ADAMS, John, American statesman, 2d President of the United States: b. Braintree, Mass., of a line of farmers, 19 Oct. 1735; d. 4 July 1826, the year after his son was inau gurated President. Graduated at Harvard, he taught school, and read theology for a Church career; but seeing his unfitness for it studied law and began practice in 1758, soon becoming a leader at the bar and in public life. In 1764 he married his famous wife. All through the germinal years of the Revolution he was one of the foremost patriots, steadily opposing any abandonment or compromise of essential rights; and in 1766 published essays in the Boston Gazette, reprinted in London 1768, entitled 'A Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law,' really on colonial rights. In 1765 also he was counsel for Boston, with Otis and Gridley, to support the town's memorial against the Stamp Act. In 1766 he was a selectman, or in other words one of the three official rulers of the head of the New England colonies. In 1768 the royal gov ernment offered him the post of advocate general in the Court of Admiralty,— in fact a lucrative bribe to desert the opposition; but he refused it. Yet in 1770, as a matter of high professional duty, he took his future in his hands to become counsel (successfully) for the British soldiers on trial for the "Boston Mas Though there was a present uproar of abuse, Mr. Adams was shortly after elected Representative to the General Court by more than three to one. In March 1774 he was con templating writing the of the Contest between Britain and America.' June 17 he pre sided over the meeting at Faneuil Hall to con sider the Boston Port Bill, and at the same hour was elected delegate to the first Congress at Philadelphia (1 September), by the Provin cial held in defiance of the govern ment. Returning home, he was made a member of the Provincial Congress, already organizing resistance to England. Just after Lexington he again journeyed to Philadelphia to the Congress of May 1775; where he did on his own motion, to the disgust of his associates and the reluc tance even of the Southerners, one of the most Important and decisive acts of the Revolution, — induced Congress to adopt the forces already gathered in New England as a national army and put George Washington at its head, thereby engaging the Southern colonies irrevocably in the war and securing the one man who could make it a success. In 1776 he was a chief agent
in carrying the Declaration of Independence. He remained in Congress till November 1777, serving on the Committee on Foreign Relations and as chairman of the Board of War and Ordnance, very useful and laborious, but making one dreadful mistake; he was largely re sponsible for the policy of ignoring the just rights and decent dignity of the military com manders, which lost the country some of its best officers and led ultimately to Arnold's treason. His reasons, exactly contrary to his wont, were sound abstract logic, but thorough practical ineptitude. .
In December 1777 he was appointed commis sioner to France to succeed Silas Deane. Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee were there before him; and though he reformed a very bad state of affairs, he thought it absurd to keep three envoys at one court and induced Congress to abolish his office, returning in 1779. Chosen a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, he was called away from it to be sent again to France. There he remained as Franklin's colleague, detesting and distrusting him and the foreign minister Vergennes, em broiling himself with both, and earning a cor dial return of his warmest dislike from both, till July 1780. He then went to Holland as volunteer minister, and in 1782 was formally recognized as from an independent nation. Meantime Vergennes intrigued energetically to have him recalled, and did succeed in tying his hands so that but for his contumacious stub bornness half the advantages of independence would have been lost, as Vergennes was em ployed to gain points for France and not for the United States. In the final negotiations for peace he persisted (against his instructions) in making the New England fisheries an ulti matum, and saved them. The wretched state of American affairs under the Confederation made it impossible to do his country any good abroad, and the vindictive feeling of the English made his life a purgatory, so that he was glad to come home in 1788.