The Dynamics of John Adams’ Childhood, Marriage to Abigail and Their Children

John Adams is notable as the second president of the United States and he was in office from 1797 to 1801. As president, he kept the United States of America at peace when many were calling for war with France. John Adams later described his peace decision as “the most splendid diamond in my crown.” Prior to this, he had served as the first vice president of the United States, and his reign was defined with remarkable methodologies.

More so, it is known that John Adams had a public career both before and after his White House years. As a diplomat, he set the essential marks of American foreign policy for the next century: freedom of the seas, a halt to further European colonization in the Western Hemisphere, continental expansion, reciprocal trade, and isolationism from European affairs. His formidable skills as an international diplomat are believed to have come from his ancestors who were puritan faithful, practicing order and justice.

John Adams’ Lineage Can Be Traced To The First Generation Of Puritans Who Settled In New England

John Adams was born to parents John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boylston. Their family’s ancestry goes back to the first group of Puritans to settle in New England.  It is believed that John’s great-grandfather, Henry Adams, emigrated to Massachusetts from England around 1638.

When they had found a settlement in Massachusetts, his folks began to raise their families with the core beliefs of Puritanism. This eventually made John’s father serve as a deacon in the Congregational Church in addition to his work as a farmer and shoemaker. John Sr. as he was popularly referred to also served as a town councilman and supervised the building of schools and roads.

John’s mother, Susanna Boylston is known to have come from a leading medical family of present-day, Brookline in Massachusetts. She was responsible for manning the homefront and nurturing John and his two younger brothers, Peter and Elihu.

His Father Encouraged Him To Attain High Educational Heights

As the eldest child, he was compelled by his father to obtain a formal education. This began at age six at a Dame School for boys and girls, conducted at a teacher’s home, and was centered upon The New England Primer. Shortly thereafter, Adams attended Braintree Latin School under Joseph Cleverly, where studies included Latin, rhetoric, logic, and arithmetic. John’s early education included incidents of truancy, a dislike for his master, and a desire to become a farmer.

However, at age sixteen, Adams entered Harvard College where he studied under Joseph Mayhew. He gradually evolved into a keen scholar, studying the works of ancient writers such as Thucydides, Plato, Cicero, and Tacitus in their original languages. After his 1755 graduation with an A.B. degree, he became a teacher temporarily in Worcester, while pondering his permanent vocation. He eventually decided to become a lawyer to attain greatness and it is known that he wrote a letter to his father explaining that he had noble goals in pursuing this career path.

In 1756, Adams began reading law under James Putnam, a leading lawyer in Worcester. In 1758, he earned an A.M. from Harvard and was soon admitted to the bar, having completed his studies under Putnam. He developed an early habit of writing about events and impressions of men in his diary.

By 1763, Adams had explored various aspects of political theory in 7 essays written for Boston newspapers. He offered them anonymously, under the pen name “Humphrey Ploughjogger”, and in them ridiculed the selfish thirst for power he perceived among the Massachusetts colonial elite. His influence emerged from his work as a constitutional lawyer, his analysis of history, and his dedication to republicanism. This was the platform on which his many other achievements as a statesman were built on and he continues to be remembered for his good deeds to date.

Inside His Family Life With Abigail Adams, His Wife & Confidant

John Adams Family
John and wife, Abigail Adams

The renowned 2nd president of the United States was planning to start a family with Hannah Quincy back in the 1750s but as fate would have it, he never even got a chance to propose to Hannah. He went on to build a strong bond with Abigail, who would eventually become his wife. He is said to have met her as a 15-year-old girl in 1759. She was actually his third cousin and their meeting was made possible by a friend of John Adams, Richard Cranch who was dating Abigail’s sister at that time.

Theirs was not a love at first sight as, Adams did not like Abigail when he first met her alongside her two sisters as he was of the blunt perception that the ladies were not “fond, nor frank, nor candid.” However, he went on to become friends with Abigail, and as their friendship grew over their love for books they decided to get married. Abigail’s mother was not in support of the new development but that did not stop the love-struck pair from getting married on October 25th, 1764.

They started their lives as newlyweds on a 9 1⁄2-acre (3.8 ha) farmland which John had inherited from his father when he died in 1761. Given the career pursuits he found himself in as a businessman and politician, John was not always with his wife. As a young lawyer, his travels to distant villages on the court circuit kept him away for several weeks. Even when he was at home, Abigail scolded him for staying out late at night while attending various meetings.

After 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, he spent weeks and months abroad or in Philadelphia on government business, and as his responsibilities to the United States enlarged, his wife saw less of him. It is known that they communicated through letter writing. However, in spite of the physical distance that defined their time together as a couple, the pair shared quite an admirable bond to the extent that Abigail has been referred to her husband’s confidant on several occasions.

The Couple Had 6 Children Together

Abigail Adams gave birth to 6 children, 3 daughters, and 3 sons – who would follow in their father’s footsteps to study law. However, out of the 3 daughters, only 1 lived to become an adult and that was their first child Abigail Adams Smith. Their 2nd daughter, Susanna Adams lived for only 1 year while their 3rd daughter, Elizabeth was stillborn.

Abigail Adams Smith ( July 14th, 1765 – August 15th, 1813)

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Abigail Amelia Adams Smith is notable as the first child and the daughter of John and Abigail Adams. She was given the same name as her mother and she eventually became the only surviving girl her mother had as her sisters died as infants. This also made her very close to her mother during her childhood and adult years.

When she turned 18th, Nabby, as she is fondly called, started a relationship with Royal Tyler and though her father did not approve of their romance as he was of the perception that she was still young, he accepted their relationship. He also gave his consent for when the pair wanted to get engaged. However, the relationship which was headed for the altar met a sad end when the Adams family including Nabby left the United States for the Kingdom of Great Britain. They could not continue with the long-distance relationship.

Abigail would go on to meet Colonel William Stephens Smith, her father’s secretary who happens to be 10 years older than her. They would go on to get married on June 12th, 1786 even though her parents were of the opinion that their courtship was too brief. Their marriage later produced 4 kids – William Steuben Smith, John Adams Smith, Thomas Hollis Smith, and Caroline Amelia Smith.

Sadly, Abigail and her husband went through very tough times as a result of the wrong investments he made which cost him everything he had in the early 1800s. She was left with no choice than to go live on a small farm located at Chenango River, New York.  Within that same period, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and though a mastectomy was done on her in 1812, the ailment returned 7 months later. This time around, she could not survive it as she died in August 1813. Abigail was just 48 at the time of her demise.

John Quincy Adams (July 11th, 1767 – February 23rd, 1848)

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John Quincy Adams was the first son of John and Abigail Adams. His parents decided to name him after his mother’s maternal granddad, Colonel John Quincy, who is notable as the founding father of Quincy, Massachusetts. John Quincy also went on to show great interest in education like his folks and it is known that he was homeschooled by his cousin, James Thaxter, and Nathan Rice who worked as his father’s clerk. His father is also known to have been very influential in his life even though he was not always around at home. He would encourage his young son to read works of authors like Hugo Grotius and Thucydides.

Sometime in 1778, John Quincy had the opportunity to accompany and his father to Europe on an official assignment which covered diplomatic missions to France and the Netherlands. More so, he is known to have gone to Saint Petersburg, Russian as the secretary to Francis Dana who was serving as the American diplomat there. However, he would eventually return to the United States in 1785 to enroll at Harvard College to study law which he completed in 1787.

John Quincy is known to have opened his own law firm in 1790, in Boston. He was determined as at that time to accomplish things on his own merit as a lawyer and not based on his father’s connections. He faced a lot of challenges on this path of financial independence but in the end, his hard work paid off. He did not only gained acclaimed as a lawyer but ended up as the 6th president of the United State. He was sown into office on March 4th, 1825 and it is known that his oath of office was taken on a book of constitutional law rather than using the Bible.

Charles Adams (May 29th, 1770 – November 30th, 1800)

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President John Adams’ second son was named Charles Adams and he was born May 29th, 1770. Like his brother, John Quincy, Charles was also quite close to his father and at 9 he went with him alongside his elder brother to Europe. During his time there he went to study briefly in Passy, Amsterdam as well as Leiden from which he graduated from on January 29th, 1781. He would then return to the United States in December 1781 to continue his studies at Harvard College, graduating in 1789 and was called to bar in 1792.

A couple of years later in 1795, he started a family with Sarah Sally Smith – his sister-in-law as her brother was his sister, Abigail’s husband. The pair welcomed two daughters – Susanna Boylston who was born in 1796 and Abigail Louisa Smith in 1798. However, Charles did not turn out to be as successful in both his family life and career as his brother. He was a chronic drinker and womanizer who ended up squandering his money on frivolous things.

His father was not in support of his waywardness had to disown him. Charles eventually died on November 30th, 1800 of cirrhosis of the liver on November 30, 1800. John Adams was still in office as the president of the United States at the time of his demise.

Thomas Boylston Adams (September 15th, 1772 – March 13th, 1832)

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Thomas Boylston Adams was the youngest of John and Abigail’s 6 children. He was born in 1772 and it is known that just two years after his birth, his father became a delegate of Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress. The year before he turned 13, his mother left the United States to join his dad who was on a diplomatic assignment in Europe and had to leave him to stay with relatives in Massachusetts.

The young Adams following in his family footsteps successfully completed his law studies at Harvard College in 1790. However, his elder brother, John Quincy doubted his capability to practice law but that did not stop Thomas from attempting to establish himself as a lawyer. He even went on to serve as John Quincy’s secretary when he was on a mission in the Netherlands and Prussia.

However, after getting married in 1805, Thomas settled with his family in Quincy, Massachusetts. During that time, he represented Quincy for a year between 1805 – 1806 as a statesman and in 1810, he became a fellow of the  American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1810. The next year, Thomas was appointed the Chief Justice of the Circuit Court of Common Pleas for the Southern Circuit of Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, Thomas did not continue his exploits as he was also given to alcohol like Charles Adams. This affinity to alcohol turned into an addiction that did not affect his family life with Ann Harrod and their 8 children, it destroyed his career. He ended up in lots of debt and eventually died on March 13th, 1832, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Felix thephylix
Felix thephylix
As an avid traveler and world explorer, I have been to over 25 countries in the last 10 years. I've taken countless photos, written about my experiences in award-winning stories and documented my travels. My work has been featured in many top travel websites, including National Geographic Traveler and The Guardian.


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