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Table of Contents
John Adams led the American Revolution and presided as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Adams, a Massachusetts native, and Harvard graduate, started in law. Adams was a sharp-witted, opinionated, patriotic, and intelligent man who grew to despise Great Britain’s rule in colonial America and saw the British imposition of high taxes and tariffs as an instrument of tyranny.
See the fact file below for more information about John Adams, or download the comprehensive worksheet pack, which contains over 11 worksheets and can be used in the classroom or homeschooling environment.
Key Facts & Information
- On October 30, 1735, the “Father of American Independence” was born as a British subject in the Massachusetts colony. John Adams, the son of Deacon John Adams and Susanna Boylston, was the sixth generation descendant of Henry Adams, who landed in America from England in 1633. Adams was nurtured with toy boats, marbles, kites, hunting, and literature by his well-educated farmer and leatherworker father. He graduated from Harvard University in 1755 and went on to practice law.
- Adams, a talented student, earned his degree from Harvard College in 1755. Then, in Worcester, Massachusetts, he spent several years as a teacher before studying law. Adams started practicing law in 1758 and became one of Boston’s most illustrious lawyers.
- He wed Abigail Smith, a minister’s daughter from Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1764. They had six children together, four of whom lived to adulthood: future president John Quincy Adams; Abigail Amelia Adams, also known as “Nabby”; Charles Adams; and Thomas Boylston Adams.
An American Ambassador
- Adams was one of the five Massachusetts representatives of the First Continental Congress in 1774 after being chosen to serve in the Massachusetts Assembly. The Declaration of Independence, which declared that the 13 colonies were free from British rule, was prepared in July 1776 with the assistance of Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Adams picked George Washington to lead the army assembled to fight the British.
- Adams spent much of the Revolutionary War, the war for freedom from Great Britain, abroad. He represented his new country to European countries hoping they would assist the United States. During his stay in the Netherlands, he secured significant loans to aid the war effort. Later, he assisted in the negotiations of the peace accord that concluded the war in 1781.
- Following the war, Adams became the United States’ first ambassador, or envoy, to the United Kingdom. He resided in the United Kingdom and worked with British authorities to enhance relations between the two countries.
The First Vice President
- After the United States Constitution was written, Adams returned to the country in 1788. With the help of this document, the new nation was given a powerful federal government, including a president and vice president to supervise everything, a federal court system, and two chambers of politicians, also known as lawmakers. This Constitution continues to be the cornerstone of the American government today.
- After winning the election, Washington became the nation’s first president, and Adams was elected vice president with the second-most votes. In contrast to presidents who presently run with a vice presidential running partner, the Constitution originally intended for each candidate to run alone and be considered for president. The person who finished second was chosen as vice president.
- Adams served in the position for both of Washington’s administrations, although he disliked his work. “My country has in its wisdom created for me the most inconsequential job that man’s creation or imagination has ever invented,” he noted.
- The capacity of John Adams to unite Americans behind the cause of independence was his greatest accomplishment, even though he would later become the second President of the United States in 1797.
John Adam’s Presidency
- Washington stepped down as president in 1797 after eight years in office, and Adams again campaigned for president. Adams beat Thomas Jefferson, who became his vice president, by just three votes in the 1796 presidential election, becoming the country’s second president.
- Following the violence that broke out in Europe over the deadly French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, Adams spent a large portion of his presidency trying to prevent war with France. Similar to what the United States accomplished during their own Revolutionary War, the French toppled their monarchy and formed a republic during the revolution.
- France supported American freedom during the American Revolutionary War and provided loans to the colonies so they could pay off the British. However, the United States refused to pay the bill, claiming that the government they owed money to had been overthrown by a revolution and no longer existed, infuriating France.
- The fact that the United States conducted business with Great Britain while France was at war with them angered France as well. The nation started to target American commerce ships. France and the United States engaged in what was referred to as a “quasi-war” at sea for two years. Adams employed diplomacy, or peaceful discussions, to terminate the battle even though other government officials desired a full-fledged war with France.
- Adams’ choices as president weren’t always praised. He signed the Sedition and Alien Acts under pressure from Congress. Newspaper editors and authors who opposed the government’s policy might be detained and arrested under these laws. Additionally, these regulations made it easy to expel immigrants who criticized the administration.
- Adams and Jefferson squared off once more in the 1800 presidential election. Jefferson triumphed this time. It was a nasty campaign that intensified the animosity between Adams and Jefferson. Adams stayed away from Jefferson’s swearing-in ceremony.
Post Presidency & Death
- He served as the country’s second president. Adams was renowned for his fervent patriotism, sharp intelligence, and radical political independence. Before becoming America’s first vice president, he was a leader in the Continental Congress and an influential diplomatic figure.
- His most notable achievements included successfully defending British soldiers engaged in the Boston Massacre. He was also a key figure in sparking the American Revolution and helping negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
- Adams and his wife, Abigail, retreated to their home in Massachusetts in 1801. After their presidencies ended, Adams and Jefferson rekindled their Revolutionary War relationship through letter writing. The two men were the only Declaration of Independence signers to become presidents.
- Adams, who was 90 years old at the time, was on his deathbed on July 4, 1826, as the nation observed Independence Day. His final words were, “Thomas Jefferson still exists.” He was wrong: Thomas Jefferson had passed away at Monticello five hours earlier at 83.
- Adams penned thousands of love letters to his wife during their marriage, some of which are still exhibited in museums today. He was the second president and the first to dwell in the White House. Adams died at the age of 90, making him the longest-living president until Ronald Reagan died 178 years later. His nicknames were “The Father of American Independence” and “The Father of the American Navy.”
- Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, would later become the sixth President of the United States, despite being a member of the opposing party, the Democratic-Republicans.
- As the president who replaced, or followed, George Washington, Adams proved that the nation’s most important job could survive a change in leadership, something that civilizations governed by kings and queens could not consistently achieve.
- During his brief term in office, he helped his new country avoid war with France, earning him the title of “Father of American Independence.” Adams was also among the few Founding Fathers who did not own enslaved people. He thought that the Revolution would not be complete until enslaved people were freed.
- Unlike Washington and Jefferson, there was neither memorial for Adams nor monuments named after him.
John Adams Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use John Adams Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about John Adams, who was one of America’s Founding Fathers. He was the first Vice President and second President of the United States (1797-1801).
Download includes the following worksheets:
- John Adams Facts
- The Biography
- The Committee of Five
- American Political Party
- The White House
- US Presidents
- Letters to Jefferson
- America’s Political Dynasty
- Father and Son
- Thoughts on Government
Frequently Asked Questions
What was John Adams most known for?
He served as the country’s second president. Adams was renowned for his fervent patriotism, sharp intelligence, and radical political independence. Before becoming America’s first vice president, he was a leader in the Continental Congress and an influential diplomatic figure.
What are the three major accomplishments of John Adams?
His most notable achievements included successfully defending British soldiers engaged in the Boston Massacre. He was also a key figure in sparking the American Revolution and helping negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
What are four facts about John Adams?
Adams penned thousands of love letters to his wife during their marriage, some of which are still exhibited in museums today. He was the second president and the first to dwell in the White House. Adams died at the age of 90, making him the longest-living president until Ronald Reagan died 178 years later. His nicknames were “The Father of American Independence” and “The Father of the American Navy.”
What were John Adams’s last words?
Adams, who was 90 years old at the time, was on his deathbed on July 4, 1826, as the nation observed Independence Day. His final words were, “Thomas Jefferson still exists.” He was wrong: Thomas Jefferson had passed away at Monticello five hours earlier at 83.
What was John Adams’s biggest accomplishment?
The capacity of John Adams to unite Americans behind the cause of independence was his greatest accomplishment, even though he would later become the second President of the United States in 1797.
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Use With Any Curriculum
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