Painted portrait of second President of the United States John Adams.

John Adams

(1735 - 1826)

By 1765 John Adams had earned considerable renown as a lawyer, electing to defend both John Hancock, against accusations of smuggling, and Thomas Preston, the British officer in charge during the Boston Massacre. Later, he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, signed of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, served as the first American ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1785, was elected the first vice president in 1789, and became the second U.S. president in 1797. Benjamin Rush wrote of Adams, “Every member of Congress in 1776 acknowledged him to be the first man in the House.”

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Miscellany

In September 1776, fearing illness from night air, John Adams asked Benjamin Franklin to close the window of their room in a New Jersey inn. “I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds,” Franklin responded, launching into “a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration” in favor of leaving windows open. “I was so much amused,” Adams wrote in his journal, “that I soon fell asleep and left him and his philosophy together.”

Fear is the foundation of most governments. 

—John Adams, 1776

Miscellany

For publishing an editorial critical of John Adams’ Federalist administration in 1798, Vermont congressman Matthew Lyon became the first U.S. citizen tried under the Sedition Act. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to four months in federal jail. He ran his reelection campaign from prison, winning by a two-to-one margin. He resumed his post upon release.

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