1774 to 1777 Adams served in the Continental Congress. He passionately urged independence for the colonies, and in 1776 he was appointed to the committee that would draft a declaration of independence. His copy of Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence is the earliest known draft in existence.

After a prolific diplomatic career, which kept him in Europe for many years, Adams became the first vice president of the United States (1785–1797) and then the second president (1797–1801). His presidency, fraught with difficulties, lasted only one term, after which Thomas Jefferson succeeded him in the office. John Adams retired from public life to his farm in Quincy. He died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826.

For more information about the Adamses and an extended biography of John Adams, please visit The Adams Papers on the MHS website.

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