Adams political family

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Adams family
Current regionMassachusetts, U.S.
Place of originBraintree, Essex, Kingdom of England
Connected familiesBaldwin family (U.S.)
Taft family (U.S.)
Spencer family (UK)
MottoFidem libertatem amicitiam retinebis
("Hold fast to liberty, friendship, and faith")
Estate(s)Peacefield (Quincy, Massachusetts)

The Adams family was a prominent political family in the United States from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. Based in eastern Massachusetts, they formed part of the Boston Brahmin community. The family traces to Henry Adams of Barton St David, Somerset, in England.[1] The two presidents and their descendants are also descended from John Alden, who came to the United States on the Mayflower.

The Adams family is one of four families to have produced two presidents of the United States by the same surname; the others were the Bush, Roosevelt, and Harrison families.

John Adams[edit]

Small wooden house with red-brick chimney in the middle
Adams' birthplace in Quincy, Massachusetts

John Adams was born on October 30, 1735 (October 19, 1735, Old Style, Julian calendar), to John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boylston. He had two younger brothers: Peter (1738–1823) and Elihu (1741–1775).[2] Adams was born on the family farm in Braintree, Massachusetts.[3][a] His mother was from a leading medical family of present-day Brookline, Massachusetts. His father was a deacon in the Congregational Church, a farmer, a cordwainer, and a lieutenant in the militia.[4] John Sr. served as a selectman (town councilman) and supervised the building of schools and roads. Adams often praised his father and recalled their close relationship.[5] Adams's great-great-grandfather Henry Adams immigrated to Massachusetts from Braintree, Essex, England, around 1638.[4]

Though raised in modest surroundings, Adams felt pressured to live up to his heritage. His family was descended from Puritans, whose strict religious doctrines had profoundly shaped New England's culture, laws, and traditions. By the time of John Adams's birth, Puritan tenets such as predestination had waned and many of their severe practices moderated, but Adams still "considered them bearers of freedom, a cause that still had a holy urgency".[6] Adams recalled that his parents "held every Species of Libertinage in ... Contempt and horror", and detailed "pictures of disgrace, or baseness and of Ruin" resulting from any debauchery.[2] Adams later noted that "As a child I enjoyed perhaps the greatest of blessings that can be bestowed upon men – that of a mother who was anxious and capable to form the characters of her children."[7]

Adams, as the eldest child, was compelled to obtain a formal education. This began at age six at a dame school for boys and girls, conducted at a teacher's home, and was centered upon The New England Primer. Shortly thereafter, Adams attended Braintree Latin School under Joseph Cleverly, where studies included Latin, rhetoric, logic, and arithmetic. Adams's early education included incidents of truancy, a dislike for his master, and a desire to become a farmer. All discussion on the matter ended with his father's command that he remain in school: "You shall comply with my desires." Deacon Adams hired a new schoolmaster named Joseph Marsh, and his son responded positively.[8]

Members[edit]

Woman with deep black hair and dark eyes wearing a blue and pink dress
Abigail Smith Adams – 1766 portrait by Benjamin Blyth
Man in dark gray clothing with dark hair
John Adams – 1766 portrait also by Blyth
Woman with bonnet and dark eyes
Abigail Smith Adams – 1800-1815 portrait by Gilbert Stuart
Man in dark gray clothing with white hair
John Adams – 1800-1815 portrait by Gilbert Stuart
Coat of Arms of John Adams, the second U.S. president

Family religion[edit]

Adams was raised a Congregationalist but left the denomination as a young man. By his early 20s, he identified as a Unitarian, a Protestant denomination that had been recently formed.[18] Adams always felt pressured to live up to his heritage. His family was descended from Puritans, whose strict religious doctrines had profoundly shaped New England's culture, laws, and traditions. By the time of his birth, the Congregationalists no longer called themselves "Puritans"; their severe practices had largely been dropped in the First Great Awakening of the 1730s. Adams praised them historically as bearers of freedom, a cause that still had a holy urgency".[6] Adams recalled that his parents "held every Species of Libertinage in ... Contempt and horror", and detailed "pictures of disgrace, or baseness and of Ruin" resulting from any debauchery.[2]

According to Dr. Sara Georgini, editor of The John Adams Papers:[19]

From John Adams through his grandson Charles Francis, the Adams family creed was conventionally Unitarian. They believed in a guiding Providence. They trusted that human will empowered them to freely accept or reject God’s grace. They turned away from miracles and revelation, preferring biblical criticism and lay inquiry to broaden the mind beyond the passive reception of dogma. Acknowledging Jesus as a “master workman” and gifted moral teacher, they grew fuzzy about his divinity, opting instead to scrutinize his teachings and doctrines as they related to contemporary culture. In line with their Protestant peers, most Adamses mistrusted the sensory emphasis and hierarchical nature of “Romish” Catholicism, but they revered Judaism as a source of lawmaking and ethics.

Family tree[edit]

The following is a selective family tree of notable members of the Adams family relative to Charles Francis Adams IV:

President John Quincy AdamsLouisa Catherine JohnsonPeter Chardon BrooksAbigail [Brown]
Charles Francis Adams Sr.Abigail Brown [Brooks]George Caspar CrowninshieldHarriet [Sears]
Charles Francis Adams Jr.John Quincy Adams IIFrances Cadwalader [Crowninshield]
John Quincy Adams IIIGeorge Caspar AdamsCharles Francis Adams IIIFrances [Lovering]Frances C. AdamsArthur AdamsMargery Lee [Sargeant]Abigail ("Hitty") AdamsRobert Homans
Catherine Lovering AdamsHenry Sturgis MorganCharles Francis Adams IVMargaret [Stockton]3 Sons, 1 Daughter
Five SonsAbigail AdamsJames C. MannyAllison AdamsPaul G. HaganTimothy Adams


Harvard University and the Adams family[edit]

The Adams family had an extensive relationship with Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following members of the family attended and graduated from Harvard:

Adams House, one of 12 residential colleges at Harvard, is named after John Adams and later members of the Adams family.

Memorials[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The site of the Adams house is now in Quincy, Massachusetts, which was separated from Braintree and organized as a new town in 1792.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walker, Jane C. (2002). John Adams. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 0766017044.
  2. ^ a b c Ferling 1992, p. 11.
  3. ^ Ferling 1992, p. 317.
  4. ^ a b McCullough 2001, pp. 29–30.
  5. ^ Ferling 1992, pp. 11–14.
  6. ^ a b Brookhiser 2002, p. 13.
  7. ^ Kirtley 1910, p. 366.
  8. ^ Ferling 1992, pp. 12–14.
  9. ^ John Adams: Biography
  10. ^ John Adams bioguide at Congress.gov
  11. ^ John Quincy Adams bioguide at Politicalgraveyard.com
  12. ^ George Washington Adams bioguide at Politicalgraveyard.com
  13. ^ Charles Francis Adams Sr. bioguide at Congress.gov
  14. ^ John Quincy Adams II bioguide at Politicalgraveyard.com
  15. ^ Gardner, Augustus Peabody (December 1906). "George Caspar Adams". In Huddleston, John Henry (ed.). Secretary's report. Harvard College Class of 1886. Harvard College Class of 1886 secretary's report no. 6. Vol. Report No. 6. New York: The De Vinne Press. pp. 7–8. hdl:2027/hvd.32044107298846. OCLC 903610243. Retrieved 2018-06-12 – via HathiTrust.
  16. ^ Charles Francis Adams III bioguide at Politicalgraveyard.com
  17. ^ Thomas Boylston Adams biography at Masshist.org
  18. ^ David Waldstreicher, ed. A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams. (2013) pp. 23, 39.
  19. ^ Sara Georgini, Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family ( Oxford University Press, 2019) pp 5–6.
  20. ^ William E. McKibben (June 9, 1082). "Four More Years". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  21. ^ Eric Pace (June 9, 1997). "Thomas B. Adams Dies at 86; Descendant of Two Presidents". New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2014. Adams... attended Harvard College from 1929 to 1932

Further reading[edit]

  • Brookhiser, Richard (2002). America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918. Simon and Schuster. Excerpt.
  • Decker, William Merrill. "Dynasty, Declension, and the Endurance of the House of Adams." Reviews in American History 49.2 (2021): 250-258. online
  • Egerton, Douglas R. Heirs of an Honored Name: The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America (Basic Books, 2019). excerpt
  • Georgini, Sara. Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford University Press, 2019) excerpt
  • Maddox, Robert J. "The Adamses in America". American History Illustrated, Jul 1971, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 12-21.[1]
  • Nagel, Paul C. Descent from Glory: Four Generations of the Adams Family (1983).
  • Nagel, Paul C. The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters (Harvard University Press, 1999).

Biographies[edit]

  • Abrams, Jeanne E. A View from Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe (NYU Press, 2021).