John Adams, the son of a farmer, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on 19th October, 1735. After graduating from Harvard University Adams worked as a lawyer in Suffolk County.
Adams became involved in politics and became a member of the Sons of Liberty and led the protests against the Stamp Act. A member of the Continental Congress (1774-1777) he signed the Declaration of Independence and proposed George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the American Army.
During the Revolutionary War he was sent by the new American government to carry out negotiations in Holland and France and was responsible for signing the Treaty of Paris. He also served as Minister to Great Britain (1785-88). His three volume Defence of the Constitution of the United States was published in 1787.
George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States and was inaugurated on 30th April, 1789, in New York City. Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as his Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary. Adams served as Vice President under Washington.
Washington was unanimously reelected in 1792 but by this time the government was not so united and there were serious disagreements between Jefferson's Democratic Republicans and Hamilton's Federalists. Washington tended to favour the Federalists and with the Democratic Republicans gaining increasing support, he decided not to seek a third term and retired from office on 3rd March, 1797.
Adams now replaced Washington and Thomas Jefferson became the new Vice President. Although Adams was the leader of the Federalists, he rejected the suggestions of Alexander Hamilton to declare war on France. He did however support the Aliens and Sedition Acts, that intended to frighten foreign agents out of the country. However, his decision to send a peace mission to France made him unpopular and united his opponents against him.
In the 1800 presidential election Jefferson defeated Adams. In retirement the two men became close friends and carried on a correspondence that became an important part of American historical literature.
John Adams died on 4th July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson died on the same day.