On this day in 1764, future President John Adams marries Abigail Smith. This devoted couple’s prolific correspondence during their married life has provided entertainment and a glimpse of early American life for generations of history buffs.
Future first lady Abigail Adams was the daughter of a parson. She was home-taught and read everything from the classics to contemporary law. When she met her future husband, Adams appreciated her intellect and outspokenness. Both were staunch Federalists and abolitionists, but when their views did diverge, Abigail never hesitated to debate her husband on political or social matters. Their letters to each other during long absences imposed by his ministerial duties in France and England have been archived, published and analyzed in great detail. They discuss an array of public issues of concern to early Americans and shed a special light on the debate over the role of women in the new nation.
While Adams was attending the first Continental Congress in 1774, Abigail wrote to him to “remember the ladies” when he and his revolutionary cohorts began drafting new laws for the fledgling nation. She asserted that “all men would be tyrants if they could” and pointed out that male Patriots who were fighting British tyranny would appear hypocritical if they should disregard the rights of half the population, the country’s women, when drafting a constitution. Abigail warned “if particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
With the rise of political factions, Adams and his wife found themselves attacked in the press by their Republican opponents during his presidency (1797 – 1801) and unsuccessful reelection campaign against Thomas Jefferson in 1800. The couple subsequently returned to their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, where Adams spent his last years writing his memoirs.
Abigail Adams died in 1818 at the age of 73. Her grandson was the first to publish some of her letters 30 years later. John Adams died on July 4, 1826.