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Founding Father and second president of the United States John Adams was born on October 30th, 1735 in his family’s farm in Braintree, Massachusetts. Originally wanting to become a farmer but dissuaded by his father, Adams attended Harvard College in 1751, where he read the classics, and graduated in 1755 with a bachelor of arts. Unsure of what to do with his diploma, he eventually settled on becoming a lawyer, as he wished to be a “great man,” seeking prestige and reputation. Living in Worcester, Adams started reading law and, by 1758, he had earned a Master of Arts degree from Harvard, entering the bar the following year.

By the end of the 1760s, Adams had become Boston’s most notable lawyer. During this time, tensions with the British government were mounting, and the seeds of revolution had begun to grow. Although Adams himself supported the revolutionary cause, he still successfully defended British officers who were involved at the Boston Massacre in 1770, feeling that no man should be deprived of counsel. He was initially against violent actions in the colonies’ fight for independence, but nonetheless approved of the actions taken by the revolutionaries during the Boston Tea Party in 1773, throwing both nations into war.

During the War for Independence, John Adams was part of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress a year later. Adams also assisted fellow friend and later political rival Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He never joined active duty, but still assisted the revolution from Congress, becoming the de facto Secretary of War and corresponding with many of the of Continental Army officers. In 1777, Adams was appointed as commissioner in France and later traveled to the Dutch Republic to obtain governmental loans. During his time as a diplomat, Adams helped to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain (Treaty of Paris, 1783.) After the treaty was signed, he was appointed as ambassador in Great Britain, with whom relations were still tense following the American Independence.

In 1788, Adams returned to Massachusetts and was elected to serve as vice president under President George Washington. After Washington stepped down from running for a third term, John Adams beat Thomas Jefferson and was elected as the United States’ second president in 1796. His presidency was marked by tensions with France, following the French revolution and the U.S.’s stance to stay out of it, which angered Jefferson and the Republicans, the Quasi-War with France, and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which enforced restrictions to immigration and speech. Adams was the first president to reside in the mansion that would later be known as the White House.

In the presidential election of 1800, Adams went for reelection, but came in third place, with Jefferson winning the presidency. He promptly returned to Massachusetts and focused on working on his farm. He mostly stayed out of political matters, only starting to become more vocal after Jefferson’s retirement in 1809. The two, after years of estrangement, rekindled their friendship in 1812, and corresponded with each other until their deaths. John Adams passed away at the age of 90 on July 4th, 1826 —the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson had died hours before him. A year before, his son John Quincy Adams had become the sixth president of the United States.

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