“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil… “
John Adams Letter to Jonathan Jackson, October 2, 1789
John Adams was the second president of the United States (1797–1801), having earlier served as the first vice president of the United States (1789-1797). An American Founding Father, Adams was a statesman, diplomat, and a leading advocate of American independence from Great Britain. Well educated, he was an Enlightenment political theorist who promoted republicanism, as well as a strong central government, and wrote prolifically about his often seminal ideas—both in published works and in letters to his wife and key adviser Abigail Adams. Throughout this life, Adams was opposed to slavery, never owned a slave, and was quite proud of the fact. After the Boston Massacre, with anti-British feelings in Boston at a boiling point, he provided a principled, controversial, and successful legal defense of the accused British soldiers, because he believed in the right to counsel and the “protect[ion] of innocence”.
Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution. A lawyer and public figure in Boston, as a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and was its primary advocate in the Congress. Later, as a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and was responsible for obtaining vital governmental loans from Amsterdam bankers. A political theorist and historian, Adams largely wrote the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which together with his earlier Thoughts on Government, influenced American political thought. One of his greatest roles was as a judge of character: in 1775, he nominated George Washington to be commander-in-chief, and 25 years later nominated John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the United States.