Biography of U.S. President John Adams Part 2 Personal Life

About the United States President John Adams, biography and history of his personal life and marriage.


2nd President



Personal Life: At the age of 26, lawyer Adams fell in love with the 17-year-old daughter of a village parson. On her mother's side, however, Abigail Smith was a Quincy, and thereby related to one of New England's leading families. Her parents considered Adams--because of his humble origins--unworthy of their daughter, but Abigail was not the type to be easily dissuaded. A brilliant, independent woman, she had thoroughly educated herself in philosophy, literature, and history in an age when a concern for books was considered "unfeminine." In Adams, Abigail not only recognized her intellectual equal but also found the same sort of pride and stubbornness that marked her own personality. It was two years before the objections of her parents melted away, but the couple was finally married on Oct. 25, 1764. Over the next 54 years John and Abigail established one of the most remarkable marriages in history--a marriage that can only be described as a love feast. Though often cold and uncompromising in political life, John Adams was passionate, devoted, and tender as a husband. He was never intimidated by his wife's intelligence--he gloried in it, and he loved talking politics with her. His habit of listening to Abigail's advice became so well known, in fact, that Adams was publicly criticized for it. The furious opposition labeled her Mrs. President. The opposition would have been even more furious had it known that she privately advocated the complete abolition of slavery and favored women's suffrage. The Adamses were always conscious of their role in history and carefully saved all of their letters to each other. Today these letters--numbering in the hundreds--are justly celebrated not only for their remarkable philosophic and political insights, but for the freshness and intensity of the love the couple expressed, even after years of marriage. In one typical exchange, shortly after John had left for Europe on a diplomatic mission, Abigail teased her aging husband with the line: "No man, even if he is 60, ought to live more than three months at a time from his family." Adams wrote back immediately: "How dare you hint or lisp a word about '60 years of age.' If I were near I would soon convince you that I am not above 40."

Whenever they traveled, the Adamses were homesick for their modest farm in Braintree. With John away much of the time on political business, Abigail supervised the farm's hired help and took personal charge of educating their four children. In middle age the Adamses suffered notably over these children. Their beautiful daughter, who had inherited Abigail's finely chiseled nose, arched eyebrows, and independent spirit, fell in love with an unsuitable young man, and both parents moved in to squelch to the romance. Even worse, their younger son, Charles, unable to live up to the demanding standards set by his parents, became an alcoholic in his 20s and died of cirrhosis at age 30. The pride and joy for both John and Abigail was, of course, their brilliant son John Quincy. When only 10 years old, the boy began accompanying his lonely father on missions to Europe. Shortly after the Adamses celebrated their 52nd anniversary, John Quincy was named U.S. secretary of state. Abigail died in 1818 at age 73 and missed the ultimate satisfaction of seeing her son in the White House.

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