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Life & Politics of President John Adams

John Adams, Second President of the United States

1. John Adams was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1735. A Harvard-educated lawyer, he soon became identified with the patriot cause and became a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. He was one of the leaders in the movement for independence from England. Adams also has the distinction of being the only founding father not to own slaves during his life. The World Almanac & Book of Facts reports that during the Revolutionary War he served in France and Holland in diplomatic roles. From 1785 to 1788, he was minister to the Court of St. James. Adams found himself on the ballot in the presidential election of 1789. He finished second to Washington. This resulted in three events. First, his reputation as a powerful politician was confirmed. Second, his combative personal style and his controversial political writings convinced voters that he was not the right choice to become America's first President. Lastly, according to the electoral rules established in the recent ratified Constitution, as the person with the second highest number of electoral votes he became America's first Vice President ("John Adams" 565).

In the first contested presidential election in American history, Adams won a narrow electoral majority over Thomas Jefferson. Adams became America's second President, and Jefferson became a reluctant and unhappy Vice President. Jefferson's presence hampered Adams efforts to be an effective President. After all, his Vice President was the head of his rival political party, the Republicans. Despite their differences, Adams made an initial effort to bring Jefferson into the cabinet and involve him in shaping foreign policy, but Jefferson declined the offer, preferring to retain his independence.

Adams' presidency was stressful almost from the moment of his inauguration. When Adams took the oath of office, a war between the French and Brit...

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