' Skip To Content
John and Abigail Adams | Timeline

The Adams Family: A Timeline

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.

Courtesy: Massachusetts Historical Society

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.

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.

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

Courtesy: Massachusetts Historical Society

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 Contnental 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.

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 Washignton to be its commander. His appointment is unanimous.

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", 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.

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.

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).

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.

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 Massachsetts, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Support Provided by: Learn More