Biography of U.S. President John Adams Part 6 After the Presidency

About the United States President John Adams, biography and history of his life after the presidency.


2nd President



Although the election of 1800 has often been represented by historians as a sweeping rejection of Adams and his policies, the final outcome was remarkably close. Despite the open hostility of Alexander Hamilton and other members of his own party, Adams ran as head of the Federalist ticket, and if a single bitterly contested state--New York--had voted differently, he would have been reelected. Instead, Thomas Jefferson became president, and Adams retired to his Massachusetts farm, wrote eloquent defenses of his stormy term as president, and watched with satisfaction the career of his son. In 1811, at age 76, Adams had mellowed to the point where he wanted to resume contact with his onetime friend Thomas Jefferson. In Revolutionary days, Jefferson had been particularly close to the whole Adams family, and Abigail had called him "one of the choice ones of the earth," but years of increasingly bitter political competition had left both Adams and Jefferson with bad feelings. Now, three years after Jefferson had left the White House, Adams was ready to break the ice; he wrote a cordial letter just before Christmas. Along with the note, Adams proudly sent off two volumes on political theory written by his son John Quincy, which he described as "two pieces of homespun, lately produced in this quarter by one who was honored in his youth by some of your attention and much of your kindness." Jefferson responded warmly, and so began a remarkable correspondence which the Virginian described as "sweetening to the evening of our lives." Although suffering from a host of physical afflictions, Adams's mind remained sharply focused to the end. At the age of 85 he was elected by his neighbors to the state constitutional convention in Boston, called to revise a document that Adams himself had written some 40 years before. The old man spoke forcefully against universal suffrage and in favor of a property tax. Even after failing vision made it difficult for him to write, Adams continued his distinguished correspondence with Jefferson until shortly before the two men died--on the same day--in 1826.

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