John Adams

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John Adams

"The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the

minds and hearts of the people... This radical change in the principles, opinions,

sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."

In three remarkable careers--as a foe of British oppression and champion of

Independence (1761-77), as an American diplomat in Europe (1778-88), and as the first

vice-president (1789-97) and then the second president (1797-1801) of the United

States--John Adams was a founder of the United States. Perhaps equally important,

however, was the life of his mind and spirit; in a pungent diary, vivid letters, learned

tracts, and patriotic speeches he revealed himself as a quintessential Puritan, patriarch of an illustrious family, tough-minded philosopher of the republic, sage, and sometimes a vain, stubborn, and vitriolic partisan.

John Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Mass., on Oct. 30, 1735, in a small

saltbox house still standing and open to visitors. His father, John Adams, a deacon and a

fifth-generation Massachusetts farmer, and his mother, the former Suzanna Boylston,

were, their son wrote, "both fond of reading"; so they resolved to give bookishly inclined John a good education. He became the first of his family to go to college when he entered Harvard in 1751. There, and in six further years of intensive reading while he taught school and studied law in Worcester and Boston, he mastered the technicalities of his profession and the literature and learning of his day. By 1762, when he began 14 years of increasingly successful legal practice, he was well informed, ambitious, and public spirited.

His most notable good fortune, however, occurred in 1764 when he married Abigail

Smith. John Adams's marriage of 54 years to this wise, learned, strong-willed, passionate, and patriotic woman began the brilliant phase of Adams family history that produced their son John Quincy, his son Charles Francis, his sons Henry and Brooks, and numerous other distinguished progeny.

In 1761, John Adams began to think and write and act against British measures that he

believed infringed on colonial liberties and the right of Massachusetts and the other

colonies to self-government. A pamphlet entitled A Dissertation on the Canon and the

Feudal Law and town instructions denouncing the Stamp Act (1765) marked him as a

vigorous, patriotic penman, and, holding various local offices, he soon became a leader

among Massachusetts radicals. Although he never wavered in his devotion to colonial

rights and early committed himself to independence as an unwelcome last resort,

Adams's innate conservatism made him determined in 1770 that the British soldiers

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