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Timeline: John and Abigail Adams

1735-1780 | 1781-1826  


October 19: With the aid of the French army and navy, Washington wins a decisive victory at Yorktown, Virginia, the war's final major battle. The British agree to negotiate peace.


April 19: Thanks to Adams' tireless efforts, the Netherlands recognizes American independence. Two months later, on June 11, Adams will secure a $2 million loan from Dutch bankers.

October: Adams returns to Paris to negotiate a preliminary treaty between America and Great Britain.


Congress makes July 4, Independence Day, an official holiday.

July 8: The Massachusetts Supreme Court abolishes slavery in Massachusetts. By year's end, all Northern states follow suit.

Adams travels to The Hague to meet up with John Quincy. They return to Paris the following month.

Treaty of Paris Signing September 3: Adams, Franklin, and John Jay sign the Treaty of Paris, ending the War of Independence.

October: Adams, along with John Quincy, leaves France for London where they spend several months taking in the sights.


January: Adams returns to Amsterdam where he negotiates a second loan with the Dutch.

July 21: After a month-long Atlantic crossing, Abigail and Nabby arrive in Europe. On August 7, they reunite with John in London after a five-year separation. They move to Auteuil, near Paris, where Adams is serving with Franklin and Jefferson on a commission to secure commercial treaties for the new United States.


February 24: Adams becomes the first U.S. minister to Great Britain. In May the family moves to London, where they take up residence in the first American legation (embassy) in the coming months.

June 1: Adams has his first private audience with King George III. Three weeks later, Abigail and Nabby are presented to Queen Charlotte.


March: Jefferson visits. He and Adams will attempt to negotiate commercial treaties with Tripoli, Portugal, and Great Britain, but they also take a garden tour across England.

Abigail "Nabby" Adams June 12: Nabby marries Colonel William Smith, Adams' secretary, in London.

Summer: John and Abigail take pleasure trips around England, a first in their marriage. She also accompanies him to the Netherlands.


May: Adams travels to Amsterdam to obtain a third loan from the Dutch.

June-July: Jefferson's daughter, Polly, and Monticello slave, Sally Hemings, stay with the Adamses. During the 1800 election, Jefferson will face allegations that he fathered Hemings' five children.

George Washington September 17: Washington is president of the Constitutional Convention. Fifty-five delegates from all the colonies except Rhode Island attend and approve the document that will become the U.S. Constitution.


February 20: Adams has a farewell audience with King George. Anxious to hold office in the new Republic, Adams has asked to be recalled to America.

March: Adams returns to The Hague where he negotiates a fourth loan with the Dutch.

John and Abigail's home of Peacefield April: John and Abigail return to Massachusetts. By July they are settled in a new home in Braintree, which Adams christens "Peacefield."


March: Adams is elected the nation's first vice president . He will be sworn in on April 21 in New York. Of the office he will complain: "My country in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.'"

April 30: George Washington is sworn in as the United States' first president. Meanwhile Adams establishes his new residence at Richmond Hill in New York City.

July 14: The French Revolution begins when a Parisian mob storms the Bastille prison.

October-December: Adams travels from New York to Braintree between sessions of Congress.


April: In the yearlong serial publication of "Discourses on Davila," Adams discusses "unbridled democracy's" dangers and makes comments about strong executive rule that foster his reputation as a monarchist.

Benjamin Franklin April 17: Benjamin Franklin dies. Philadelphia and other American cities stage lavish tributes.

July 16: Congress passes the Residence Bill, authorizing President Washington to select a permanent location for the government.

September: Adams travels between New York and Philadelphia to establish a new residence at Bush Hill.

November: Abigail joins John in Philadelphia. She despises the city and leaves for Massachusetts after six months, vowing never to return. Adams will spend much of each year during his vice presidency at home with her.


May: Named president of Boston's Academy of Arts and Sciences, Adams holds the position until 1813.

May-October: Adams travels from Philadelphia to Braintree between sessions of Congress.

December 15: Congress ratifies the Bill of Rights.


February 22: Braintree's North Parish incorporates as the town of Quincy.

April: John and Abigail return to Quincy.

September: The monarchy in France is abolished, and the nation is declared a republic.

November: Adams returns to Philadelphia alone, leaving Abigail in Quincy.

December: Washington and Adams are reelected for a second term.


King Louis XVI of France execution January 21: France's King Louis XVI is beheaded.

February 1: Fearing the spread of revolutionary ideals and aghast at King Louis' execution, Great Britain, Prussia, and Austria declare war on France.

April 22: Washington issues a Proclamation of Neutrality expressing his intention to stay out of the European war.

May: Adams returns to Quincy where he remains until November.

September 5: France's Reign of Terror begins. Over the next 10 months, tens of thousands of "counterrevolutionaries" will be killed. The Reign will end with leader Maximilien Robespierre's arrest and execution on July 28, 1794.


February: Adams travels to Quincy where he remains until May. He will make a second trip to Quincy the following month, this time staying until November.

August 29: Charles marries Sally Smith, Nabby's sister-in-law, in New York.


May: Adams travels to Quincy where he will spend the summer working on his farm. He returns to Philadelphia in November to preside over the Senate.

December: Adams narrowly defeats Jefferson in the presidential election. They and their respective parties are bitterly divided on relations with France.


John Adams March 4: Adams is sworn in as the second president of the United States.

June 1: Adams appoints John Quincy minister to Prussia. Fearing his father will be charged with nepotism, he hesitates before accepting the position.

May: Relenting on her promise never to return to Philadelphia, Abigail joins John in the temporary capital.

Summer: Committed to maintaining neutrality, Adams announces the appointment of a peace mission to France.

John Quincy Adams July 26: John Quincy marries the Anglo-American Louisa Catherine Johnson in London.

John and Abigail travel to Quincy, where they remain until November.


March-April: The so-called Quasi-War with France escalates with the XYZ Affair, in which the French foreign minister demands a bribe from the U.S. government in exchange for the resumption of diplomatic talks.

May-June: Opposed to a declaration of war but favoring precautionary military buildup, Adams proposes the creation of the Department of the Navy. Congress approves.

July 14: Adams signs into law the four-part Alien and Sedition Acts. The Naturalization and Alien Acts curb immigrants' rights; the Sedition Act restricts freedom of speech and press and makes offenses punishable by fines and imprisonment.

August: Abigail falls ill en route to Quincy, appearing near death for a time. She recovers after several months but remains weak. John will return to Philadelphia in November, alone.


February 18: Against the wishes of his Federalist Party, Adams appoints a second peace delegation to France.

March: Adams returns to Quincy.

October: Adams travels to Trenton to meet with his cabinet and dispatch commissioners to France, where there is growing political crisis.

Napoleon Bonaparte November 9: Napoleon Bonaparte overthrows the Directory (France's executive branch) and assumes near-dictatorial powers. In 1804 he anoints himself emperor.
John and Abigail return to Philadelphia.

George Washington December 14: George Washington, 67, dies at Mount Vernon. Adams calls him the nation's "most esteemed ... citizen."


May: A Federalist caucus in Congress selects Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the party's nominees in the election of 1800. The Republicans nominate Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

June: Adams travels to Washington, D.C. to inspect the new seat of government, and then returns to Quincy.

September: Adams' nemesis, fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton, publishes the vitriolic Letter ... Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq., which attacks Adams' reelection bid.

November 1: Adams becomes the first president to live in the recently completed President's House in Washington, D.C. Abigail will join him mid-November, before the election.

November 30: Having suffered as an alcoholic for many years, Charles Adams dies of liver failure at age 30.

December: Thomas Jefferson defeats Adams in the presidential election.


March 3: The Sedition Act expires.

March 4: Hours before Jefferson is sworn in, Adams departs Washington to return home. Abigail preceded him in February.


October 5: Adams begins his Autobiography. It will occupy him for the next five years.


Map of Louisiana Purchase April 30: Jefferson's $15 million Louisiana Purchase -- 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River -- nearly doubles the nation's size.


November 13: Jefferson wins a second term in a landslide victory.


May 16: Thomas Adams marries Ann Harrod.


April-June: John Quincy joins the Republican Party, his father's old rival, after years of strife with the Federalists.


October 8: Nabby undergoes a mastectomy for breast cancer. The rare operation, performed without anesthesia, initially appears successful.


January: After 11 years, Adams initiates correspondence with Jefferson; it will continue until their deaths.


August 14: Nabby dies of breast cancer at age 48.


John Quincy begins his eight-year term as President James Monroe's secretary of state.


Abigail Adams October 28: Abigail Adams dies in Quincy of typhoid fever. She is 73.


February 9: Finishing second in the popular vote, but with no clear electoral college majority, John Quincy Adams is chosen president by the House of Representatives. Like his father, he will serve one term.


July 4: At age 91, John Adams dies at Peacefield. His famous last words are "Thomas Jefferson survives." But Jefferson too had died only hours earlier at Monticello.

1735-1780 | 1781-1826  

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