Born in 1735 in Braintree (now Quincy ) Massachusetts, Adams was graduated from Harvard College in 1755 and admitted to the Suffolk County Bar to practice law in 1758. He married Abigail Smith in 1764. By 1770, he was an influential lawyer. That year, with great moral courage, he agreed to defend the unpopular British soldiers charged with murder following the "Boston Massacre."
Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses. He was a leading proponent of independence from Great Britain , and served on the five-man committee (which included Thomas Jefferson) assigned to draft the Declaration of Independence. In 1778, the Continental Congress appointed Adams a commissioner to France to conclude a vital treaty of alliance. In 1779, during a brief visit home, he served as the primary drafter of the Massachusetts State Constitution.
Adams spent much of the years 1780 - 1789 abroad. He helped to conclude the post-war peace treaty with Great Britain, was a Diplomat to Holland and France, and served as the first United States Ambassador to Great Britain.
Following the adoption and ratification of the United States Constitution, Adams became the first Vice President of the United States and served from 1789 to 1797. After George Washington's retirement, Adams was elected second President of the United States. Adams retired to private life in 1801 after he failed to win re-election, losing to his Vice President Thomas Jefferson.
Adams died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In a remarkable coincidence, Jefferson died the same day.