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Benjamin Franklin: Mr. Adams, I say you should write it
John Adams: Is that so? Well, if I'm the one to do it
—"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.
One of two Presidents whose son also became President, the other being George H. W. Bush.
- Arch Enemy: Adams' main rival was, ironically, inside his own party: Alexander Hamilton.
- 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.
- Red Baron: Short and fat, Adams was known (affectionately?) as "his rotundity."
- 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.
Adams in fiction
- The high school in Boy Meets World is named for John Adams. William Daniels played both Mr. Feeney in this show and Adams in 1776.
- The ending of The Conduit reveals that President John Adams was actually an alien mastermind who helped create the United States for his own purposes.
- In Histeria!, his voice is an imitation of George Burns. In keeping with the Friendly Enemy theme, Jefferson sounded like Jack Benny.
- In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun:
Mary: You and your family... I know you mean well, but sometimes it's like being around The Addams Family.