The Dutch Republic and American Independence

By Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt; Herbert H. Rowen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
John Adams on the Way to Holland

He is gone to Holland to try, as he told me, whether something might not be done to render us less dependent on France.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

How does one tackle writing about John Adams, this most remarkable and exceptional Founding Father? Once he was almost forgotten but in recent years he has been held in high esteem. The facts are at hand in the biographies: his birth into a simple Puritan family living on the outskirts of Boston, along life ( 1735-1826), a rapid career as a lawyer, a radical during the Revolution and even before. But he also demonstrated a sense of fairness: he defended the English soldiers on trial for their part in the "Boston Massacre" of 1770. A member of the Continental Congress in 1774 and of its committee that drew up the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he was sent to France in 1778 as one of the American commissioners and returned there in 1779. Back home in the meantime, he was the author of the constitution of Massachusetts. His activity never halted.

In 1780 he came to Holland and two years later was recognized as the American minister, the first envoy of the United States to the Netherlands. In 1783 he joined Franklin and John Jay in Paris to conclude peace with England, going there as the first American ambassador. He returned to his homeland in 1788 to become the first vice president, serving under Washington for eight years and then following him as a second president ( 1797-1801). He then withdrew into private life. He died in 1826 at the age of ninety-one.

His wife, Abigail, was at his side for almost all of these years. In a biography of John Adams, Abigail needs special attention, for his marriage was a remarkable one. His wife was an exceptional woman, with a personality of her own and feminist tendencies; she was his equal in every

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