Thursday, January 10, 2013

John Adams: A Quick Life Timeline

Seeing as the name of John Adams' cousin Samuel Adams has become more of a household name thanks to a namesake beer, I thought I might give you a quick summary of his life before we discuss his spiritual life.

John Adams father was a deacon in Braintree, (Just Outside Boston) Massachusetts where John was born and raised. John's father set him on track early to go into school with the goal being the ministry. John went to Harvard with the original intent on the ministry, but as he reflects " it was whispered and circulated among others that I had some faculty for public speaking and that I should make a better lawyer than divine." He also expressed his inclination was to preach but the religious establishment threatened his liberty to think. Adams chose to become a lawyer and began to practice in 1756. After Britain had implemented the stamp act (1765) and during the years leading up to the revolution, Adams was a very outspoken author.  His newspaper installment piece "Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law" thrusted him forward as a political figure in the resistance against these taxes. During these years Adams held several public offices for Braintree just as his father had. After moving to Boston and retiring from public office to be a lawyer again (He served as defense attorney for the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre in 1770) he was informed that in 1774 he had been elected by the general Court of Massachusetts to attend the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He was 39.

Adams played a major part in this Congress. He was more moderate in his desires for independence early on during the stamp act, but he took a stronger stance in the continental congress and was in charge of urging Jefferson to draft the declaration and was pivotal in the debates to convince all "states" to vote for independence. He was soon assigned as an ambassador to France to work for peace with the one nation that could really swing the revolution in America's favor. He would leave in 1779 and not return to America until 1788. Soon after arriving Adams found that initial peace had already been established with the French and he was re-assigned to Holland to make a treaty with the Dutch. Adams would be successful in gaining loans from the Dutch and once done here was sent to England to achieve peace with the Great Britain after the war was over.

Adams returned to America after his work as an ambassador and upon receiving the second most votes from the electoral college, was elected vice president (vice president was the second place winner back then). Adams served as vice president under Washington for two terms until he was elected president by the backing of Hamilton and the Federalists in 1796. He was much against political parties yet was often called a monarchist and many worse names in his leanings. He signed the Alien and Sedition acts which limited free speech in America against the government. Adams made it his goal to settle peace with the French who had soured in their relationship with the U.S. since the U.S. had refused to help their war against Great Britain. Federalists called for preparation of war and action against the French and the Republicans called for a uniting with France against Britain. This desire for peace with France and taste for policy that gave the federal government more power made him unpopular with both the Federalists and the Republicans respectively.

Adams would achieve peace through the success of Napoleon Bonaparte who offered peace once he took the office of French monarch. It was too late however, and Adams lost the next election (1801) to Jefferson. Adams finished his life writing his memoirs and letters to Thomas Jefferson who was at time a fierce opponent but ended up being his dearest friend. Both friends died on July 4th 1826 as the last two founding fathers alive.