John Adams (October 30 [O.S. October 19] 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman and Founding Father who served as the first Vice President (1789–97) and second President of the United States (1797–1801). He was a lawyer, diplomat, political theorist, and a leader of the movement for American independence from Great Britain. He was also a dedicated diarist and correspondent, particularly with his wife and closest advisor Abigail.
Adams collaborated with his cousin, revolutionary leader Samuel Adams, but he established his own prominence prior to the American Revolution. After the Boston Massacre, he provided a successful (though unpopular) legal defense of the accused British soldiers, in the face of severe local anti-British sentiment and driven by his devotion to the right to counsel and the “protection of innocence.”Adams was a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, where he played a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and was its foremost advocate in the Congress. As a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and acquired vital governmental loans from Amsterdam bankers. Adams was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. This influenced the development of America’s own constitution, as did his earlier Thoughts on Government (1776).
Adams’s credentials as a revolutionary secured for him two terms as President George Washington’s vice president (1789 to 1797) and also his own election in 1796 as the second president. In his single term as president, he encountered fierce criticism from the Jeffersonian Republicans, as well as the dominant faction in his own Federalist Party, led by his rival Alexander Hamilton. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts, and built up the army and navy in the face of an undeclared naval “Quasi-War” with France. The major accomplishment of his presidency was a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the face of Hamilton’s opposition. Due to his strong posture on defense, Adams is “often called the father of the American Navy.” He was the first U.S. president to reside in the executive mansion, now known as the White House. He never owned slaves, and was a moderate on the issue.
In 1800, Adams lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson and retired to Massachusetts. He eventually resumed his friendship with Jefferson upon the latter’s own retirement by initiating a correspondence which lasted 14 years. He and his wife established a family 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. He died on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and the same day as Jefferson. Modern historians in the aggregate have favorably ranked his administration.