Tuesday, January 22, 2008

#2 - John Adams, 1797-1801

So I actually came up with this idea of going through all the presidents primarily because of this television event coming up in March. Faithful readers of this blog know that I have a penchant for John Adams on the screen. ("For God's sake, John . . . sit down!") Our second President, John Adams, led America down the path to independence, serving as a delegate from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to both the First and Second Continental Congresses. Adams served as a diplomat during the Revolutionary War, helping to enlist the French to join with the colonies against Great Britain.

Prior to serving as the colonies chief agitator, Adams actually worked for the British, defending the soldiers who were involved in the Boston Massacre.

Adams has the distinction of being the nation's first vice president and also being the first man to despise the office. Washington did not ask Adams for input on the affairs of state. When he finally became president, international tensions between France and the United States, leading Adams to send three commissioners to France. The three were turned away from the French officials for they would not pay a substantial bribe. The "XYZ Affair," as it became known, helped Adams' Federalist Party solidify their power in America.

However, Adams tried to then negotiate with France, which cost him the election of 1800, losing to Thomas Jefferson by only a few electoral votes. Adams had suffered the wrath of Alexander Hamilton, who engineered Jefferson's victory. Adams left Washington and did not attend Jefferson's inauguration. The two rivals reconciled in 1812 and began a correspondence that lasted until their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826. Adams also had the opportunity to see his son, John Quincy, elected to the presidency, when J.Q. took office in 1825.

One of the better presidential quotes comes from the gentleman from Massachusetts, written in a letter to his beloved Abigail shortly after moving into the Executive Mansion:
"Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."
Oh, John. Though it were so, though it were so.

The Facts:
  • born October 30, 1735, Braintree, Massachusetts
  • died July 4, 1826, Braintree, Massachusetts (age 90)
  • As President of the Senate (while serving as Vice President), Adams holds the record of casting the most tie breaking votes with 31. John C. Calhoun is second with 28.
  • The USS Constitution was built during his administration.
  • That Jefferson and Adams both died on the same day, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is considered one of the greatest coincidences in history. Adams' reported last words were, "Jefferson survives" although he had died a few hours earlier.
  • Adams is the first president to live in the Executive Mansion, now known as the White House.


Archivalist said...

My wife, upon reading McCullough's bio of Adams, developed a serious 'history-crush' on ol' John. (This was compounded by our increasing disregard for the hypocritical Jefferson, whom we were taught -- growing up in Virginia -- ranked in greatness behind only Lee and Washington.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to the Adams place since I was a kid, but I remember being really impressed with the library. It's a separate building - as dictated by the will of JQA.

Lana Gramlich said...

Very interesting. Never knew he & Jefferson died on the same day. What are the odds?

Brave Astronaut said...

Archivi - I have a bit of a crush on David McCullough. Mrs. BA got to meet him when he came to her work to do some research. I would listen to him read the phonebook. But I love Adams. That McCullough got to sleep at the Adams homestead while writing the book is really, really cool.

NJM - Road Trip! I was going to mention all about the Old Stone Barn, thanks for giving it the plug it deserves. I hadn't realized that the papers and associated library were there primarily because of JQA.

Lana - it gets even funkier when five years later (in 1831) James Monroe dies on the Fourth. Interesting trivia note? Three died on the Fourth and one born on the Fourth. If you're going to be President, the Fourth is a good birthday to have.

Lana Gramlich said...

1+3=4...Does that count? *LOL*
(Keep an eye on your mailbox--sent something your way. Let me know if anything gets damaged in shipping.)

Archivalist said...

We have a hand-written document by Mr. McCullough in our archives. (A commencement speech.) Ooo la la!