Year
1735
Month Day
October 30

John Adams is born

On October 30, 1735, John Adams, the son of a farmer and a descendant of Plymouth Rock pilgrims, is born in Braintree, Massachusetts. He enrolled in Harvard University at 16 and went on to teach school and study law before becoming America’s second president.

Adams did not fight in the Revolutionary War, but was instrumental in crafting the foundation of the American government. In 1776, he anonymously published Thoughts on Government, which proposed the three-tiered system upon which the United States government is modeled: a bicameral legislature, independent judiciary and strong executive. In 1783, Adams brokered the peace treaty with Britain that ended the American Revolution. Fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson once referred to Adams as “the colossus of independence.” The two men developed a deep friendship during the Revolutionary era and both served in George Washington’s first cabinet–Adams as vice president and Jefferson as secretary of state.

READ MORE: How the First 10 U.S. Presidents Helped Shape the Role of the Nation's Top Office

Adams, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and James Madison articulated the basis of the Federalist policy— featuring above all a strong centralized government and favoring an economy based on manufacturing–that dominated the Washington and Adams presidencies. Jefferson, a Republican, favored stronger states’ rights and a primarily agricultural economy. Following Washington’s retirement in 1796, Jefferson and Adams ran against each other for the presidency. Adams won and, due to a procedure that gave the next highest vote-getter the vice-presidency, Jefferson became his adversary’s vice president. In personality as well as politics, the obstinate and hot-tempered Adams clashed with the genteel, diplomatic Thomas Jefferson and the two grew increasingly alienated during Adams’ presidency.

As president, Adams lobbied for and signed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which many observers, including Jefferson, feared would give Adams despotic powers. In Jefferson’s opinion, the acts threatened to compromise the constitutional right to free speech and severely limited the definition of citizenship. In the election of 1800, Jefferson again ran against Adams and, under the guise of a pseudonym or using ghost writers, published vicious denouncements of Adams’ policies and character in the press. Jefferson won and though Adams retired to Quincy, Massachusetts, to write his memoirs, the bitterness between the two former friends endured.

Throughout his political career, Adams was steadfastly supported—and sometimes challenged–by his wife, Abigail. The couple’s correspondence, which has been preserved, thoroughly catalogued and published, provides insight into their private lives and early American culture. When Abigail learned that Jefferson was behind the newspaper attacks against her husband, she too felt betrayed. Nevertheless, it was she who initiated contact between the sworn political enemies when she wrote a letter of condolence to Jefferson upon the death of his daughter in 1812. After that, Adams and Jefferson resumed their long-halted correspondence and repaired their friendship.

Adams lived to see his son, John Quincy Adams, become president in 1825. A year later, he and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826, only hours apart.

READ MORE: Two Presidents Died on the Same July 4

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Queen of American high society dies

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, wife of William Waldorf Astor, the wealthy newspaper proprietor, dies at the age of 78. Even before her union with William Astor—the grandson of the American fur magnate John Jacob Astor—Caroline Schermerhorn was prime American aristocracy: She was ...read more

Quebec separatists narrowly defeated

By a bare majority of 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, citizens of the province of Quebec vote to remain within the federation of Canada. The referendum asked Quebec’s citizens, the majority of whom are French-speakers, to vote whether their province should begin the process that ...read more

This Day In History: Muhammad Ali wins the Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali wins the Rumble in the Jungle

On October 30, 1974, 32-year-old Muhammad Ali becomes the heavyweight champion of the world for the second time when he knocks out 25-year-old champ George Foreman in the eighth round of the “Rumble in the Jungle,” a match in Kinshasa, Zaire. Seven years before, Ali had lost his ...read more

The city of Helena, Montana, is founded after miners discover gold

On October 30, 1864, the town of Helena, Montana, is founded by four gold miners who struck it rich at the appropriately named “Last Chance Gulch.” The first major Anglo settlement of Montana had begun just two years before in the summer of 1862, when prospectors found a sizeable ...read more

“Sense and Sensibility” is published

On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is published anonymously. A small circle of people, including the Price Regent, learned Austen’s identity, but most of the British public knew only that the popular book had been written “by a Lady.” ...read more

Perfect storm hits North Atlantic

On October 30, 1991, the so-called “perfect storm” hits the North Atlantic producing remarkably large waves along the New England and Canadian coasts. Over the next several days, the storm spread its fury over the ocean off the coast of Canada. The fishing boat Andrea Gail and ...read more

Ottoman Empire signs treaty with Allies

On October 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon, anchored in the port of Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, representatives of Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire sign an armistice treaty marking the end of Ottoman participation in the First World War. Though ...read more

FDR approves Lend-Lease aid to the USSR

On October 30, 1941, President Roosevelt, determined to keep the United States out of the war while helping those allies already mired in it, approves $1 billion in Lend-Lease loans to the Soviet Union. The terms: no interest and repayment did not have to start until five years ...read more

Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio play is broadcast

“The War of the Worlds”—Orson Welles's realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth—is broadcast on the radio on October 30, 1938.  Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’s 19th-century science fiction novel The ...read more