Samuel Adams and John Adams were second cousins. Abigail Adams was John Adams’ third cousin. John Quincy Adams was the son of John and Abigail.
The elusiveness of the character of Samuel Adams has allowed for a wide interpretation of his place and influence in American Revolution. Prominent American Revolution histories rarely discuss Adams at length and there are few biographies about him.
Samuel Adams’ description in history goes from heroic “Father of the Revolution” to zealot and propagandist directing mobs to a complex man who greatly influenced the American Revolution. (Perkins)
Samuel Adams, (born September 27 [September 16, Old Style], 1722, Boston, Massachusetts – died October 2, 1803, Boston) was a politician of the American Revolution, leader of the Massachusetts “radicals,” a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774–81) and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was later lieutenant governor (1789–93) and governor (1794–97) of Massachusetts.
Adams was a powerful figure in the opposition to British authority in the colonies. He denounced the Sugar Act, being one of the first of the colonials to cry out against taxation without representation.
He played an important part in instigating the Stamp Act riots in Boston that were directed against the new requirement to pay taxes on all legal and commercial documents, newspapers, and college diplomas.
His influence was soon second only to James Otis, the lawyer and politician who gained prominence by his resistance to the revenue acts.
Samuel Adams was one of the first American leaders to deny Parliament’s authority over the colonies, and he was also one of the first—certainly by 1774—to establish independence as the proper goal.
He was again a leading figure in the opposition of Massachusetts to the execution of the Intolerable (Coercive) Acts passed by the British Parliament in retaliation for the dumping of tea in Boston Harbor, and, as a member of the First Continental Congress, which spoke for the 13 colonies, he insisted that the delegates take a vigorous stand against Britain.
A member of the provincial congress of Massachusetts in 1774–75, he participated in making preparations for warfare should Britain resort to arms. When the British troops marched out of Boston to Concord, Adams and the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, were staying in a farmhouse near the line of march, and it has been said that the arrest of the two men was one of the purposes of the expedition.
As a member of the Continental Congress, in which he served until 1781, Adams was less conspicuous than he was in town meetings and the Massachusetts legislature, for the congress contained a number of men as able as he.
He and John Adams were among the first to call for a final separation from Britain, both signed the Declaration of Independence, and both exerted considerable influence in the congress.
Elizabeth Checkley Adams
Elizabeth Checkley Adams, the first wife of Samuel Adams, was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Checkley, pastor of the New South Church in Boston.
The elder Checkley and the father of Samuel Adams were life-long friends, and it is said that it was the influence of the elder Adams that secured the appointment of his friend to the pastorate.
Five children were born to Samuel and Elizabeth Adams, only two of whom came to maturity, Samuel, Jr., and Hannah. On July 25, 1757, at the age of thirty-two, Elizabeth died soon after giving birth to a stillborn son.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Wells Adams
“On December 6, 1764, forty-two-year-old Samuel Adams married Elizabeth Wells, the twenty-nine-year-old daughter of his good friend, Francis Wells, an English merchant who came to Boston with his family in 1723. They had no children, but Elizabeth helped raise Samuel and Hannah, the surviving children of the first Mrs. Adams.
Elizabeth Wells Adams was a pleasant and hard-working woman who, through the forty years of life that remained to Sam, supported him in every way. She turned out to be a good manager. While he nurtured the birth of Independence, he was quite careless about his home and the condition of his own children’s clothes and shoes. (History of American Women)
After the British evacuated Boston in March 1776, she and her family returned to the city to live. Sometimes they were “low in cash,” as she naively put it, but with her fine sewing and Hannah’s “exquisite embroidery,” they managed to live in comfort.
Samuel Adams died at the age of 81 on October 2, 1803, and was interred at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. The city’s Republican newspaper, the Independent Chronicle, eulogized him as the Father of the American Revolution. Elizabeth Wells Adams died in 1808.
Adams was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1735 (he was 13 years younger than Samuel Adams). He was the eldest of the three sons of Deacon John Adams and Susanna Boylston of Braintree, Massachusetts.
His father was a farmer and shoemaker; 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.
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.
He early became identified with the patriot cause; a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, he led in the movement for independence.
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.
He and his cousin, Samuel Adams, quickly became the leaders of the radical faction, which rejected the prospects for reconciliation with Britain.
During the Revolutionary War he served in France and Holland in diplomatic roles, and helped negotiate the treaty of peace. From 1785 to 1788 he was minister to the Court of St. James.
Soon after his return to the United States, Adams found himself on the ballot in the presidential election of 1789.
Washington was the unanimous selection of all electors, while Adams finished second, signaling that his standing as a leading member of the revolutionary generation was superseded only by that of Washington himself. Under the electoral rules established in the recent ratified Constitution, Adams was duly elected America’s first vice president.
When Adams became President, the war between the French and British was causing great difficulties for the United States on the high seas and intense partisanship among contending factions within the Nation.
Adams retired to his farm in Quincy. Here he wrote his elaborate letters to Thomas Jefferson. Here on July 4, 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence), he whispered his last words: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” But Jefferson had died at Monticello a few hours earlier. (White House)
Abigail Smith Adams
Like other women of the time, Abigail lacked formal education; but her curiosity spurred her keen intelligence, and she read avidly the books at hand. Reading created a bond between her and young John Adams, Harvard graduate launched on a career in law, and they were married in 1764. It was a marriage of the mind and of the heart, enduring for more than half a century, enriched by time.
The young couple lived on John’s small farm at Braintree or in Boston as his practice expanded. In ten years she bore three sons and two daughters; she looked after family and home when he went traveling as circuit judge. “Alas!” she wrote in December 1773, “How many snow banks divide thee and me….”
Long separations kept Abigail from her husband while he served the country they loved, as delegate to the Continental Congress, envoy abroad, elected officer under the Constitution. Her letters – pungent, witty, and vivid, spelled just as she spoke – detail her life in times of revolution. They tell the story of the woman who stayed at home to struggle with wartime shortages and inflation; to run the farm with a minimum of help; to teach four children when formal education was interrupted
Abigail Adams was the first woman to serve as Second Lady of United States and the second woman to serve as First Lady. She was also the mother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams.
Abigail died in 1818, and is buried beside her husband in United First Parish Church. She left her country a most remarkable record as patriot and First Lady, wife of one President and mother of another. (White House)
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams (eldest son of President John and Abigail Adams) entered the world (July 11, 1767, Braintree [now Quincy], Massachusetts) at the same time that his maternal great-grandfather, John Quincy, for many years a prominent member of the Massachusetts legislature, was leaving it – hence his name.
He grew up as a child of the American Revolution – he watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from Penn’s Hill and heard the cannons roar across the Back Bay in Boston.
In 1778 and again in 1780 the boy accompanied his father to Europe. He studied at a private school in Paris in 1778–79 and at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, in 1780. Thus, at an early age he acquired an excellent knowledge of the French language and a smattering of Dutch.
In 1790 he was admitted to the bar association in Boston. While struggling to establish a practice, he wrote a series of articles for the newspapers in which he controverted some of the doctrines in Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791).
All through his life, ever aspiring to higher public service, he considered himself a “man of my whole country.”
The Monroe Doctrine rightly bears the name of the president who in 1823 assumed the responsibility for its promulgation, but its formulation was the work of John Quincy Adams more than of any other single man.
As President Monroe’s second term drew to a close in 1824, three in his cabinet – Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford -aspired to succeed him. Adams was elected.
Perhaps the most dramatic event in Adams’s life was its end.
On February 21, 1848, in the act of protesting an honorary grant of swords by Congress to the generals who had won what Adams considered a “most unrighteous war” with Mexico, he suffered a cerebral stroke, fell unconscious to the floor of the House, and died two days later in the Capitol building.
Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams
John Quincy Adams was married in London in 1797, to Louisa Catherine Johnson (Louisa Adams), daughter of the United States consul Joshua Johnson, a Marylander by birth, and his wife, Katherine Nuth, an Englishwoman.
Adams had first met her when he was 12 years old and his father was minister to France. Fragile in health, she suffered from migraine headaches and fainting spells. Yet she proved to be a gracious hostess who played the harp and was learned in Greek, French, and English literature. Accompanying her husband on his various missions in Europe, she came to be regarded as one of the most-traveled women of her time.
Adams was cold and often depressed, and he admitted that his political adversaries regarded him as a “gloomy misanthropist” and “unsocial savage.” His wife is said to have regretted her marriage into the Adams family.
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