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JOHN A D A M S.
John Adams, the second president of the United States, was born on the 19th of October (old style), 1735, in that part of the town of Braintree, in Massachusetts (near Boston) which has since been incorporated by the name of Quincy. He was the fourth in descent from Henry Adams, who fled from persecution in Devonshire, England, and settled in Massachusetts, about the year 1630. Another of the ancestors of Mr. Adams was John Alden, one of the pilgrim founders of the Plymouth colony in 1620. Receiving his early education in his native town, John Adams, in 1751, was admitted a member of Harvard college, at Cambridge, where he graduated in regular course, four years afterward. On leaving college he went to Worcester, for the purpose of studying law, and at the same time to support himself, according to the usage at that time in New England, by teaching in the grammar-school of that town. He studied law with James Putnam, a barrister of eminence, by whom he was afterward introduced to the acquaintance of Jeremy Gridley, then attorney-general of the province, who proposed him to the court for admission to the bar of Suffolk county, in 1758, and gave him access to his library, which was then one of the best in America.
Mr. Adams commenced the practice of his profession in his native town, and, by travelling the circuits with the court, became well known in that part of the country. In 1766, by the advice of Mr. Gridley, he removed to Boston, where he soon distinguished himself at the bar, by his superior talents as counsel and advocate. At an earlier period of his life, his thoughts had begun to turn on general politics, and the prospects of his country engaged his attention. Soon after leaving college, he wrote a letter to a friend, dated at Worcester, the 12th of October, 1755, which evinces so remarkable a foresight that it is fortunate it has been preserved. We make the following extracts : “Soon after the reformation, a few people came over into this new world, for conscience' sake.
Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me, if we can remove the turbulent Gallics, our people, according to the exactest computation, will, in another century, become more numerous than England herself. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves, is to disunite us. Divide et impera. Keep us in distinct colonies, and then some great men in each colony, desiring the monarchy of the whole, will destroy each other's influence, and keep the country in equilibrio. Be not surprised that I am turned politician ; the whole town is immersed in politics. I sit and hear, and, after being led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire and, by laying things together, form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read above." Mr. Webster observes: “It is remarkable that the author of this prognostication should live to see fulfilled to the letter what could have seemed to others, at the time, but the extravagance of youthful fancy. His earliest political feelings were thus strongly American, and from this ardent attachment to his native soil he never departed.”
In 1764, he married Abigail Smith, daughter of Rev. William Smith, of Weymouth, and grand-daughter of Colonel Quincy, a lady of uncommon endowments and excellent education. He had previously imbibed a prejudice against the prevailing religious opinions of New England, and became attached to speculations hostile to those opinions. Nor were his views afterward changed. In his religious sentiments he accorded with Doctor Bancroft, a unitarian minister of Worcester, of whose printed sermons he expressed his high approbation. In 1765, Mr. Adams published an essay on canon and feudal law, the object of which was to show the conspiracy between church and state for the purpose of oppressing the people.
In 1770, he was chosen a representative, from the town of Boston, in the legislature of Massachusetts. The same year he was one of the counsel who defended Captain Preston, and the British soldiers who fired at his order, upon the inhabitants of Boston. Captain Preston was acquitted, and Mr. Adams lost no favor with his fellow-citizens by engaging in this trial. As a member of the legislature, he opposed the royal governor, Hutchinson, in his measures, and also wrote against the British government in the newspapers. In 1774, he was elected a member of the Massachusetts council, and negatived by Governor Gage. In this and the next year, he wrote on the whig side the numbers called “ Nov Anglus," in reply to essays, signed “ Massachusitensis,” in favor of the British gove ernment, by Sewall, the attorney-general. The same year he was appointed a member of the continental congress, from Massachusetts, and in that body, which met at Philadelphia, he became one of the most efficient and able advocates of liberty. In the Congress which met in May, 1775, he again took his seat, having been reappointed as a delegate. In 1775 he seconded the nomination of Washington as commander-in-chief of the army, and in July, 1776, he was the adviser and great supporter of the declaration of independence. It was reported by a committee composed
. of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. During the same year, he, with Doctor Franklin and Edward Rutledge, was deputed to treat with Lord Howe for the pacification of the colonies. He declined, at this time, the offer of the office of chief justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts.
In December, 1777, Mr. Adams was appointed a commissioner to the court of France, in place of Silas Deane, who was recalled. He embarked in the frigate Boston, in February, 1778. On his arrival in France he found a treaty of amity and commerce, also a treaty of alliance, had been already signed, and, after Doctor Franklin received from Congress the appointment of minister plenipotentiary, Mr. Adams returned to the United States, in the summer of 1779.
Immediately after his return he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts convention for framing the new state constitution. He accepted a seat in that body, and his plan for a constitution being reported by a committee of which he was a member, was, in most of its important features, adopted by the convention.
During the time when he was attending to the business of the Massachusetts convention, Congress resolved to appoint a minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace with Great Britain. On the 29th of September, 1779, Mr. Adams received this appointment, and sailed in the French frigate La Sensible, in November. He landed at Ferrol, in Spain, and arrived in Paris in February, 1780. In August he repaired to Amsterdam, having previously been instructed to procure loans in Holland, and soon afterward receiving power to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce. In 1782 he effected a loan for eight millions of guilders, also negotiated a very favorable treaty with Holland, which nation recognised the United States as free, sovereign, and independent.
In 1781 Mr. Adams was associated by Congress with Franklin, Jay, Laurens, and Jefferson, in a commission for concluding treaties of peace with the several European powers; and in 1783 he was associated with Franklin and Jay for the purpose of negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain. The definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain was signed on the 3d of September, 1783, by Messrs. Adams, Franklin, and Jay; the provisional treaty had been signed by the same commissioners, with Mr. Laurens, on the 30th of November, 1782.
During part of the year 1784, Mr. Adams remained in Holland, and returned to France, where he joined his associates appointed by Congress to negotiate commercial treaties with foreign nations. An extensive plan of operations for commercial conventions was formed, but not carried out.
In January, 1785, Congress appointed Mr. Adams minister to represent