John Adams

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

John Adams, lawyer, farmer, constitutional scholar, patriot, diplomat, and second President of the United States, was a complex individual living in complicated times. Not suited by temperament to political life or to high and somewhat shaky financial dealings, he nevertheless played an important role in keeping the newly independent country afloat.

Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on October 19, 1753, to a long established American family with Puritan roots, and died, as did Thomas Jefferson, on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of American independence. Adams's Puritan background prepared him for a life of hardship and hard work and a penchant for honesty not exactly suited to the diplomat's calling. Author James Grant speculates that his religious views might have evolved from devoutly Christian to more Unitarian character. Whatever his personal convictions, he practiced and preached tolerance of a diversity of views.

His diplomatic missions to Europe placed him in the awkward role of deficit financier. Grant, who has written extensively on financial affairs, describes Adams as “America's premier junk bond salesman,” a highly unlikely and uncomfortable role for someone with a Yankee and Puritan aversion to debt. Nonetheless he negotiated and sold the high interest bonds that kept the early United States from a default that might have proven fatal to its future.

As Washington's Vice President he held the Presidential office in high esteem and argued that the President and Vice President be addressed as Your Majesty, to add dignity to the office. Also, his writings on constitutional government recognized much good in the English constitution. These opinions led to him being accused of being a monarchist—an accusation quite far from the truth. Instead, he was a forthright man not refraining from expressing his opinion for the sake of partisan advantage what would today be called political correctness. Nominally a Federalist, amid the growing strength of the Federalist and Republican parties, he remained a party of one.