John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States (1797–1801). Hailing from New England, Adams, a prominent lawyer and public figure in Boston, was highly educated and represented Enlightenment values promoting republicanism. A Federalist, he was highly influential and one of the key Founding Fathers of the United States.
Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution. As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence. He assigned Thomas Jefferson the role of drafting the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, and assisted him in that process. As a representative of Congress in Europe, he was a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and chiefly responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam bankers. A political theorist and historian, Adams largely wrote the Massachusetts state constitution in 1780 which soon after ended slavery in Massachusetts, but was in Europe when the federal Constitution was drafted on similar principles later in the decade. One of his greatest roles was as a judge of character: in 1775, he nominated George Washington to be commander-in-chief, and 25 years later nominated John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the United States.
Adams’ revolutionary credentials secured him two terms as George Washington‘s vice president and his own election in 1796 as the second president. During his one term, he encountered ferocious attacks by the Jeffersonian Republicans, as well as the dominant faction in his own Federalist Party led by his bitter enemy Alexander Hamilton. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts, and built up the army and navy especially in the face of an undeclared naval war (called the “Quasi War“) with France, 1798–1800. The major accomplishment of his presidency was his peaceful resolution of the conflict in the face of Hamilton’s opposition.
In 1800 Adams was defeated for reelection by Thomas Jefferson and retired to Massachusetts. He later resumed his friendship with Jefferson. He and his wife, Abigail Adams, founded an accomplished family line of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family. Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States. His achievements have received greater recognition in modern times, though his contributions were not initially as celebrated as those of other Founders.
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