John Adams

— 2nd President of the United States —

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National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery

ELECTED FROM: Massachusetts
March 4, 1797 to March 3, 1801

BORN: October 30, 1735
Braintree, Massachusetts
July 4, 1826, Quincy, Massachusetts
Abigail Smith, 1764
John Quincy, Thomas, Charles, Abby

John Adams was born in a small New England village near Boston called Braintree. This village was settled by Pilgrims who had come to America from England in search of religious freedom. The young John Adams and his father often argued about how important it was to get an education. Young John often skipped school, and when his father asked him why, he told his father that all he wanted was to be a farmer. As he grew up, he realized that an education was important. He studied hard, then went on to college at Harvard.

At Harvard he studied law, and upon his graduation he became a great lawyer. John Adams became famous for his strong opinion that everyone deserved a fair trial. He got national recognition in 1761 when, as a representative of the state of Massachusetts, he fought the decision that gave the British the right to search any house, ship, or shop at any time without permission of the owners. In the words of John Adams, "Then and there, the child Independence was born." Later that same year, he married his childhood sweetheart Abigail Smith. Abigail was an outspoken lady who was opposed to slavery and believed that women should get the same education as men. Abigail Smith Adams was the only First Lady to have both a husband and a son as President of the United States.

After spending time in representing American interests abroad in France and England, John Adams ran for president. In 1788 and 1792, John Adams finished second to George Washington in the first and second presidential elections. As was the custom of the time, he became vice president by virtue of finishing second. But in the election of 1796, John Adams finally won and became the second President of the United States.

Adams' term as president was difficult. A revolution was in progress in France, there was war in Europe, and serious conflict inside the Federalist party and between the Federalists and Republicans in the United States were all difficult factors to deal with.

Many positive things did happen during his term: the first United States naval vessel was launched, the Mississippi Territory was created, the Navy and Marine Corps were created, and the Library of Congress was established. He was also the first president to live in Washington D.C.

John Adams retired to his farm in Massachusetts, where he lived long enough to see his oldest son, John Quincy Adams, become the sixth president of the United States. He died at age 91 on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826, the same day as Thomas Jefferson.

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