John Adams

     John Adams is important to the study of American history because he was the
second president of the United States, he served on the committee that drafted
the Declaration of Independence and then helped persuade the Second Continental

Congress to adopt the declaration. He is one of the great figures in American
history because before the American Revolution he joined with other patriots in
resisting British rule. So, when the revolution began, Adams was among the first
to propose American independence. John Adams was born and raised in Braintree,

Massachusetts, on the farmland his great-grandfather had cleared 100 years
earlier. He entered Harvard College when he was sixteen years old and after
graduating in 1755, he continued to study law. In 1758 Adams began to practice
law in Braintree. In 1764 Adams married Abigail Smith, and they had five
children. One of them, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth president of the

United States. The marriage lasted 54 years, until the death of Abigail Adams in

1818. Adams spent the early part of his career practicing law in Braintree and
developing his interest in government. He became well known throughout the
colonies. When in Boston he was elected to the Massauchetts legislature while
helping acquit the British troops in the Boston massacre. He only served in the
legislature for a few months. In May 1775, Adams set out for Philadelphia and
the opening of the Second Continental Congress, the American Revolution had
begun with the battles at Lexington and Concord. Adams, John Hancock, Samuel

Adams, and other New England delegates arrived in Philadelphia ready to fight
back against Britain. They wanted the colonies to get ready for war and to set
up a confederation of independent colonies. Many delegates hesitated and Adams
became very impatient. After two weeks, when nothing had been accomplished,

Adams could hold back no longer. He addressed Congress and told them that before
talking of peace with Britain, Congress should adopt a program to set up an
independent government in each colony. It should use the New England militiamen,
who were then blockading the British in Boston, as the basis for a Continental

Army, and should name a commander-in-chief who would be responsible to Congress.

Finally, Adams said, Britain should be told of these steps. Then, if the war
continued, the colonies should seek alliances and support in France, Spain, and
the Netherlands. Only one of Adams's proposals was adopted. A Continental Army
was authorized, and Colonel George Washington of Virginia was named commanding
general. Adams had recommended Washington not only because he had military
training, but also because he was from the South. Adams felt that, to form a
national army, the South as well as the North should be represented in it.

Therefore the New England troops had to have a Southern commander. In 1776
another of Adamsí proposals was enacted. On May 6, he and his allies in

Congress presented a resolution that all the colonies should form independent
governments. The resolution, which to Adams was the most important of his
proposals, was passed on May 15. In June 1776 Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from

Virginia, moved that Congress declare "that these United Colonies are, and of
right ought to be, free and independent States." The resolution was referred
to a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman,

Robert R. Livingston, and John Adams. Jefferson wrote the declaration and Adams
was spokesman for it when it was presented to Congress. There was a great debate
before the final vote. There were many unwilling delegates who still hoped for
reconciliation with Britain, but Adams won most of them over. On July 4, 1776,

Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. In 1796, Adams was elected
president and was inaugurated at Federal Hall, Philadelphia, on March 4, 1797.

Philadelphia was then the nation's capital. President Adams was immediately
confronted with a number of issues. The most urgent was a threat of war with

France. For four years the United States had remained neutral in the struggle
between France and Britain. Britain was seizing ships that traded with France
including American ships. The United States negotiated Jay's Treaty of 1794,
which stopped Britain by giving trade concessions but started this threat
because it angered the French who thought the United States was helping the

British. Adams wasnít re-elected in 1800 and was stunned because Hamilton
completely opposed Adams and campaigned for Pinckney. Adams lost, but Jefferson
and Burr tied with 73 electoral votes each. The tie-breaking vote was decided by
the House of Representatives, which eventually elected Jefferson as president.

Throughout Adamsí administration he had gone from crisis to crisis all
centering on the French Revolution. The significance of what John Adams did made
him important to the study of American history. By becoming our second
president, helping draft the Declaration of Independence and being on the Second

Continental Congress that approved it, he was one of the founders of the United

States as it is today. This makes John Adams an important figure in United

States history.