Portraits: John Adams   8 comments

Edgar Parker painted the portrait in 1878 based on an original by Gilbert Stuart.

Edgar Parker painted the portrait in 1878 based on an original by Gilbert Stuart.

John Adams (1735 – 1826)

The 2nd President of the United States, 1797 – 1801

AKA: His Roundity, The Atlas of Independence, The Colossus of Independence, Bonny Johnny, The Duke of Braintree

From: Massachusetts

College: Harvard

Married to: Abigail Smith

Children: Nabby, John Quincy, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, Elizabeth

Party: Federalist

Previous Job: Teacher, lawyer, Colonial legislator to the Massachusetts General Court, Delegate to the First Continental Congress, Delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Ambassador, Vice President

In His Words: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty.”

This 2 cent stamp was introduced in 1938.

This 2 cent stamp was introduced in 1938.

“There is something very unnatural and odious in a government a thousand leagues off. A whole government of our own choice, managed by persons whom we love, revere, and can confide in, has charms in it for which men will fight.”

“Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

“Since the decay of the feudal system, by which the public defense was provided for chiefly at the expense of individuals, the system of loans has been introduced, and as no nation can raise within the year by taxes sufficient sums for its defense and military operations in time of war the sums loaned and debts contracted have necessarily become the subjects of what have been called funding systems. The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own. The national defense must be provided for as well as the support of Government; but both should be accomplished as much as possible by immediate taxes, and as little as possible by loans.”

“Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right.”

“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

Not true: It’s a quote often attributed to John Adams:

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a Congress!”

Just one problem: John Adams didn’t say it. It’s a line from the 1969 Broadway music comedy, 1776!

True:The Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Members included Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R Livingston and Roger Sherman. The committee apparently wanted Adams to write the document, but he persuaded the committee to have Jefferson write the first draft. In later years, Jefferson would say that Adams was “the pillar of [the Declaration’s] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered.”

Adams was appointed our first Ambassador, traveling with his son and future President, John Quincy Adams, to France in 1777.

In our first Presidential election, George Washington was unanimously elected by our electors. The race was for 2nd place, and 11 candidates split the 69 available votes. Adams received the most, so he became our first Vice President.

Unfortunately, Mr. Adams didn’t like his position, saying, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived. . . .” However, he did win the 1797 election, only to lose in 1800 to his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson. Adams thus became our first one term President.

Adams kept a horse named Cleopatra.

The Official Portrait: Portrait of John Adams by John Trumbull, c. 1792-93.

John Adams, Official White House Portrait

John Adams Signature


Big Mo

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