John Adams Timeline 1735-1826

John Adams

Born – 30th October 1735
Died – 4th July 1826
Father – John Adams Sr (1691 – 1761)
Mother – Susanna Boylston (1708 – 1797)
Spouse – m. 1764 – Abigail Smith (1744 – 1818)
Children – Abigail (1765 – 1813), John Quincy (1767 – 1848), Susannah (1768 – 1769), Charles (1770 – 1800), Thomas (1772 – 1832)
President of the United States – 1797 – 1801
PredecessorGeorge Washington – 1789 – 1797
SuccessorThomas Jefferson – 1801 – 1809


1735 (30th October)
John Adams was born to John Adams Sr and Susanna Boylston at Braintree, Massachusetts.
1738 (16th October)
John’s brother Peter Boylston was born to John Adams Sr and Susanna Boylston at Braintree Massachusetts.
1741 (29th May)
John’s brother Elihu was born to John Adams Sr and Susanna Boylston at Braintree Massachusetts.
1741 (Autumn)
John began his education at a local dame school. He later attended Braintree Latin School where he studied Latin, rhetoric, logic and arithmetic under Joseph Marsh.
1751 (Autumn)
John Adams entered Harvard University.
1755 (Summer)
John graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He found employment as a school teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts.
1756 (during)
John’s father had wanted him to become a Minster but John decided to become a lawyer. He began studying under Worcester lawyer, James Putnam in the evenings while continuing to teach during the day.
1758 (during)
John gained a Master of Arts degree in Law from Harvard University and was admitted to the bar.
1758 (late)
John began a relationship with Hannah Quincy.
1759 (during)
John met Abigail Smith for the first time. The two became good friends.
1760 (during)
John’s relationship with Hannah Quincy ended.
1760 (25th October)
King George II died and was succeeded by his grandson, George III.
1761 (during)
Writ of Assistance
A new monarch signalled the necessity to issue a new writ of assistance (a legal writ allowing law enforcement officers to conduct certain tasks). The new writ included a clause allowing officers to break into and search people’s houses. Lawyer James Otis Jr challenged the legality of the new writ and out-argued Crown lawyers. John Adams had attended the trial and was so moved by the arguments Otis made that he became a committed Patriot.
1761 (25th May)
John’s father died at Quincy, Massachusetts. John inherited the family farm and house.
1761 (Summer)
John took his father’s place on the local Braintree Town Council.
1764 (early)
The British economy was suffering following the Seven Years War and after meeting resistance from the British people for raised taxation, decided to tax the American Colonies instead.
1764 (5th April)
Sugar Tax
The British government imposed a tax on all imports of sugar from the Colonies. The tax was not well received and colonists including Washington, protested.
1764 (May)
Although each colony elected representatives to their own local governing body, the colonists had no representation in the British government. The British Constitution states that subjects give their consent to taxation through sending a representative to Parliament. The American Colonists questioned the right of the British government to tax the colonies since they had no representation in Parliament. The government’s reply that as a colony they were ‘represented virtually’, was not well received.
1764 (25th October)
John Adams married Abigail Smith.
1765 (22nd March)
Stamp Act
The British parliament passed this act which required an official stamp on all legal documents and the stamp had to be paid for. It was scheduled to become effective in November 1765.
1765 (May)
John Adams led the campaign against the Stamp Act.
1765 (14th July)
A daughter, Abigail Amelia, was born to John Adams and Abigail Smith. She was known as Nabby.
1765 (August)
John published the first of a series of essays entitled ‘Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law’. The essays argued against the British Parliament’s increasing intrusion into the affairs of the colonies.
1766 (March)
Stamp Act
This act was repealed by the British government.
1767 (29th June)
Townshend Acts
Named after Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, this series of Acts imposed taxation to raise money to pay for the salaries of governors and judges, introduced measures to enforce trade regulations and set a precedent for the British Parliament to directly tax the colonies. The Acts which taxed all imports from Britain were met with protests and rioting.
1767 (11th July)
A son, John Quincy, was born to John Adams and Abigail Smith at Braintree Massachusetts.
1768 (during)
A daughter, Susanna, was born to John Adams and Abigail Smith at Braintree Massachusetts.
1768 (April)
John and his family moved to Boston where John had set up a law practice.
1769 (during)
John and Abigail’s daughter, Susanna, died.
1770 (5th March)
Boston Massacre
Tensions were high in Boston following the killing of Christopher Seider. A group of protesters gathered outside the Boston Custom House. Insults were shouted at Private White who was on guard duty. The crowd of protesters, led by former slave, Crispus Attucks, grew, and objects were thrown at Private White. White retaliated and struck a colonist with his bayonet. The army sent reinforcements led by Captain Preston which further annoyed the growing crowd who struck the soldiers with clubs and sticks. The situation became confused and one soldier thought he heard the command ‘fire’ and fired into the crowd. Other soldiers followed the lead and also fired into the crowd. Five people including Crispus Attucks were killed and six others were wounded. The crowd dispersed but anger against the British was growing.
1770 (29th May)
A son, Charles, was born to John Adams and Abigail Smith at Quincy, Massachusetts.
1770 (September)
John Adams agreed to represent Captain Preston who had been charged with murder following the Boston Massacre.
1770 (24th October)
The trial of Captain Preston began with Adams acting for the defense.
1770 (30th October)
Captain Preston was found not guilty after Adams showed that there was no conclusive evidence that Preston gave the command to fire.
1771 (during)
John moved his family back to Braintree but kept his office in Boston.
1772 (August)
John moved his family back to Boston and purchased a large house in the city.
1772 (15th September)
A son, Thomas Boylston, was born to John Adams and Abigail Smith at Quincy, Massachusetts.
1773 (10th May)
Tea Act
This act was introduced by the British to help the British East India Company by only allowing the colonies to import tea from the British East India Company. All colonies except Massachusetts refused to allow ships to dock. In Massachusetts the governor allowed the ships to dock in Boston.
1773 (16th December)
Boston Tea Party
The Sons of Liberty organised this protest against the import of British East India Company tea. Demonstrators boarded British ships and threw chests of tea into Boston Harbour.
1774 (during)
John and his family moved back to Braintree to escape the unsettled situation in Boston.
1774 (Summer)
Intolerable Acts
This was a series of measures taken by the British government to punish Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party. The Acts included the withdrawing of the right to self-governance and the right of the British army to house troops in private property.
1774 (5th September)
First Continental Congress
This was the first meeting of delegates from the British colonies. They met at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The delegates discussed a response to the Intolerable Acts and decided to boycott British trade. Adams attended as a delegate for Massachusetts.
1774 (September)
John Adams was a member of the Grand Committee tasked to draft a letter of grievance to King George III.
1775 (19th April)
American War of Independence – Battles of Lexington and Concord
This battle generally marks the beginning of the American War of Independence.
1775 (15th June)
Second Continental Congress
John returned to Philadelphia for the second continental congress. Delegates voted to assemble a Continental Army which would be commanded by George Washington.
1776 (during)
Adams wrote ‘Thoughts on Government’ which set out his thoughts on the establishment of a new government.
1776 (11th June)
Committee of Five
A group of five men were selected to draft a Declaration of Independence from Britain. The five men were: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingstone and Robert Sherman.
1776 (12th June)
Board of War and Ordnance
This board, with Adams at its head, was set up to accurately record the state of troops and supplies during the war.
1776 (2nd July)
Congress voted in favour of independence.
1776 (4th July)
Declaration of Independence
Largely written by Thomas Jefferson, this declaration proclaimed the independence of the Thirteen Colonies from Britain. It includes the infamous statement ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ It was circulated to the troops and people of the Colonies.
1777 (during)
John’s wife, Abigail, was delivered of a stillborn daughter. She was named Elizabeth.
1777 (14th June)
The first stars and stripes American flag was produced.
1777 (27th November)
Adams was appointed commissioner to France along with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. They were to negotiate an alliance with France.
1778 (17th February)
Adams and his son John Quincy, left by ship for France.
1778 (1st April)
Adams and his son arrived in France where they discovered that an alliance had already been agreed.
1779 (2nd August)
John Adams and his son, John Quincy, returned to the United States.
1779 (November)
John Adams was asked to go to Europe to begin to negotiate trade deals for when the war ended. Accompanied by his sons, John Quincy and Charles, he set sail on the ship ‘Sensible’ bound initially for France.
1780 (January)
After being forced to land in Spain rather than France, Adams had had to travel overland to reach Paris. In Paris, Adams voiced his concern that the French had their own interests at heart and felt they should do more to help America gain independence.
1780 (Summer)
After the French refused to deal with him, Adams and his sons travelled to the Netherlands to try to secure financial aid for America.
1781 (April)
After months of meetings with Dutch officials, Adams had been unable to secure assistance for the United States.
1781 (July)
Adams’ son, John Quincy, accompanied Francis Dana to St Petersburg to try to gain support from Russia. Charles Adams returned home to his mother.
1781 (August)
John Adams was taken ill in the Netherlands.
1781 (19th October)
Siege of Yorktown
The surrender of General Cornwallis signalled the end of the war.
1782 (early)
As Europe learned of the British defeat at Yorktown, Adams again petitioned the Dutch government to formally recognise the United States.
1782 (11th June)
Adams finally negotiated a loan from the Netherlands. He then successfully negotiated a commercial treaty.
1782 (30th November)
Peace Agreement
Terms for a peace between America and Britain agreed independence for the colonies. Adams, together with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens were appointed to negotiate the peace treaty.
1783 (19th April)
The Continental Congress ratified the Peace Agreement.
1783 (3rd September)
Peace of Paris/ Treaty of Paris
This treaty was signed by representatives of King George III and the United States.
1785 (during)
John Adams was appointed American ambassador to Great Britain. Once he was settled his wife, Abigail, joined him in London. They remained in London for three years.
1789 (4th February)
The first presidential elections were held.
1789 (6th April)
The votes had been counted and George Washington was elected the first President of the United States and John Adams became Vice President.
1789 (July – September)
Adams was appointed a member of Washington’s cabinet. However, he soon became disillusioned with the post of Vice President since Washington rarely asked his advice and he felt he had little responsibility.
1790 (16th July)
Congress asked Washington to select a location for the capital of the United States and permanent seat of government. The new city was named Washington.
1791 (25th February)
Washington’s government approved the establishment of the First Bank of the United States, suggested by Alexander Hamilton founder of the Federalist Party. However Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans did not support the idea.
1792 (20th April)
War of the First Coalition/ French Revolutionary Wars
War broke out between Britain and France. Washington declared the United States neutral in the conflict.
1792 (November)
The hostilities between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson continued. Washington had intended to step down as president after one term in office but, worried that the conflict between Hamilton and Jefferson would affect the Republic, decided to stand for a second term.
1793 (13th February)
George Washington was unanimously elected as President for a second term. John Adams was vice president for a second term.
1793 (December)
The feud between Hamilton and Jefferson continued and Thomas Jefferson resigned from the government.
1794 (19th November)
Jay Treaty
This was a peace and trade treaty between the United States and Great Britain. The treaty upset many Americans and annoyed France. It also led to greater division between the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans.
1796 (19th September)
George Washington decided not to stand for a third term as President. His Farewell Address to the people was published in the American Daily Advertiser.
1796 (7th December)
John Adams was elected second President of the United States beating Thomas Jefferson by a narrow margin.
1797 (4th March)
Washington retired to Mount Vernon where he worked on his plantations.
1797 (4th March)
John Adams was sworn in as second President of the United States.
1797 (Spring)
War between France and Britain continued. The French were angered by the Jay Treaty signed between the United States and Britain in 1794 and seized American trade ships. Americans were also divided by the treaty. The Federalists generally supported the treaty while the Jeffersonian Republicans did not.
1797 (Summer)
In a bid to avoid war, commissioners were sent to France to try to negotiate a trade treaty between France and the United States. At the same time Adams called for an increase in military provision to be ready to counter any threat from the French.
1798 (during)
Direct Tax
To finance the military build up, John Adams introduced a direct tax on land and property.
1798 (4th March)
Adams received news that the commissioners in France had failed to secure terms due to the French requesting monetary sums before negotiations could begin.
1798 (May)
Quasi War
An American ship was captured by a French privateer just outside New York harbour. This led to a series of tit-for-tat attacks. Military reserves were increased in anticipation of a French landing.
1798 (June)
Alien and Sedition Acts
These acts imposed conditions on immigrants who wished to become American citizens. The Acts gave the President the power to deport immigrants who posed a threat to the security of the United States.
1798 (July)
John Adams passed an Act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen.
1798 (4th July)
The appeal of retirement had worn off and George Washington found he was bored and restless. He wrote to Adams offering to help organise his army. Adams responded by making him Commander-in-Chief of the army.
1798 (October)
Adams received word that the French were willing to negotiate a peace.
1799 (March)
Fries Rebellion
Led by John Fries, a rebellion against the direct tax broke out. Rebels impeded tax collectors and vocally protested. Armed forces were sent to disperse the rebels. Fries was arrested and found guilty of treason. Adams spared him from hanging.
1799 (15th November)
Commissioners were sent to France to negotiate peace.
1799 (14th December)
Washington woke up with a sore throat and breathing difficulties. He ordered blood-letting to try to improve his condition. It did not work and he died later that night.
1800 (during)
John Adams established the Library of Congress.
1800 (June)
Adams visited the new capital city, Washington, for the first time.
1800 (30th September)
Convention of 1800
This meeting between representatives of Napoleon’s France and the United States declared an end to hostilities between the countries.
1800 (1st November)
John and Abigail Adams moved into the new Presidential Mansion. It later became known as the White House.
1800 (17th November)
Congress met for the first time in the new Congress House building (Capitol building).
1800 (30th November)
Adams’ son, Charles, who was an alcoholic, died.
1801 (17th February)
John Adams lost the election to Thomas Jefferson.
1801 (4th March)
John Adams left Washington and returned to his home in Massachusetts. He withdrew from politics and spent time on his farm.
1803 (during)
John’s son, John Quincy Adams was elected to the Senate.
1803 (July)
Both John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams supported Thomas Jefferson’s bit to purchase Louisiana from France.
1804 (December)
Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States for a second term.
1806 (during)
Adams’ friend, Mercy Otis Warren, published a history of the American Revolution in which he had criticised Adams’ stance. Adams was offended by the criticism and wrote numerous letters to his friend defending his actions.
1808 (7th December)
James Madison became the fourth President of the United States.
1809 (during)
With the retirement of Thomas Jefferson and the election of James Madison, Adams began to be more critical of politics. He began writing a number of letters to the Boston Patriot newspaper.
1812 (1st January)
John Adams sent a New Year’s message to Thomas Jefferson. The two began a communication that lasted the rest of their lives.
1812 (2nd December)
James Madison was re-elected President of the United States.
1813 (15th August)
John’s daughter Abigail died of breast cancer.
1816 (4th December)
James Monroe became the fifth President of the United States.
1818 (28th October)
John’s wife, Abigail, died of typhoid.
1820 (1st December)
James Monroe was re-elected President of the United States.
1824 (1st December)
John’s son, John Quincy Adams became the sixth President of the United States.
1826 (4th July)
John Adams died at Peacefield, Quincy, Massachusetts. Thomas Jefferson died on the same day.


Published Apr 1, 2020 @ 6:55 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). John Adams 1735 – 1826. Last accessed [date]


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