Adams, John


Adams, John
born Oct. 30, 1735, Braintree, Mass.
died July 4, 1826, Quincy, Mass., U.S.

U.S. politician, first vice president (1789–97) and second president (1797–1801) of the U.S. After graduating from Harvard College in 1755, he practiced law in Boston.

In 1764 he married Abigail Smith (see Abigail Adams). Active in the American independence movement, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature and served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–78), where he was appointed to a committee with Thomas Jefferson and others to draft the Declaration of Independence. In 1776–78 he was appointed to many congressional committees, including one to create a navy and another to review foreign affairs. He served as a diplomat in France, the Netherlands, and England (1778–88). In the first U.S. presidential election, he received the second largest number of votes and became vice president under George Washington. Adams's term as president was marked by controversy over his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 and by his alliance with the conservative Federalist Party. In 1800 he was defeated for reelection by Jefferson and retired to live a secluded life in Massachusetts. In 1812 he overcame his bitterness toward Jefferson, with whom he began an illuminating correspondence. Both men died on July 4, 1826, the Declaration's 50th anniversary. John Quincy Adams was his son.

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▪ American composer and conductor
in full  John Coolidge Adams 
born Feb. 15, 1947, Worcester, Mass., U.S.
 
 American composer and conductor whose works were among the most performed of contemporary classical music.

      Adams became proficient on the clarinet at an early age (sometimes freelancing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and performing with other groups) and by his teenage years was composing. His teachers at Harvard University (A.B., 1969; M.A., 1971) included Leon Kirchner and Roger Sessions (Sessions, Roger). Adams was the first Harvard student to be allowed to submit a musical composition as a senior honours thesis. After graduation he moved to California, where from 1972 to 1982 he taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1978 he founded and directed the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's series “New and Unusual Music,” and he was composer in residence with the orchestra from 1982 to 1985. From 2003 through 2007 he held the composer's chair at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where he founded the eclectic and diverse “In Your Ear” festival. Increasingly as his career developed, he conducted performances of music by himself and by others, working with organizations such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Amsterdam), and the London Symphony Orchestra.

      Although his early compositions were in an academic style, Adams soon began drawing on much broader sources, including pop, jazz, electronic music, and minimalism. His use of minimalist techniques—characterized by repetition and simplicity—came to be tempered by expressive, even neo-Romantic, elements. His works encompass a wide range of genres and include Shaker Loops (1978), chamber music for string septet; Harmonium (1980), a cantata for chorus and orchestra using the poetry of John Donne and Emily Dickinson; Grand Pianola Music (1981–82), a reworking of early 20th-century American popular music for instrumental ensemble, three sopranos, and two pianos; Harmonielehre (1984–85), for orchestra, an homage to Arnold Schoenberg, whose music was the antithesis of minimalism; and Wound-Dresser (1988), for baritone and orchestra, a work based on Walt Whitman's poems about his experience as a nurse in the American Civil War. One of Adams's especially popular orchestral works was the fanfare Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986). The recording of another popular orchestral work, El Dorado (1991), won a 1997 Grammy Award. Later large-scale works include the Violin Concerto (1993) and My Father Knew Charles Ives (2003), for orchestra, which alludes to Ives's works and compositional methods.

      Adams's most ambitious works, however, were his operas. The first two were created in collaboration with the director Peter Sellars, the poet Alice Goodman, and the choreographer Mark Morris. Nixon in China (1987) took as its subject the visit of U.S. Pres. Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972. The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) was based on the hijacking by Palestinian terrorists of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 and the killing of a disabled Jewish passenger. The composer's third opera, Doctor Atomic (2005), was the story of the scientists in Los Alamos, N.M., U.S., who during World War II devised the first atomic bomb. Sellars compiled the libretto from a variety of sources, including the favourite poetry of the Los Alamos physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer as well as declassified government documents of the period.

      In a departure from his 2005 statement that “if opera is actually going to be a part of our lives…it has to deal with contemporary topics,” Adams based his fourth opera, A Flowering Tree (2006), on South Indian folktales; again Sellars was his collaborator. The work was created in homage to Mozart, taking as its inspiration The Magic Flute (1791).

      Adams's operas have been regularly performed, and they have been recorded; Nixon in China won a 1988 Grammy Award. A number of critics have found them to be among the most significant of contemporary operas. Adams created orchestral and choral works from his opera scores, including The Nixon Tapes (1987), for voices and orchestra, and Doctor Atomic Symphony (2005). The Chairman Dances, subtitled “Foxtrot for Orchestra,” which was written for Nixon in China but dropped from the final score, became one of Adams's most-often-played orchestral works.

      After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City commissioned a work from Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls, for orchestra, chorus, children's choir, and prerecorded sound track, first performed Sept. 19, 2002. The text of the work derived from three sources: fragments from notices posted at the World Trade Center site by friends and relatives of the missing, interviews published in the New York Times, and randomly chosen names of victims. For this composition Adams was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music; the recording won three 2004 Grammy Awards.

      Adams received numerous other honours and awards as well. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997. Also in 1997 he was named Composer of the Year by the venerable magazine Musical America. A festival in his honour at Lincoln Center in April and May of 2003 was the most extensive single-composer festival that had ever been held there.

Additional Reading
Thomas May (ed.), The John Adams Reader: Essential Writings on an American Composer (2006).

▪ president of United States
Introduction
born October 30 [October 19, Old Style], 1735, Braintree [now in Quincy], Massachusetts [U.S.]
died July 4, 1826, Quincy
 early advocate of American independence (American Revolution) from Great Britain, major figure in the Continental Congress (1774–77), author of the Massachusetts constitution (1780), signer of the Treaty of Paris (1783), first American ambassador to the Court of St. James (1785–88), first vice president (1789–97) and second president (1797–1801) of the United States. Although Adams was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most significant statesmen of the revolutionary era, his reputation faded in the 19th century, only to ascend again during the last half of the 20th century. The modern edition of his correspondence prompted a rediscovery of his bracing honesty and pungent way with words, his importance as a political thinker, his realistic perspective on American foreign policy, and his patriarchal role as founder of one of the most prominent families in American history. (For a discussion of the history and nature of the presidency, see presidency of the United States of America.)

Early life
      Adams was the eldest of the three sons of Deacon John Adams and Susanna Boylston of Braintree, Massachusetts. His father was only a farmer and shoemaker, but the Adams family could trace its lineage back to the first generation of Puritan settlers in New England. A local selectman and a leader in the community, Deacon Adams encouraged his eldest son to aspire toward a career in the ministry. In keeping with that goal, Adams graduated from Harvard College in 1755. For the next three years, he taught grammar school in Worcester, Massachusetts, while contemplating his future. He eventually chose law rather than the ministry and in 1758 moved back to Braintree, then soon began practicing law in nearby Boston.

      In 1764 Adams married Abigail Smith (Adams, Abigail), a minister's daughter from neighbouring Weymouth. Intelligent, well-read, vivacious, and just as fiercely independent as her new husband, Abigail Adams (Adams, Abigail) became a confidante and political partner who helped to stabilize and sustain the ever-irascible and highly volatile Adams throughout his long career. The letters between them afford an extended glimpse into their deepest thoughts and emotions and provide modern readers with the most revealing record of personal intimacy between husband and wife in the revolutionary era (see Abigail's letter to John: Doubts About Independence (Abigail Adams: Doubts About Independence)). Their first child, Abigail Amelia, was born in 1765. Their first son, John Quincy (Adams, John Quincy), arrived two years later. Two other sons, Thomas Boylston and Charles, followed shortly thereafter. (Another child, Susanna, did not survive infancy.)

      By then Adams's legal career was on the rise, and he had become a visible member of the resistance movement that questioned Parliament's right to tax the American colonies. In 1765 Adams wrote “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law,” which justified opposition to the recently enacted Stamp Act—an effort to raise revenue by requiring all publications and legal documents to bear a stamp—by arguing that Parliament's intrusions into colonial affairs exposed the inherently coercive and corrupt character of English politics. Intensely combative, full of private doubts about his own capacities but never about his cause, Adams became a leading figure in the opposition to the Townshend Acts (1767), which imposed duties on imported commodities (i.e., glass, lead, paper, paint, and tea). Despite his hostility toward the British government, in 1770 Adams agreed to defend the British soldiers who had fired on a Boston crowd in what became known as the Boston Massacre. His insistence on upholding the legal rights of the soldiers, who in fact had been provoked, made him temporarily unpopular but also marked him as one of the most principled radicals in the burgeoning movement for American independence. He had a penchant for doing the right thing, most especially when it made him unpopular.

      In the summer of 1774, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts delegation that joined the representatives from 12 of 13 colonies in Philadelphia at the First Continental Congress. He and his cousin, Samuel Adams, quickly became the leaders of the radical faction, which rejected the prospects for reconciliation with Britain. His Novanglus essays, published early in 1775, moved the constitutional argument forward another notch, insisting that Parliament lacked the authority not just to tax the colonies but also to legislate for them in any way. (Less than a year earlier, Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Thomas) had made a similar argument against parliamentary authority in A Summary View of the Rights of British America.)

      By the time the Second Continental Congress convened in 1775, Adams had gained the reputation as “the Atlas of independence.” Over the course of the following year, he made several major contributions to the patriot cause destined to ensure his place in American history. First, he nominated George Washington (Washington, George) to serve as commander of the fledging Continental Army. Second, he selected Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. (Both decisions were designed to ensure Virginia's support for the revolution.) Third, he dominated the debate in the Congress on July 2–4, 1776, defending Jefferson's draft of the declaration and demanding unanimous support for a decisive break with Great Britain. Moreover, he had written Thoughts on Government, which circulated throughout the colonies as the major guidebook for the drafting of new state constitutions (see primary source document: The Foundation of Government (John Adams: The Foundation of Government)).

      Adams remained the central figure of the Continental Congress for the following two years. He drafted the Plan of Treaties in July 1776, a document that provided the framework for a treaty with France and that almost inadvertently identified the strategic priorities that would shape American foreign policy over the next century. He was the unanimous choice to head the Board of War and Ordnance and was thereby made in effect a one-man war department responsible for raising and equipping the American army and creating from scratch an American navy. As the prospects for a crucial wartime alliance with France improved late in 1777, he was chosen to join Benjamin Franklin (Franklin, Benjamin) in Paris to conduct the negotiations. In February 1778 he sailed for Europe, accompanied by 10-year-old John Quincy.

Foreign service
      By the time Adams arrived in Paris, the treaty creating an alliance with France had already been concluded. He quickly returned home in the summer of 1779, just in time to join the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. The other delegates, acknowledging his constitutional expertise, simply handed him the job of drafting what became the Massachusetts constitution (1780), which immediately became the model for the other state constitutions and—in its insistence on a bicameral legislature and the separation of powers—a major influence on the Constitution of the United States (Constitution of the United States of America).

      The Congress then ordered Adams to rejoin Franklin in Paris to lead the American delegation responsible for negotiating an end to the war with Britain. This time he took along his youngest son, Charles, as well as John Quincy, leaving Abigail to tend the farm and the other two children in Braintree. Not until 1784, almost five years later, was the entire family reunited in Paris. By then Adams had shown himself an unnatural diplomat, exhibiting a level of candour and a confrontational style toward both English and French negotiators that alienated Franklin, who came to regard his colleague as slightly deranged. Adams, for his part, thought Franklin excessively impressed with his own stature as the Gallic version of the American genius and therefore inadequately attuned to the important differences between American and French interests in the peace negotiations. The favourable terms achieved in the Peace of Paris (Paris, Peace of) (1783) can be attributed to the effective blend of Franklin's discretion and Adams's bulldog temperament. Adams's reputation for emotional explosions also dates from this period. Recent scholarly studies suggest that he might have suffered from a hyperthyroid condition subsequently known as Graves' disease.

      In 1784 Jefferson arrived in Paris to replace Franklin as the American minister at the French court. Over the next few months, Jefferson became an unofficial member of the Adams family, and the bond of friendship between Adams and Jefferson was sealed, a lifelong partnership and rivalry that made the combative New Englander and the elegant Virginian the odd couple of the American Revolution. Jefferson also visited the Adams family in England in 1785, after Adams had assumed his new post as American ambassador in London. The two men also joined forces, though Adams as the senior figure assumed the lead, in negotiating a $400,000 loan from Dutch bankers that allowed the American government to consolidate its European debts.

Political philosophy
      Because he was the official embodiment of American independence from the British Empire, Adams was largely ignored and relegated to the periphery of the court during his nearly three years in London. Still brimming with energy, he spent his time studying the history of European politics for patterns and lessons that might assist the fledgling American government in its efforts to achieve what no major European nation had managed to produce—namely, a stable republican form of government.

      The result was a massive and motley three-volume collection of quotations, unacknowledged citations, and personal observations entitled A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787). A fourth volume, Discourses on Davila (1790), was published soon after he returned to the United States. Taken together, these lengthy tomes contained Adams's distinctive insights as a political thinker. The lack of organization, combined with the sprawling style of the Defence, however, made its core message difficult to follow or fathom. When read in the context of his voluminous correspondence on political issues, along with the extensive marginalia he recorded in the several thousand books in his personal library, that message became clearer with time.

      Adams wished to warn his fellow Americans against all revolutionary manifestos that envisioned a fundamental break with the past and a fundamental transformation in human nature or society that supposedly produced a new age. All such utopian expectations were illusions, he believed, driven by what he called “ideology,” the belief that imagined ideals, so real and seductive in theory, were capable of being implemented in the world. The same kind of conflict between different classes that had bedeviled medieval Europe would, albeit in muted forms, also afflict the United States, because the seeds of such competition were planted in human nature itself. Adams blended the psychological insights of New England Puritanism, with its emphasis on the emotional forces throbbing inside all creatures, and the Enlightenment belief that government must contain and control those forces, to construct a political system capable of balancing the ambitions of individuals and competing social classes.

      His insistence that elites were unavoidable realities in all societies, however, made him vulnerable to the charge of endorsing aristocratic rule in America, when in fact he was attempting to suggest that the inevitable American elite must be controlled, its ambitions channeled toward public purposes. He also was accused of endorsing monarchical principles because he argued that the chief executive in the American government, like the king in medieval European society, must possess sufficient power to check the ravenous appetites of the propertied classes. Although misunderstood by many of his contemporaries, the realistic perspective Adams proposed—and the skepticism toward utopian schemes he insisted upon—has achieved considerable support in the wake of the failed 20th-century attempts at social transformation in the communist bloc. In Adams's own day, his political analysis enjoyed the satisfaction of correctly predicting that the French Revolution would lead to the Reign of Terror and eventual despotism by a military dictator.

Vice presidency and presidency
 Soon after his return to the United States, Adams found himself on the ballot in the presidential election of 1789. He finished second to Washington (Washington, George) (69 votes to 34 votes), which signaled three political realities: first, his standing as a leading member of the revolutionary generation was superseded only by that of Washington himself; second, his combative style and his recent political writings had hurt his reputation enough to preclude the kind of overwhelming support Washington enjoyed; third, according to the electoral rules established in the recent ratified Constitution, he was America's first vice president.

      This meant that Adams was the first American statesman to experience the paradox of being a heartbeat away from maximum power while languishing in the political version of a cul-de-sac. Adams himself described the vice presidency as “the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of man contrived or his Imagination conceived.” His main duty was to serve as president of the Senate, casting a vote only to break a tie. During his eight years in office, Adams cast between 31 and 38 such votes, more than any subsequent vice president in American history. He steadfastly supported all the major initiatives of the Washington administration, including the financial plan of Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton, Alexander), the Neutrality Proclamation (1793), which effectively ended the Franco-American Alliance of 1778, the forceful suppression of an insurrection in western Pennsylvania called the Whiskey Rebellion (1794), and the Jay Treaty (1795), a highly controversial effort to avoid war with England by accepting British hegemony on the high seas. When Washington announced his decision not to seek a third term in 1796, Adams was the logical choice to succeed him.

 In the first contested presidential election in American history, Adams won a narrow electoral majority (71–68) over Jefferson, who thereby became vice president (see primary source document: Inaugural Address (John Adams: Inaugural Address)). Adams made an initial effort to bring Jefferson into the cabinet and involve him in shaping foreign policy, but Jefferson declined the offer, preferring to retain his independence. This burdened the Adams presidency with a vice president who was the acknowledged head of the rival political party, the Republicans (subsequently the Democratic-Republicans (Democratic-Republican Party)). Additional burdens included: inheritance of Washington's cabinet, whom Adams unwisely decided to retain, and whose highest loyalty was to Washington's memory as embodied in Hamilton; a raging naval conflict with the French in the Caribbean dubbed the “quasi-war”; and the impossible task of succeeding—no one could replace—the greatest hero of the revolutionary era.

      Despite Washington's plea for a bipartisan foreign policy in his farewell address (1796), the “quasi-war” produced a bitter political argument between Federalists (Federalist Party), who preferred war with France to alienating Britain, and Democratic-Republicans, who viewed France as America's only European ally and the French Revolution as a continuation of the American Revolution on European soil. Adams attempted to steer a middle course between these partisan camps, which left him vulnerable to political attacks from both sides. In 1797 he sent a peace delegation to Paris to negotiate an end to hostilities, but when the French directory demanded bribes before any negotiations could begin, Adams ordered the delegates home and began a naval buildup in preparation for outright war. The Federalist-dominated Congress called for raising a 30,000-man army, which Adams agreed to reluctantly. If Adams had requested a declaration of war in 1798, he would have enjoyed widespread popularity and virtually certain reelection two years later. Instead, he acted with characteristic independence by sending yet another, and this time successful, peace delegation to France against the advice of his cabinet and his Federalist supporters. The move ruined him politically but avoided a costly war that the infant American republic was ill-prepared to fight. It was a vintage Adams performance, reminiscent of his defense of British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, which was also principled and unpopular.

      If ending the “quasi-war” with France was Adams's major foreign policy triumph, his chief domestic failure was passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), which permitted the government to deport foreign-born residents and indict newspaper editors or writers who published "false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States." A total of 14 indictments were brought against the Republican press under the sedition act, but the crudely partisan prosecutions quickly became infamous persecutions that backfired on the Federalists. Although Adams had signed the Alien and Sedition Acts under pressure from the Federalists in Congress, he shouldered most of the blame both at the time and in the history books. He came to regard the sedition act as the biggest political blunder of his life.

 The election of 1800 again pitted Adams against Jefferson. Adams ran ahead of the Federalist candidates for Congress, who were swept from office in a Republican landslide. However, thanks to the deft maneuvering of Aaron Burr (Burr, Aaron), all 12 of New York's electoral votes went to Jefferson, giving the tandem of Jefferson and Burr the electoral victory (73–65). Jefferson was eventually elected president by the House of Representatives, which chose him over Burr on the 36th ballot. In his last weeks in office, Adams made several Federalist appointments to the judiciary, including John Marshall (Marshall, John) as chief justice of the United States. These “midnight judges” offended Jefferson, who resented the encroachment on his own presidential prerogatives. Adams, the first president to reside in the presidential mansion (later called the White House) in Washington, D.C., was also the first—and one of the very few—presidents not to attend the inauguration of his successor. On March 4, 1801, he was already on the road back to Quincy.

Retirement
      At age 65 Adams did not anticipate a long retirement. The fates proved more generous than he expected, providing him with another quarter century to brood about his career and life, add to the extensive marginalia in his books, settle old scores in his memoirs, watch with pride when John Quincy assumed the presidency, and add to his already vast and voluminous correspondence. In an extensive exchange of letters with Benjamin Rush (Rush, Benjamin), the Philadelphia physician and patriotic gadfly, Adams revealed his preoccupation with fame and developed his own theory of the role ambition plays in motivating man to public service. Along the way he placed on the record his own candid and often critical portraits of the other vanguard members of the revolutionary generation.

      In 1812, thanks in part to prodding from Rush, he overcame his bitterness toward Jefferson and initiated a correspondence with his former friend and rival that totaled 158 letters. Generally regarded as the most intellectually impressive correspondence between American statesmen in all of American history, the dialogue between Adams and Jefferson touched on a host of timely and timeless subjects: the role of religion in history, the aging process, the emergence of an American language, the French Revolution, and the party battles of the 1790s. Adams put it most poignantly to Jefferson: “You and I ought not to die, before We have explained ourselves to each other.”

      More than the elegiac tone of the letters, the correspondence dramatized the contradictory impulses generated by the American Revolution and symbolized by the two aging patriarchs. Adams was the realist, the skeptic, the principled pessimist. Jefferson was the idealist, the romantic, the pragmatic optimist. As if according to a script written by providence, the “Sage of Quincy” and the “Sage of Monticello” died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary to the day of the Declaration of Independence.

      (For additional writings by Adams, see The Meaning of the American Revolution (John Adams: The Meaning of the American Revolution); On the Importance of Property for the Suffrage (John Adams: On the Importance of Property for the Suffrage); and Party Divisions in America (John Adams: Party Divisions in America).)

Joseph J. Ellis

Cabinet of President John Adams
       Cabinet of President John Adams Cabinet of President John AdamsThe table provides a list of cabinet members in the administration of President John Adams.

Additional Reading

Adams's writings
The definitive edition of the Adams papers has been published in separate installments. L.H. Butterfield et al. (eds.), Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, 4 vol. (1961, reissued 1964); Adams Family Correspondence, 6 vol. (1963–93); and The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762–1784 (1975, reissued 1997), launched the project, which continued with Robert J. Taylor et al. (eds.), Papers of John Adams (1977– ). Adams's legal career is handled separately in L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel (eds.), Legal Papers of John Adams, 3 vol. (1965, reprinted 1968). Because the definitive edition remains a work in progress, the only comprehensive edition in print is Charles Francis Adams (ed.), The Works of John Adams, 10 vol. (1850–56, reprinted 1971). Other pieces of the massive Adams correspondence include: Charles Francis Adams (ed.), Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, 2 vol. (1841, reissued 1965); Alexander Biddle et al., Old Family Letters, 2 vol. (1892); Worthington Chauncey Ford (ed.), Statesman and Friend: Correspondence of John Adams with Benjamin Waterhouse, 1784–1822 (1927); Lester J. Cappon (ed.), The Adams-Jefferson Letters, 2 vol. (1959, reprinted in 1 vol., 1988); John A. Schutz and Douglass Adair (eds.), The Spur of Fame: Dialogues of John Adams and Benjamin Rush, 1805–1813 (1966, reissued 1980).

Biographies
Among the full-length biographies, three stand out: Page Smith, John Adams, 2 vol. (1962–63, reprinted in 1 vol., 1988); Peter Shaw, The Character of John Adams (1976); and John Ferling, John Adams: A Life (1992, reissued 1996). Although a fictional biography, Catherine Drinker Bowen, John Adams and the American Revolution (1950), is unsurpassed in bringing Adams to life during the early stages of his career. For the latter phase of his life, see Joseph J. Ellis, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams (1993). The Adams presidency is the focus of two books: Stephen G. Kurtz, The Presidency of John Adams: The Collapse of Federalism, 1795–1800 (1957, reissued 1961); and Ralph Adams Brown, The Presidency of John Adams (1975). An old but still valuable rendering of the presidential years is Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists (1953, reprinted 1984).

Special topics
Topical accounts of specific moments in Adams's life include Hiller B. Zobel, The Boston Massacre (1970, reissued 1996); James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (1980); Alexander DeConde, The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797–1801 (1966); James Morton Smith, Freedom's Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, emended ed. (1966); and Merrill D. Peterson, Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Dialogue (1976, reissued 1978). Adams's political thought is the subject of several books. Zoltán Haraszti, John Adams & the Prophets of Progress (1952, reissued 1964), is old but still unsurpassed in its revelations based on the marginalia in Adams's books. John R. Howe, Jr., The Changing Political Thought of John Adams (1966), argues that Adams went through a conservative phase in the 1780s. C. Bradley Thompson, John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty (1998), argues for Adams's abiding consistency and has now become the authoritative account. Edward Handler, America and Europe in the Political Thought of John Adams (1964), provides an excellent overview of Adams's reactions to major European thinkers. Four biographies of Abigail Adams provide important insights into the domestic and personal life of the remarkable Adams family: Charles W. Akers, Abigail Adams: An American Woman (2nd ed., 2000); Lynn Withey, Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams (1981); Phyllis Lee Levin, Abigail Adams: A Biography (1987); and Edith B. Gelles, Portia: The World of Abigail Adams (1992, reissued 1995). The most negative view of Abigail Adams can be found in Paul C. Nagel, Descent from Glory: Four Generations of the John Adams Family (1983, reissued 1999), and The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters, and Daughters (1987, reissued 1999). The multiple paintings of the Adams family are available in Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John and Abigail Adams (1967). Finally, seminal essays on Adams's personality and ideology can be found in several books that focus on larger themes during the Revolutionary era. These include Bernard Bailyn, Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence (1990, reissued 1992); Edmund S. Morgan, The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson (1976, reissued 1978); and Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (1969, reissued 1998).

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Universalium. 2010.

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