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Presidents of the United States of America
(Not to be confused with The Presidents of the United States of America)
George WashingtonJohn AdamsThomas Jefferson

John Adams.jpg


Benjamin Franklin: Mr. Adams, I say you should write it
To your legal mind and brilliance we defer.
John Adams: Is that so? Well, if I'm the one to do it
They'll run their quill pens through it
I'm obnoxious and disliked, you know that, sir!

—"But Mr. Adams", 1776

Successfully defended the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre from the charge of murder. Author of the pamphlet: "Thoughts on Government" which became the blueprint for most of the state Constitutions and through them the federal Constitution. Adams also wrote the Massachusetts Constitution. He was the second president of the United States of America.

In his own words from later in his life, he was noisy, obnoxious, and generally disliked by Congress. Extremely effective nevertheless. Spearheaded the movement for independence. Most famous for the 1,100+ letters between himself and beloved wife Abigail, who hung laundry in the East Room before the White House was completed. Only served one term. Was unpopular but competent, and even his enemies granted he was honest. Didn't like Ben Franklin's loose morals. Had a falling out with his Heterosexual Life Partner Thomas Jefferson after Jefferson supported the French Revolution. They made up about 20 years later (in 1812-1813), then died on the same day: July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. His last words were, "Jefferson lives!" He was unaware that Jefferson was already dead.

Responsible for the Alien and Sedition Acts, the spiritual forefather of the Patriot Act. However, he insisted on limited usage of the Acts, and resisted the related war fever with France that might have secured him a second term. In the course of routing his hawkish Congress while still appearing to gird the nation for war, Adams ordered eight new frigates, making him the Father of the U.S. Navy.

He is probably most well known via 1776 and David McCullough's eponymous biography, filmed as a mini series by HBO in 2008, with the very appropriate Paul Giamatti in the role.

One of two Presidents whose son also became President, the other being George H. W. Bush.

Tropes related to John Adams:
  • Arch Enemy: Adams' main rival was, ironically, inside his own party: Alexander Hamilton.
  • Berserk Button: He utterly hated the institution of slavery.
  • The Cynic: Politically, he was very much this. One of his main ideological problems with Jefferson was that Jefferson was a big fan of assuming humans would do the right thing if given an ideal form of government, while Adams believed that even most ideal government was no guarantee against vice and self interest screwing everything up.
  • Holier Than Thou: The Protestant ethic was engrained deep in several generations of Adams men. Not a recipe for popularity -- and made worse by John's lack of insight into his cutthroat rivals.
  • Principles Zealot: He defended the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre despite his own contempt of the same because he believed all were entitled to a fair defense before the law. He managed to win a remarkably fair verdict too.
  • Sobriquet: Short and fat, Adams was known (affectionately?) as "his rotundity."
  • Taking You with Me: Did a political version of this by signing a bunch of judges into office before he left office, hoping to make Jefferson's attempts to get anything done impossible when he assumed office. It partially failed because Jefferson got most of them thrown out anyway, but he did manage to get the Federalist doctrine of judicial review made an official part of the legal system as an indirect consolation prize.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Though wildly popular with Dutch bankers, he could never make it in France; Ben Franklin was all the rage over there. Adams could not conceive that Franklin might be playing up his fame in order to win support abroad.
  • We Used to Be Friends: A major falling out with Thomas Jefferson, the leader of the Republican faction. Jefferson took issue with Adams packing the courts with judges who ruled his way; Adams was sour in his first-term defeat, skipping town on Jefferson's inauguration day. In old age, both men reconciled.
Works referencing John Adams:

Live-Action TV


Mary: You and your family... I know you mean well, but sometimes it's like being around The Addams Family.
Dick: Well, I admit John Adams' views of a strong central government may have been ahead of their time.
Mary: That's not who I meant!
Dick: John Quincy Adams? You're comparing me to that freak show!



  • Adams is the central (and viewpoint) character in the musical comedy 1776.

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