Interesting quotes by John Adams
“Fear is the foundation of most governments; but is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men, in whose breasts it predominates, so stupid, and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.”
“Genius is sorrow’s child.”
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”
A brief biography of John Adams
John Adams was born on his family farm on October 30, 1735 in Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America. He was a statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, Founding Father, and 2nd president of the United States.
Adams was a descendent of the Puritans and as a boy he felt a strong connection to that heritage. The eldest of three children, he was encouraged by his parents to get a formal education, which started at a dame school and led to his enrollment at the Braintree Latin School. There he learned Latin, rhetoric, logic and mathematics. At this time, John’s enthusiasm for learning waned, and he wished to be a farmer. His father, a deacon, was insistent on him being educated and hired a new schoolmaster for him, Joseph Marsh. This had a positive effect, and by age 16 in 1751, Adams was enrolled in Harvard College. He excelled in his studies, studying ancient Philosophy in its native tongue, and was determined to be “a great man.”
Seeking honor and reputation—when his Bachelor of Arts degree was completed in 1755—John Adams decided to become a lawyer. At this time he struggled with his own desires and how they conflicted with the tenets of Puritanism that he held in high regard. In 1756 he began reading law under James Putnam and by 1756 obtained his Master’s degree from Harvard—being admitted to the bar in 1759. About this time, Adams began keeping a diary of his opinions of events and people, which included James Otis Jr.’s legal case against writs of assistance, sparking a revolutionary chord within him.
In 1763, John Adams wrote 7 essays about political theory, which he published in Boston newspapers under the pseudonym, Humphrey Ploughjogger. In these essays, he ridiculed the Massachusetts colonial aristocracy. However, Adams gained notoriety from his work as a constitutional lawyer, historical analysis and staunch republicanism.
In 1764, John married Abagail Smith, his third cousin, despite her mother’s objections. They were kindred spirits and shared a love of books. They had six children, though their second daughter, Susanna died at the age of 1, and their third daughter was stillborn. Their three sons all became lawyers, though John Quincy Adams was the only one to remain successful—the other two turned to alcoholism and did not live into old age.
John Adams rose to prominence by opposing the Stamp Act forced upon the colonies by the British, which required a mandatory tax for stamped documents. However, he also long held that there could be a peaceful resolution between the colonies and the British Empire. This view changed in 1772 when the British Crown took over the payments to the Governor Thomas Hutchinson and his judges. Adams was outspoken in his opposition and published his opinions in the Gazette. He also drafted a resolution which was sent to the House of Representatives, threatening independence, and arguing that the colonies had no allegiance to the British Parliament, only the King. He also briefly represented the Dartmouth owners as legal council regarding their liability for the destroyed shipment in the Boston Tea Party.
John Adams was part of the first and second Continental Congress. The first was convened in response to the Intolerable Acts, which were actions taken by the British to punish Massachusetts, centralize control in Britain and prevent rebellion in the colonies. This began in 1774 with drafting a list of grievances, and culminated in 1776 with the creation of the Committee of Five—a group comprised of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman—who drafted and presented to Congress what would become the Declaration of Independence. During the Congress, Adams was part of 90 committees and chaired twenty-five of them. He also was in charge of the Board of War and Ordinance, which kept track of officers, ranks, ammunition and the location of troops throughout the colonies. He went on to become ambassador to France, the Dutch Republic, and was the first ambassador to Great Britain after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.
Adams became the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington from 1789 to 1797, at which point he was elected as the second president of the US. Thomas Jefferson was elected as his Vice President.
After the presidency, Adams retired and turned to farming and generally kept to himself regarding politics. He stated, “instead of opposing Systematically any Administration, running down their Characters and opposing all their Measures right or wrong, We ought to Support every Administration as far as We can in Justice.” It wasn’t until after Jefferson left office in 1809 that Adams became more vocal, publishing three-years of letters in the Boston Patriot.
John Adams’ wife, Abigail, died of typhoid on October 28, 1818. His son, John Quincy Adams, was elected president in 1824. Two years later, on July 4, 1826, John Adams died at his home at the age of 90. His last words spoken were about Thomas Jefferson, who coincidentally had died only several hours earlier.