Nickname: Atlas of Independence

Years in office: 1797–1801

Political party: Federalist

Birthday: October 30, 1735

Official presidential portrait of John Adams

by John Trumbull, c. 1792-93

The Bloody Massacre by Paul Revere, 1770 (Library of Congress)

Before he became president, John Adams made a name for himself as a Boston lawyer. John Adams’s devotion to the Patriot cause was tested by the event known as the Boston Massacre.

The British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre were accused of murder, and they needed a lawyer. They eventually found John Adams to head their defense. And, he defended them successfully.

In the 1796 election, John Adams defeated Thomas Jefferson. Since this election occurred before the Twelfth Amendment, the second-place finisher, Thomas Jefferson, became vice president.

In the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson defeated incumbent John Adams. At the time, electors voted for two candidates, and as a result, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes. The election was decided in the House of Representatives. Adams didn’t attend Jefferson’s inauguration, but power was transferred peacefully from one party to another.


Peacefield, Quincy, MA


United First Parish Church, Quincy, MA


Davis, Kenneth C., and Pedro Martin. Don’t Know Much about the Presidents. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

DeGregorio, William A., and Aaron Jaffe. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc., 2017.

Kane, Joseph Nathan, and Janet Podell. Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2009.


Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com

Library of Congress, loc.gov

Miller Center, University of Virginia, millercenter.org/the-presidency

The White House, whitehouse.gov

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