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Timeline: John and Abigail Adams

1735-1780 | 1781-1826  


John Adams Birthplace October 19: John Adams is born in Braintree, Massachusetts, to Deacon John Adams and Susanna Boylston Adams. He is the eldest of three boys.


November 11: Abigail Smith, the second of four children, is born to the Reverend William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy Smith in Weymouth, Massachusetts.


Adams enrolls at Harvard College in Cambridge.


September 3 (September 14): England adopts the Gregorian calendar, requiring an adjustment of 11 days to convert from Old to New Style. As a result, John's birthday will become October 30, Abigail's November 22.


John Adams Upon graduation from Harvard, Adams becomes schoolmaster of a Worcester, Massachusetts, grammar school for boys and girls.

November 18: Adams begins keeping a diary, which by the end of his life filled four volumes.


August 21: Adams begins his legal studies. He will be admitted to the Suffolk County Bar in Boston in 1758.


Abigail Adams John Adams and Abigail Smith meet for the first time. They will become reacquainted in two years, and their courtship will blossom.


May 25: Adams' father dies during an influenza epidemic. Adams receives a substantial inheritance, which includes property adjoining the family home.


February 10: The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War (called the Seven Years' War in England). England's victory establishes it as the dominant colonial power in North America.

June-July: Adams publishes his first newspaper pieces. Under the pseudonym "Humphrey Ploughjogger," he lampoons human nature; as "U," he espouses balance between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

King George III October 7: King George III signs the Proclamation of 1763, which forbids colonial expansion into North America's Western territories.


April 5: British Parliament passes the Revenue Act of 1764 (called the Sugar Act in America). Revenue derived from the duties on imported sugar is earmarked for the maintenance of the British army's colonial presence. In protest Boston lawyer James Otis speaks the famous line, "No taxation without representation."

October 25: John Adams and Abigail Smith are married in Weymouth.


Stamp Act March 22: Parliament passes the Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the American colonies. All printed material, except private correspondence and books, is taxable. Only Georgia enforces it.

July 14: John and Abigail's first child, Abigail Amelia ("Nabby"), is born.

August: Boston experiences increasingly violent protests and boycotts against the Stamp Act. Although Adams doesn't back mob action, he writes anonymously that "liberty must at all hazards be supported."

October: Adams drafts the Braintree Instructions for the Massachusetts legislature, a protest against the Stamp Act. It is his first foray into politics. Forty towns adopt the document, which declares taxation without representation unconstitutional.


March 18: The Stamp Act is repealed. Instead Parliament passes the Declaratory Act, which asserts its authority to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." The new Act goes largely unnoticed in the midst of celebrations over the repeal.

Adams is elected selectman in Braintree.


June-July: The Townshend Revenue Acts impose taxes on the sale of glass, lead, paper, tea, and painters' colors. Except for the tea tax, they will be repealed in 1770 following a successful boycott of English goods.

Young John Quincy Adams July 11: The Adamses' first son, John Quincy, is born.


October 1: In response to the protests against British taxation in Massachusetts, Parliament sends 4,000 British troops to Boston.

December 28: A second daughter, Susanna, is born.


February 4: Susanna dies at 13 months in Boston.

Boston Massacre March 5: The so-called Boston Massacre occurs when British soldiers open fire on a mob and kill five colonists. Asked to defend the soldiers, Adams accepts on the grounds that everyone in a free country deserves the right to counsel and a fair trial.

Charles Adams May 29: A second son, Charles, is born.

June: Despite being widely criticized for taking the Massacre soldiers' case, Adams is elected to the Massachusetts legislature.

October-December: The Boston Massacre trials end in acquittals for the captain and six of the eight soldiers.


Spring: The strain of public life affects Adams' health, and the family returns to Braintree. Adams travels frequently for his law practice, and in another year they return to Boston.


Thomas Adams September 15: A third son, Thomas Boylston, is born in Braintree.


The Boston Tea Party December 16: The Boston Tea Party is the latest clash between colonists and the king. A group opposed to the tea tax ransacks three docked British ships and dumps tons of tea into Boston Harbor.


The Adamses move back to Braintree for good. Boston, the hub for anti-British protests, is too violent.

May-June: The Coercive (Intolerable) Acts are enacted in response to the Boston Tea Party and to restore order in Massachusetts. Boston Harbor is closed and a royal governor installed.

September 5-October 26: Adams is one of four Massachusetts delegates to attend the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which convenes in response to the Intolerable Acts.


January-April: Adams publishes his "Novanglus" essays, in which he argues that Parliament may regulate commerce in the colonies, but not impose taxes.

Battle of Lexington April 19: British troops sent to seize colonists' gunpowder clash with the minute men -- the Massachusetts militia -- in Lexington and Concord later in the day. British leaders question whether this is another deadly skirmish or the beginning of revolution.

May: The Second Continental Congress convenes and creates the Continental Army. On June 15, Adams nominates George Washington to be its commander. His appointment is unanimous.

Battle of Bunker Hill June 17: Near Boston, the Battle of Bunker Hill plays out. Abigail and John Quincy watch the cannon fire from Penn's Hill in Braintree. Britain wins but suffers terrible casualties and takes this battle as the sign that revolution has begun.

July 8: The Second Continental Congress submits the Olive Branch Petition to King George III. Staunchly opposed by Adams, the petition pledges loyalty to England but asks that all military activity against colonists cease. The king refuses to read it.

August: Adams returns to Braintree where he remains until the following month.

October 1: Abigail's mother dies in Braintree's dysentery epidemic. The disease also killed John's brother Elihu, a soldier in the siege of Boston, earlier in the year, and incapacitated Abigail and Tommy as well.

December: Adams travels to Braintree where he remains until February.


January 10: Thomas Paine anonymously publishes Common Sense. The pamphlet rallies colonists to take up arms against the king.

March 17: The 11-month long siege of Boston ends. The British agree to retreat from Boston peaceably if left unmolested by Washington's troops.

March 31: Abigail sends John her "Remember the Ladies" letter, in which she asks that women's rights be considered alongside men's when new national laws are created.

April: In Thoughts on Government, Adams anonymously advocates a three-tiered system of government: bicameral legislature, independent judiciary, and strong executive.

Thomas Jefferson June 7: In response to Virginian Richard Henry Lee's resolution calling for independence from England, Congress names a committee to draft a formal declaration of independence. Adams asks Jefferson to compose the document.

June 13: Appointed president of Congress' Board of War, Adams becomes a virtual Secretary of War. He also writes the Plan of Treaties, an outline for an alliance with Europe's nations.

July 2: Lee's resolution is formally adopted, thanks in large part to Adams' impassioned arguments for independence.

July 4: Congress formally adopts the Declaration of Independence. National celebrations begin as word of it reaches the colonies.

September 15: The British occupy New York City. Adams travels to Staten Island with Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge to confer with Admiral Lord Howe.

October: Adams returns to Braintree.

December 24: In Trenton, New Jersey, Washington captures over 900 Hessian troops and their weapons while losing fewer than 10 American soldiers.


January: John leaves Braintree for Baltimore, where he attends the Second Continental Congress.

March: Congress moves to Philadelphia and Adams follows.

1777 Flag Resolution June 14: Congress passes the Flag Resolution, calling for a design containing 13 white stars in a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes.

July 11: Abigail gives birth to a stillborn daughter named Elizabeth on John Quincy's 10th birthday.

September 26: The British capture Philadelphia (Congress, and Adams, had fled a few days earlier to York, Pennsylvania).

Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga October 17: The British lose an army of nearly 6,000 in the surrender at Saratoga, New York.

November 15: The Second Continental Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation. States are responsible for their own judicial and legislative systems and are granted powers later held by the federal government, including coining money. Adams returns to Braintree where he resumes his law practice.


February 6: After the United States' win at Saratoga, France formally recognizes it as an independent nation and agrees to a military alliance against its longtime foe England, as well as a commercial treaty.

The first frigate Boston February 14-April 1: Traveling with 10-year-old John Quincy, Adams joins the joint commission in Paris, only to learn that the alliance has already been secured. When Franklin is appointed United States minister to France, Adams returns to Braintree.


October 25: The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, written by Adams, is adopted. It will serve as the model for the U.S. Constitution and remains in effect today.

November: Adams sails for Europe to negotiate the peace treaty with England as the sole United States representative. John Quincy and nine-year-old Charles accompany him.


January: Adams moves to Paris, residing at the Hotel de Valois.

May 4: Boston's American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded by Adams as a forum for the promotion of democratic ideals, is incorporated.

May 12: America suffers its worst defeat of the war in Charleston, South Carolina. Nearly 6,000 Americans surrender.

June 20: Congress commissions Adams to negotiate a Dutch loan.

July: Before news of his commission reaches Adams, he travels to the Netherlands to explore the possibility of financial assistance. He remains in Amsterdam until July 1781, when he returns to Paris.

1735-1780 | 1781-1826  

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