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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

John Adams, too, survives

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(2/2016) In anticipation for Presidentís Day, I found myself ruminating on the first few Presidents of these United States of America. I remember learning about Washington and Lincoln in school and a few other mentioned here and there, but to be entirely honest, I know very little about a vast majority of the leaders who have made this country great. With this in mind, I plunged into the history of, not the first, but the second President, John Adams.

On October 30, 1735, John Adams was born in Quincy, Massachusetts to John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boylston. At age 16, he was accepted into Harvard University with a scholarship and graduated in 1755 at, age 20. Three years later, after studying law extensively, he received his masters from Harvard and was welcomed into the bar. On October 25, 1764 he married his third cousin, Abigail Smith, who he would have six children with; Abigail, John Quincy (who would become the sixth President), Susanna, Charles, Thomas Boylston, and Elizabeth.

John Adams rapidly became involved with the patriot cause, starting with an essay entitled "Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law," in which he voiced his displeasure at the Stamp Act of 1765. In 1770, he stood as the representative of the British soldiers who killed five civilians, during the Boston Massacre. He believed that all peoples deserved the right to be defended in the Court of Law, no matter the passionate opinions of the peoples.

Later that same year, he was elected into the office of the Massachusetts Assembly. This would mean that in the year 1774 he would be one of the five men that would represent the colony at the First Continental Congress. Adams would also be the one to nominate George Washington as commander-and-chief when Continental Army was created in 1775.

While Thomas Jefferson would write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams was one of the five people selected by the Congress to draft the declaration; the other five being Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Adams served on as many as ninety committees after the signing, and would serve at the head of the Board of Ordinances in 1777. During the Revolutionary War he served in France and Holland, playing a diplomatic role. Adams was one of the American envoys sent to negotiate the Treaty of Paris; a treaty that would bring about the end to the Revolutionary War. After the war, he remained in Europe for several years, eventually becoming the first United States minister to England.

On his return in 1788, he was placed on the ballot for the presidential election. He lost to George Washington and again in 1792, but Adams became the first Vice President of the United States. Eventually, in 1796, at age 61, he became the second president of the United States of America. During his presidency, war between Britain and France was causing tensions to run high in the newly formed country. The ruling faction in France, the Directory, cut off trade relations with America. Attempting to repair these tenuous relations, Adams sent three envoys to France. He received word that the Directory refused to take part in any negotiations until a bribe was paid. After Congress was informed of the slight, they managed to complete three new frigates and build additional ships, authorized the raising of a provisional army, and created and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

While a declaration of war was never issued, conflicts began arising on the high seas. Before 1800 traders were defenseless against attacks from French vessels, however the turn of the century brought with it armed American merchants and United States warships that protected American waters.

Word came that France was ready for negotiations and Adams was ready to end this semi-war. The talk of peaceful discussions brought a significant amount of displeasure from the Hamiltonians and this, along with the divisions occurring among the Federalist, caused Adams to lose re-election to Thomas Jefferson in 1800.

After his presidency, Adams lived with his wife in Quincy, where he would spend the rest of his life. He kept in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, who had become a dear friend of his. Both Adams and Jefferson would die on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the first American Independence Day. John Adams last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives."

John Adams has taken his place in history as one of the Founding Fathers of this great nation. The ideals and freedoms expressed so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence live on; Thomas Jefferson is not the only one who survives in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, but John Adams too, and every man and woman who have risked (and risk) their lives and livelihood to protect those fundamental ideals on which America stands. So, if I could tell John Adams anything, I would tell him that through the battles fought and hardships endured, America lives on; America survives.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir