Biography of U.S. President John Adams Part 7 Psychohistory

About the United States President John Adams, biography and psychoanalysis of his presidency.


2nd President



As an adolescent, Adams felt insecure owing to his small size, his plain features, and his low social standing. In an age when Massachusetts was dominated by a handful of leading families, young Adams, with his obscure rural origins, was definitely an outsider. Painfully unsure of himself, he had to remind the world time and again of his talents and virtues. He might freely admit his own shortcomings in the pages of his diary, but he saw any criticism from others as part of a grand conspiracy against him. Although he had rejected much of traditional Calvinism, Adams remained enough of a Puritan to see devils everywhere; few presidents have equaled him in the scale of his paranoia. In 1765, when Great Britain closed the Massachusetts courts, Adams thought the move was aimed particularly at him. He wrote in his diary: "Thirty years of my life are passed in preparation for business. I have had poverty to struggle with--envy and jealousy and malice of enemies to encounter--no friends, or but few to assist me, so that I have groped in dark obscurity, till of late, and had but just become known, and gained a small degree of reputation, when this execrable project was set on foot for my ruin as well as that of America in general." This tone of self-pity appears again and again in Adams's writings. It reflected his desperate need for love, sympathy, and reassurance--a need which not even the devoted Abigail could satisfy completely.

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