Abigail Adams biography
Throughout President John Adams’ career, his wife, Abigail Adams, served as an unofficial adviser to him, and their letters show him seeking her counsel on many issues, including his presidential aspirations. Adams remained a supportive spouse and confidante after her husband became the president in 1797, and her eldest son, John Quincy, would become president 7 years after her death in 1825.
Former first lady, writer. Born Abigail Smith on November 11, 1744, (by the Gregorian calendar we use today) in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Abigail Adams is best known as the wife of President John Adams and for her extensive correspondence. She was also the mother of John Quincy Adams who became the sixth president of the United States. The daughter of a minister, she was a devoted reader, studying the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton among others. Adams did not, however, attend school, which was common for girls at the time.
In 1761, she met a lawyer named John Adams. Three years later, the couple married and soon welcomed their first child, a daughter named Abigail, in 1765. Their family continued to grow with the addition of John Quincy in 1767, Susanna in 1768, Charles in 1770, and Thomas Boylston in 1772. Sadly, Susanna died as a toddler and later the family suffered another tragedy when Abigail delivered a stillborn daughter in 1777.
Marriage to John Adams
With a busy law practice, her husband spent a lot of time away from home. This situation only worsened as John Adams became an active member of the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War. As a result, the couple spent a lot of time apart. She was also left to carry much of the burden at home, raising their children and caring for the family farm. The couple remained closed by corresponding with each other. It is believed that they exchanged more than 1,100 letters.
Abigail Adams expressed concern about how the new government would treat women. In one of her many letters to her husband, she requested that he “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Odd spellings aside, Abigail Adams often expressed her thoughts on political matters with her husband. Throughout his career, Abigail had served an unofficial advisor to him. Their letters show him seeking her counsel on many issues, including his presidential aspirations.
After the revolution, Abigail Adams joined her husband in France and later in England where he served as the first American minister to the Court of St. James from 1785 to 1788. When her husband became vice president the next year, Abigail Adams stayed with her husband in the capitol for only part of the time, often returning to Massachusetts to look after their farm and to tend other business matters.
While in the capitold, she helped First Lady Martha Washington with entertaining dignitaries and other officials.
Adams remained a supportive spouse and confidante after her husband became the president in 1797. Some critics objected to Abigail’s influence over her husband, calling her “Mrs. President.” The nation’s second first lady kept a busy schedule when she was in Philadelphia, the country’s capitol at the time. Adams rose early to tend to family and household matters and spent much of the remainder of the day receiving visitors and hosting events. She still spent a lot of time back in Massachusetts because of her health.
Abigail and John Adams did not always see eye to eye on matters of policy. During her husband’s presidency, the United States had some problems with France. Once a great ally, France was in the midst of revolution when Adams became president. The country was being run by a five-man executive group known as the Directory along with a legislative body. The Directory had stopped trade with the United States and refused to meet with any U.S. envoys. In 1798, Adams was told that the French officials would hold talks for substantial bribes. This attempt at extortion did not sit well with John Adams and he told Congress about the incident. The documents related to the incident were published, and the whole situation became known as the X, Y, Z Affair as Adams had only used letters to identify the French officials instead of names. Abigail thought war should be declared while John sought out a peaceful, less costly solution.
The couple did, however, agree on the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The three alien acts were aimed at immigrants and increased the waiting period for naturalization, allowed the government to detain foreign subjects, and permitted the deportation of any alien deemed dangerous. The Sedition Act federalized the ban against malicious antigovernment writings and other works inciting opposition to Congress or the president. An ardent champion of her husband, Abigail thought those who published lies about John should be punished. Under the act, penalties included fines and jail time. John Adams signed these acts into law and has since been rebuked by historians for this anti-immigrant, anti-free speech legislation.
Around the time her husband was defeated by Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 election, the Adams learned of the death of their second son Charles, which was related to his alcoholism. With great sadness, the Adams soon moved to the country’s new capitol, Washington, D.C., where they became the first residents of the White House. Abigail Adams wrote many letters to family around this time, shedding light on the early days of the new capital and complaining about the unfinished state of their new home. A few months later, after John Adams left office in 1801, they returned to their family farm.
With John now retired, the couple was able to spend more time together.
She continued to run the farm and to care for the family members, including their eldest child, Nabby (young Abigail’s nickname), who died of cancer at their home in 1814. Struggling with her own health for decades, Abigail Adams had a stroke in October 1818 and died at home with her family on October 28, 1818.