2nd President: John Adams, The Washington of Negotiations
October 30, 1735 - Massachusetts Bay, British America
Age at Beginning of Presidency
Term of Office
March 4, 1797 - March 3, 1801
How Long President
Age and Year of Death
July 4, 1826 (aged 90)
Cause of Death
One of the Most Influential of the Founding Fathers
John Adams was our first vice president under George Washington and later elected as our second American President (March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801). He is often confused with his son John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth President. They were the first father-son duo who became President. George Bush and George W. Bush would become the second father-son presidential duo.
He was one of the most influential of the founding fathers, although he was more successful as a philosopher than as a president. Back during his own time, his accomplishments as a president were not celebrated and often overlooked, which may have been in part due to his introverted personality and lack of good looks, which caused his nickname "His Rotundity." Fortunately, now, we can see all the great things he did and the impact he made on the United States of America. He helped set the groundwork for our country and is part of the reason our country is the country it is today.
He was born on October 30, 1735, in Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, and died at age 90 on July 4, 1826. Coincidentally he died just hours before Thomas Jefferson. As legend has it, his ironic last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives."
Adams and his wife Abigail Smith, who had an excellent relationship, had six children. John Quincy Adams was his second born. One of the six, which he named Elizabeth, was born as a stillborn. Only four of his children survived until adulthood.
He was part of the Unitarianism faith, although they claimed they were Christian, they did not believe in the Trinity. Those with the Unitarianism faith believed that God was only one person, separate from Jesus Christ. His father had other dreams for him and wanted him to become a minister. John had doubts that ministerial duties were the correct path for him.
Fought for America's Independence
Before becoming President, he graduated from Harvard University then worked as a lawyer. At Harvard, he learned excellent debating skills and used these skills throughout his life. He was nicknamed "The Washington of Negotiations" because of his ability to use his words to get what he wanted. This unique ability saved America from war with France.
He played a leading role in the Independence of the United States during the American Revolution. By being part of the First Continental Congress, men listened to him as he became one of the first men to suggest that America become Independent. He felt so strongly about this cause, and others took notice. He was one of the men chosen to assist Thomas Jefferson in drafting the United States Declaration of Independence. Adams also wrote most of the Bill of Rights.
Vice President to George Washington
Although George Washington was elected unanimously, each electorate had two votes. Washington had one vote of all 69, whereas John Adams came in second with 34 of the remaining 69 votes. As a result, he became the Vice President, which he felt was a pointless job. He even is quoted as complaining to his wife, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." This poor attitude and lack of enthusiasm may be another reason he was not a favorite among the people.
During the first year of George Washington's Presidency, Adams wanted the President to have a title such as "Your Majesty the President," or "Your Mightiness." The plain title of "President of the United States," eventually won out. They felt that by having "your majesty" or "Your mightiness," it was giving too many ties to England that they wanted to be free from. Due to this, as well as his stout stature, he received the nickname, "His Rotundity."
Excerpt from the History Channel
Unpopular During His Presidency
During the election of 1796, in which John Quincy was elected, he and Thomas Jefferson were fierce competitors. Although some preferred Alexander Hamilton, Adams was chosen to represent the Federalist Party, mostly because he was the lesser of two evils.
The reason for the hesitancy to have him lead the country was because John Adams did not have the popularity nor the seriousness that allowed Washington to be so incredibly successful. They also feared that John was too opinionated, vain, and stubborn to follow their directions. The reason that he may have ended up winning the spot was that he seemed to be the most logical step since he had spent eight years as Vice President.
Thomas Jefferson opposed him by being part of the Democratic-Republican party. The race was so tight that John Adams only won by three votes-- he had 71 electoral votes, whereas Jefferson had 68. Thomas Jefferson became the second Vice President of the United States as a result.
Adams was not an extremely popular president, in part because people thought he was an unpracticed leader. Many felt that he should have found new cabinet members, instead of keeping the ones Washington had in place. John spent much of his presidency in his hometown. He admitted in his late age that he didn't handle some of the Presidential responsibility as well as he should have. He stated, "[As president] I refused to suffer in silence. I sighed, sobbed, and groaned, and sometimes screeched and screamed. And I must confess to my shame and sorrow that I sometimes swore."
He did not make any significant proposals during his presidency, and the country was pretty stagnant to change during his term. It was not a surprise that he lost the next election to Thomas Jefferson, his current Vice President.
At the end of his Presidency, he became the first President to live in the White House. The White House was never completely finished during his stay there. On his second day in the White House, he wrote a note to his wife; he stated, "Before I end my letter, 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." After he left office, he retired to Massachusetts and lived longer than any President dying at age 91.
- He died hours after his successor Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826.
- He led the movement for the Declaration of Independence, although often overlooked since Jefferson penned it.
- He was the first president to live in the new capital of Washington, D.C, and the first to live in the White House.
- The first president to have a son also become president.
- His last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives," which ironically he died just hours before.
List of American Presidents
1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump
- Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2014). John Adams. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/johnadams
- Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
- What are some interesting facts about presidents and first ladies? (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/what-are-some-interesting-facts-about-presidents-first-ladies
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz