John Adams's Birthplace and Home
Photos and text © Gleaves Whitney 2004
John Adams's birthplace, in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, is about ten miles south of Boston. Adams was born in this house on October 30, 1735. Neither of his parents had attended college, but both were readers and provided a good education for their studious son. They sacrificed to send him to Harvard. After graduating, John spent six years teaching school and studying the law. He started his own law practice in 1762.
In an adjacent house, in 1779, Adams and two other Patriots drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, a landmark for two reasons: (1) it is the oldest living constitution in the world; and (2) it would serve as a model for the U.S. Constitution drafted eight years later in Philadelphia. Ironically, Adams was not a delegate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but was serving as a minister to Great Britain. However, while in London he did write an apologia of the Framers' work titled A Defence of the the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.
From 1789-1797 John Adams served as the nation's first vice president. From 1797-1801 he was our second president. The first presidency to operate out of the White House, his administration was particularly vexed by the French, who in the wake of a violent revolution came close to provoking an all-out war with the U.S.
Adams ran for re-election in 1801 and was narrowly defeated by his vice president, Thomas Jefferson. It was the only time in U.S. history that a sitting vice president challenged the sitting president for the top job. The two men had a bitter falling out, but were able to resume their friendship after Jefferson left the White House. Their correspondence in retirement comprises one of the most high-minded, enlightening conversations in the human record. Both men died on the same day, July 4, 1826, as Americans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The house in Quincy, pictured above, is a New England saltbox. No reconstruction, it is the real thing maintained by the National Park Service. Note that locals pronounce Quincy not quintsy, but quinzy.
John and Abigail Adams house. The famous couple moved into this New England saltbox located a few paces from the saltbox in which John was born. This newer, bigger house was the birthplace, on July 11, 1767, of John Quincy Adams. Behind the window to the right is the room in which the oldest extant constitution in the world was drafted.