A couple of posts ago when I was talking about the Ames Family and Borderland State Park I commented that they were involved in politics. I mentioned that it seems to be a Massachusetts tradition for wealthy families to delve into the political arena and I used the Kennedy dynasty as an example to make my point.
Well, I would like to adjust that a little bit. The tradition of political activism and service goes back much farther than just the Kennedy’s not to diminish what they accomplished but if you explore history a bit further you will find an amazing family that hailed from Massachusetts and I doubt their political tradition can be outdone by anyone else in any state.
Where am I going with this you ask? I went to the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy to obtain my National Park Stamp. Since I was there I took the tour of the birthplaces and the Old House at Peace field. I’m sure we’ve all heard of John Adams, Abigail Adams and John Quincy Adams. Samuel Adams doesn’t seem to be a part of this clan but he too was a patriot even if some folks only know his name from the brew named after him.
Anyway, I made my way to the Visitor Center with a little help from a friend from Quincy. After she pointed out the building she headed on her way. There’s a parking garage right in back of the visitor center and it was a pretty reasonable rate so that was where I left the car. What I didn’t know, and it isn’t advertised anywhere, is that Validated Parking is available if you present your parking ticket in the visitor center. Oops! Must remember that for next time.
The elevator down brings you right to the entrance to the building housing the Visitor Center so you never have to go outside. The Center contains exhibits, a bookstore and they had a PBS CD running about the Adams’ and their role in the Revolutionary War.
National Park Passes are accepted for the tours . The Park is open seven days a week April 19 through November 10. Two-hour guided tours leave the visitor center every 30 minutes. The United First Parish Church is the final resting place of both presidents and first ladies and is next to the visitor center.
The tour I was on was made up of all adults and most of them were older than I am so there were no jokes about “the Adams Family” da da da dum. We did see a school group taking a tour. Those rangers were in period costume. Everyone was very respectful. The rangers that led the tours were all knowledgable and really warmed to their subject. I am sure I will mix up some of the facts and dates and family members as I am no historian so to get it absolutely right I recommend you take the tour yourself. It is pretty amazing the impact this one family had on the early history of the United States so I will try my best to share a small bit of the vast amount of information the rangers gave us.
This one family influenced events from the time of the American revolution to the Civil War and even beyond. Four generations of the Adams family tackled some of our nation’s greatest challenges in war, politics, diplomacy, arts and letters.
Lets start with John Adams and Abigail Adams.
As we leave the visitor center we board a trolley for the ride to the first stop, the birthplace of John Adams, 2nd President of the United States. The house is restored and most of the furnishings are reproduction but it is still fascinating to see what living conditions were like at that time. Ceilings were low and the house itself quite dark. Exterior photos are allowed but no photography inside. Don’t bother with a DSLR, a simple point and shoot is sufficient and easier to carry.
This is where John grew up and his morals and opinions were formed. His father, Deacon John Adams farmed in summer and made shoes in winter. Young John was expected to be a minister like his father but instead chose to attend Harvard and study law. It was John who in 1770 defended the British Soldiers involved in the Boston massacre because it was his belief that all men deserved to have representation. That is a cornerstone of our legal system today, the right to an attorney.
After being admitted to the Massachusetts Bar he married Abigail Smith in 1764. That was an amazing love story. John admits that it was not love at first sight but as he grew to know Abigail he was attracted to her mind and strong opinions. Abigail was self-taught yet her writings and letters have been preserved and demonstrate her high intelligence and quick mind. Her strength would be key for while the revolution waged around her, John was often overseas on diplomatic duty. Abigail, sitting in the little salt-box home on a farm in Quincy was front and center. Throughout the war Abigail opened her home to the refugees from the fighting.
It was Abigail who sent word to her husband of the death of their good friend , Dr. Joseph Warren, at Bunker Hill. She took their young son, John Quincy Adams with her to the top of Penn’s Hill where they were able to watch as the battle raged on Breed’s hill, that battle to later be known as The Battle of Bunker Hill.
When John Adams returned to France after a diplomatic break he took his young son John Quincy with him. Young John was only 9 or 10 at the time and it was expected that he would gain experience from the exposure to French. In fact it became far more than an educational trip as John Quincy became a translator so at the young age of 10 he was beginning a career in service to his country that would span some 60+ years. It would be years before he would see his mother again.
As you can see, already this family is having an impact. John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution and much of what became the United States Constitution came from ideas set down in that document.
John Adams was known as a shrewd judge of character. He recognized the need to unite the 13 colonies if there was any chance of winning independence. To this end he nominated George Washington to be the Commander in chief in 1775. It would prove to be an excellent choice.
After the Revolutionary War as the new government was being launched, George Washington was elected the first president with 69 electoral votes while John Adams came in 2nd with 34 thus making him the first vice president of the United States, a position he held for both of George Washington’s 2 terms.
In the election of 1797 Washington, who believed strongly in term limits, did not run. Adams barely squeaked by Thomas Jefferson in a closely contested election. Adams 71, Jefferson 68 making John Adams the 2nd President of our new nation and Thomas Jefferson the vice President.
Elections at the time were not quite the same as today and I would encourage anyone interested to look into it further. I am not qualified to go into the intricacies nor do I want to turn this space, which is supposed to be about travel, into a political history lesson, but I can’t avoid some of it when I am touring presidential birthplaces! 🙂
I think I used enough words for John and Abigail. So this doesn’t become too long I will leave it here for today. Next post, John Quincy Adams.