Thank John Adams, the 2nd president of the United States, for the barbeque, fireworks and parades on the 4th of July. Gushing about how we would celebrate Independence, he said, “It ought to be commemorated…with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
The second president of the United States, John Adams filled the very large shoes of General, then President, George Washington. After two terms serving as Vice President, he called the ’s job, “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
The attorney from Braintree, Massachusetts was used to a lot of action. John Adams was a Harvard Law grad who got radical with the Sons of Liberty early in the Revolution voicing opposition to the Stamp Act. He signed worked with Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence and then as a member of the first Continental Congress signed it.
A theoretician and philospher as well as statesman, the second president of the United States took a long view of American politics. “I must study politics and war," he said, "that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy….in order to give their children the right to study painting, poetry and music.”
John Adams represented us in the French court and was our first ambassador to England. He was elected the second president of the United States in 1797. This founding father may have been courageous and intelligent, but he was also a nervous wreck. He had insomnia, headaches, tooth loss, frequent colds, shaky hands and facial tics from stress. Somehow, even with a pronounced lisp John Adams was one of the most fiery speakers of the age. Adams lived to 90 years of age.
John and Abigail Adams had a good marriage. They were friends who discussed everything in their hearts and minds. Both of them had strong opinions and did not hesitate to express them. Abigail had a great intellect and vision for the new country that included women’s rights and rights for enslaved Africans. Her counsel on the state of the nation mattered to Adams. The connection was romantic as well. The well-preserved collections of letters contain many love letters. In one she tells him his comment was “coarse” but she won’t blot it out because he is so “saucy.” John sometimes addressed his letters to “Dear Adorable.”
Adams’ presidency was tough. The French and British were battling each other again and the United States tried not the pick sides. The French thought we were favoring the British and our good relationship with France was on the rocks. Our friends wanted us to show good faith with a gift of $250,000. This riled our populace and the country would not pay. The citizenry wanted war with France and Congress built the armed forces. What followed was an undeclared naval war with the French.
The Federalists, John Adams' own party, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts during his presidency. The legislation that clamped down on freedom to criticize the government. The Republican Party, of which Thomas Jefferson was a member, used the popular opposition to the Acts to gain support and defeat Adams for re-election. He fell out with his good friend, Jefferson and made an enemy of Alexander Hamilton. The battle between the Federalists and Republicans got ugly, and continued our historical debate of Federal vs. States’ rights. Though John Adams sailed rough waters during his political career, his role in the tender years of the nation is understood and lauded today.