Childhood, Education and Careers of John Adams

In Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America, on October 30, 1735, John Adams, Jr. was born to John Adams, Sr., and Susanna Boylston. His father was John Adams, Sr. and his mother was Susanna Boylston. He was the eldest of three brothers. Adams’ father was a farmer and cobbler who served as a Congregationalist deacon; Adams was very close to his father and praised him. Adams’ mother died when Adams was a young child.

He entered ‘Harvard College’ in 1751 when he was 16 years old and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1755. After some time as a teacher, he decided to pursue a career as a legal professional.

He then went to study law in the office of James Putnam, the most prominent lawyer in Worcester, and graduated with honors from ‘Harvard’ in 1758, earning a master’s degree. In 1761, he was admitted to the bar of the United States.


Adams was obligated to obtain a formal education as the eldest child. At the age of six, this began at a mixed-gender school held in a teacher’s home centered on The New England Primer. Shortly after that, Adams enrolled in Joseph Cleverly’s Braintree Latin School, where he studied Latin, rhetoric, logic, and arithmetic. Adams’ early education was marred by truancy, hostility toward his master, and a desire to become a farmer. All discussion on the subject came to a halt when his father insisted that he remain in school. Deacon Adams hired a new schoolmaster, Joseph Marsh, who his son well received.

John Adams enrolled in Harvard College at the age of sixteen. He studied under Joseph Mayhew in 1751. As an adult, Adams was a voracious reader, looking at ancient writers and their original languages. Although his father had envisioned him as a minister, after graduating with an A.B. degree in 1755, he taught school temporarily in Worcester while pondering his permanent vocation. Over the next four years, he began to seek prestige, craving, and was determined to be “a great Man.” To that end, he decided to become a lawyer, writing to his father that he found “noble and gallant achievements” among lawyers but the “pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces” among the clergy. His ambitions clashed with his Puritanism, prompting concerns about his self-described “trumpery” and failure to share in the happiness of others.

Adams, who was nineteen years old when the French and Indian War erupted in 1754, began to question his place in the conflict, as did many of his peers who had enlisted for the sake of financial gain.


John Adams was a patriot who quickly rose to prominence as a leader of the American independence movement. John Adams was vehemently opposed to the ‘Stamp Act of 1765’ and declared it invalid in front of the governor of Massachusetts and his council. He gained prominence as a result of this incident.

John Adams Won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1770 and represented the colony at the colony’s first ‘Continental Congress’ in 1774.

He was a consistent advocate for America’s independence from colonial rule and introduced a resolution in May 1776 that amounted to freedom from Great Britain. Congress approved his resolution and appointed him to draft the statement alongside Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

John Adams worked alongside Thomas Jefferson on the ‘Declaration of Independence.’ America finally adopted the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.

He quickly became a member of up to 90 committees in the newly independent government. Additionally, he was appointed head of the ‘Board of War and Ordnance’ in 1777. He worked up to 18 hours a day in this position, mastering the intricate details of increasing, equipping and fielding an army under civilian control.

He collaborated with Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin to draft the ‘Massachusetts Constitution’ in 1779. He was the document’s primary author, and it took effect on October 25, 1780.

America’s first presidential election was scheduled for 1789, and John Adams was one of the candidates. George Washington was elected president with the most electoral votes. Adams received the second-most votes and was appointed vice president following the Constitutional provision for presidential elections.

Following the 1792 election, he was re-elected, vice-president. Adams was dissatisfied with his vice-presidential tenures because many of his political and legal views diverged from President Washington’s.

In 1796, he won elected as the Federalist Party’s presidential candidate. His opponents included former Virginia Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and New York Senator Aaron Burr. Adams narrowly defeated Jefferson for the vice-presidency, receiving 71 electoral votes to Jefferson’s 68.

John Adams was inaugurated as the United States’ second president on March 4, 1797. At the period, Britain and France were at War, posing significant political difficulties for the U.S. Adams desired that the U.S. government remain neutral in the European War. Still, the French perceived America as Britain’s junior partner and began seizing American merchant ships trading with the British.

To establish diplomatic relations with the French, Adams’ administration dispatched an American commission to France in July 1797 to resolve issues on the verge of escalating into War. On the other hand, the French demanded bribes before beginning formal negotiations, which offended the Americans, who left without negotiating.

The failed attempt at negotiation resulted in an undeclared war dubbed the ‘Quasi-War.’ The Quasi-war, which began in 1798, lasted until 1800. However, Adams’ popularity as president dwindled significantly after this event, and he was defeated for re-election in 1800. Thomas Jefferson succeeded him as president.


Adams was the Federalist nominee for president in 1796. Jefferson led the Democratic-Republican opposition. Adams was elected as the country’s second president by a slim margin.

During Adams’ presidency, the United States was embroiled in a French-British war. Adams’ administration focused on France, whose government had halted trade relations. Adams sent three commissioners to France, but the French refused to negotiate without a bribe. When the news spread, the nation erupted in support of the War. Despite some naval hostilities, Adams did not call for a war declaration.

By 1800, the undeclared War had ended, and Adams had lost public support. In 1800, he lost re-election by a few electoral votes to Jefferson, who became president. John Adams’ oldest child, John Quincy Adams, would later go on to become the 6th President of the United States. For more information on John Quincy Adams and his siblings, check out The Children of John Adams.