Humanities › History & Culture Top 10 Things to Know About John Adams All About the Second President Share Flipboard Email Print History & Culture American History U.S. Presidents Basics Important Historical Figures Key Events Native American History American Revolution America Moves Westward The Gilded Age Crimes & Disasters The Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Martin Kelly History Expert M.A., History, University of Florida B.A., History, University of Florida Martin Kelly, M.A., is a history teacher and curriculum developer. He is the author of "The Everything American Presidents Book" and "Colonial Life: Government." our editorial process Martin Kelly Updated October 28, 2019 John Adams (October 30, 1735–July 4, 1826) was the second president of the United States. Although often eclipsed by Washington and Jefferson, Adams was a visionary who saw the importance of uniting Virginia, Massachusetts, and the rest of the colonies in a single cause. Here are 10 key and interesting facts to know about John Adams. 01 of 10 Defended British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trial Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images In 1770, Adams defended British soldiers accused of killing five colonists on Boston Green in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Even though he disagreed with British policies, he wanted to ensure the British soldiers got a fair trial. 02 of 10 John Adams Nominated George Washington Portrait of President George Washington. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-7585 DLC John Adams realized the importance of unifying the North and South in the Revolutionary War. He selected George Washington as a leader of the Continental Army that both regions of the country would support. 03 of 10 Part of Committee to Draft the Declaration of Independence The Declaration Committee. MPI / Stringer / Getty Images Adams was an important figure in both the First and Second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775. He had been a staunch opponent of British policies before the American Revolution arguing against the Stamp Act and other actions. During the Second Continental Congress, he was chosen to be part of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, although he deferred to Thomas Jefferson to write the first draft. 04 of 10 Wife Abigail Adams Abigail and John Quincy Adams. Getty Images / Travel Images/UIG John Adams wife, Abigail Adams, was an important figure throughout the foundation of the American republic. She was a devoted correspondent with her husband and also in later years with Thomas Jefferson. She was very learned as can be judged by her letters. Her impact of this first lady on her husband and the politics of the time should not be underestimated. 05 of 10 Diplomat to France Image of Benjamin Franklin. Adams was sent to France in 1778 and later in 1782. During the second trip he helped create the Treaty of Paris with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay which ended the American Revolution. 06 of 10 Elected President in 1796 with Opponent Thomas Jefferson as Vice President First Four Presidents - George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images According to the Constitution, candidates for President and Vice President did not run by party but instead individually. Whoever received the most votes became president and whoever got the second most was elected vice president. Even though Thomas Pinckney was meant to be John Adams' Vice President, in the election of 1796 Thomas Jefferson came in second by only three votes to Adams. They served together for four years, the only time in America's history that political opponents served in the top two executive positions. 07 of 10 XYZ Affair John Adams - Second President of the United States. Stpck Montage / Getty Images While Adams was president, the French were regularly harassing American ships at sea. Adams attempted to stop this by sending ministers to France. However, they were turned aside and instead the French sent a note asking for a bribe of $250,000 to meet with them. Wishing to avoid war, Adams asked Congress for an increase in the military, but his opponents blocked him. Adams released the French letter asking for the bribe, replacing the French signatures with the letters XYZ. This caused the Democratic-Republicans to change their minds. Fearing a public outcry after the release of the letters would bring America closer to war, Adams tried one more time to meet with France, and they were able to preserve the peace. 08 of 10 Alien and Sedition Acts James Madison, Fourth President of the United States. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13004 When war with France seemed a possibility, acts were passed to limit immigration and free speech. These were called the Alien and Sedition Acts. These acts were eventually used against opponents of the Federalists leading to arrests and censorship. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in protest. 09 of 10 Midnight Appointments John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Public Domain/Virginia Memory While Adams was president, the Federalist Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801, increasing the number of federal judges that Adams could fill. Adams spent his last days filling the new jobs with Federalists, an action collectively known as the "midnight appointments." These would prove to be a point of contention for Thomas Jefferson who would remove many of them once he became president. They would also cause the landmark case Marbury v. Madison decided by John Marshall that established the process known as judicial review. 10 of 10 John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Ended Life as Devoted Correspondents Thomas Jefferson, 1791. Credit: Library of Congress John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had been fierce political opponents during the early years of the republic. Jefferson believed staunchly in protecting state's rights while John Adams was a devoted federalist. However, the pair reconciled in 1812. As Adams put it, "You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other." They spent the rest of their lives writing fascinating letters to each other. Sources and Further Reading Capon, Lester J. (ed.) "The Adams–Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams." Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1959.John Adams' Biography. John Adams Historical Society. McCullough, David. "John Adams." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Ferling, John. "John Adams: A Life." Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 1992.