John Adams, the second president of the United States, was born on October 19, 1735 in a remote farmhouse in Massachusetts. At that time, New Englanders were often the target of persecution and discrimination because of their religion. This made his childhood challenging for Adams; he even had to change his last name from “Adams” to “Cooper” to avoid further persecution.

Despite these challenges, John Adams managed to graduate from Harvard College and become one of the most influential figures in American history. A polymath and a philosopher with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, John Adams contributed much to the making of our republic through his intellect and wisdom. In this article, we will explore more about this great man—his childhood experiences, his remarkable education, his scientific discoveries, his political career as well as his personal life.

Early Life and Childhood

John Adams was born in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in an area of New England that would later become the state of Massachusetts. His family was middle-class, with his father, who had served as a captain in the British navy, and his mother owning farms and having several servants. While growing up, Adams attended the local grammar school, where he learned Greek, Latin, and science—all skills that served him in his career.

His childhood was challenging, however, as he and his brothers were often persecuted because his parents were members of a religious minority called Congregationalists, who were not Anglicans, as the majority of Massachusetts residents were. At various times, young Adams was called a “papist” and told to leave the province.

Education

At a time when most children did not go to school until they were 12 years old, Adams was fortunate enough to start learning at the age of 5. His early education was informal and included reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. He later recalled that he learned “at the age of ten [to] read and write, [to] cipher as far as the rule of three and [to] understand geography.” When he was 10, Adams enrolled in the Boston Latin School, the most prestigious public school in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The curriculum was similar to that of the grammar school he had attended but more advanced. In addition to his studies, the 16-year-old Adams worked as a servant to supplement his family’s income.

Scientific Contributions

As a young man in college, Adams pursued a variety of scientific interests. He studied astronomy, biology, chemistry, mechanics, and physics. He later remarked that he had been “as fond of New Philosophy as a Boy.” When he was 19, Adams published a paper on the health benefits of the “swinging chair.” This was a device that had recently gained popularity as a way to treat illnesses by swinging the body back and forth.

While this was the norm at the time, Adams disagreed with the technique and published a paper in which he argued that swinging the body was actually bad for one’s health. There is also evidence that Adams was interested in various medical remedies, including using leeches to treat patients. He may have even collected medicinal herbs from the woods around Boston.

Political Career

In 1764, when Adams was 29 years old, he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court. As a representative of Boston, he served there for six years. In 1772, he was selected as a representative to the First Continental Congress, a gathering of colonists protesting against the British Parliament for imposing taxes on the colonies.

In 1776, Adams was chosen to represent the colonies at the Second Continental Congress, which was gathered to draft a new governing document for the United States. Adams played a vital role in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. Later that year, he was again elected to represent Massachusetts at the third Continental Congress. During his time there, he helped draft the Articles of Confederation, the precursor to the United States Constitution.

Second President of the United States

When the members of the Electoral College voted in 1796, they chose Adams to be the second president of the United States. He was inaugurated on March 4, 1797, in the House Chamber of the Capitol Building. Later that year, he was re-elected to another term as president. Though many of his decisions while in office were unpopular with the people, he is remembered for helping to establish important precedents in the presidential administration.

Among his most notable achievements during his two terms in office were the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to criticize the government, and the diplomatic recognition of France, which was one of America’s principal trading partners. The most significant failure of his presidency was his inability to obtain the acquisition of Louisiana from France.

This territory, which would have expanded the size and commercial importance of the United States, was instead purchased by France for $15 million, which was a bargain for that country but a missed opportunity for America.