John Adams History: The United States Unsung Hero

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John Adams, second president of the United States.

Learn about John Adams history as the first vice-president and second president of the United States.

Reexamining the road to independence by revisiting John Adams history as leader of the country.

Adams had in 1776 a remarkable and prescient vision of what July 4 would come to mean to Americans. “I am apt to believe,” he wrote, “that [Independence Day] will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival . . . . It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.”

While Washington guided troops to military victories against the British, John Adams traveled to other countries — including England — to negotiate for recognition of the United States as an independent country. He played a role in shaping the treaty by which Britain at last acknowledged American independence.

Flash forward to July 4, 1826: John Quincy Adams is president and the country is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Having hung on long enough to mark the occasion, John Adams, 90 years old and in ill health, dies that very day. His last words: “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” But unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had, at age 83, passed away just hours earlier at his Virginia home.