1797-1801FederalistOctober 30, 1735, in Braintree, MassachusettsJuly 4, 1826, in Braintree, Massachusetts
Vice PresidentFirst LadyPrevious OccupationsStates in Union
Thomas JeffersonAbigail Smith Adams (Wife)Teacher, Lawyer16


Adams’ parents were John and Susanna Boylston Adams. Adams married Abigail Smith in 1764. Not only did she become a president’s wife, she also became the mother of another president, John Quincy Adams. The Adams had five children: Abigail Amelia, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, and Thomas Boylston.


Many celebrate Adams’ genius for political philosophy, rather than his leadership skills. As president, he found himself often at odds with his vice president regarding the nature of the office and the limits of federal power over the state governments and individual citizens. The two also supported different countries in the war between France and Britain. As the international crisis escalated, American ships were attacked by both France and Britain at sea. Adams worked to keep the U.S. out of any foreign wars and secretly sent ambassadors to France to negotiate a treaty. The French foreign minister refused to negotiate unless they paid a bribe. Adams declined, and urged the creation of the Department of the Navy with an accompanying increase in naval forces. However, Adams later reversed his aggressive position in favor of negotiating a peaceful settlement. Many of Adams’ own supporters, including his entire cabinet, disapproved. Though Adams ultimately negotiated peace with France, he remained unpopular and was not reelected.


Regarding his role as a Founding Father, Adams said, “Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination.”

“The institutions now made in America will not wholly wear out for thousands of years. It is of the last importance, then, that they should begin right.”

“People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.”

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”

At This Time

1796: Edward Jenner introduces a vaccination against small pox • 1799: The Rosetta Stone is discovered, making it possible to decipher hieroglyphics • 1800: U.S. federal offices are moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

Did You Know?

As a child, Adams hated studying Latin grammar and asked his father if he could do something else. His father replied, “You may try ditching. My meadow yonder needs a ditch.” The young Adams embarked on this new task, but soon discovered the work was quite strenuous. Rather than admit this to his father, he worked at the digging a second day, but by that night he noted that “Toil conquered [his] pride” and he resumed his studies of Latin. Throughout his life Adams asserted that the experience of “ditching” helped build his character.

Adams was the first president to live in the White House. He moved in when it was still unfinished on November 1, 1800. He wrote to his wife the next day, “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” These words are now carved in the mantelpiece in the State Dining Room.

Learn More

  • nps.gov/adam
    Information about Adams National Historical Park, which includes the birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
  • MillerCenter.org/president/adams
    Biographical information, essays, and access to Adam’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Field Trips For John Adams

Adams National Historical Park
Quincy, Massachusetts

The Adams National Historical Park features a number of structures, including the birthplaces of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, and the Old House. The homes feature original furnishings and personal possessions of four generations of the Adams family. Also on the site is the still active United Parish Church which was partially financed by the Adams family and is the burial site of the second and sixth presidents and their first ladies.

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