Founding Fathers: John Adams

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12250

Would you be willing to defend your enemies in a court of law? One of the hallmarks of the U.S. is the guarantee of a fair trial. Find out how Adams practiced this and made many more contributions!


United States, United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Step back in time to the turbulent days of the American Revolution, when whispers of freedom echoed through the air, and the fate of a nation hung in the balance. Among the brave and visionary leaders who fought for liberty stood a remarkable Founding Father named John Adams.

  • Did you know that this extraordinary man not only championed the cause of independence but also took a controversial and courageous stance by defending the very soldiers who stood against his fellow Patriots during the infamous Boston Massacre?

Take an inspiring journey to uncover the fascinating life and contributions of John Adams, a Founding Father who left an indelible mark on American history. Discover the untold story of his pivotal role in the Boston Massacre trial and how his unwavering commitment to justice shaped the nation's course.

Get ready to meet a Founding Father like no other — John Adams awaits!

painting of President John Adams

The Founding Fathers' work not only helped create the United States of America but also had a lasting impact on the American way of life.

Before learning about John Adams, review the Founding Fathers you already studied with the following quiz.

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  • Are you ready to study the life and legacy of John Adams?

Like the other Founding Fathers, John Adams had many accomplishments. As you complete this section, list all these accomplishments on a separate paper.

John Adams was a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts. He opposed how Great Britain enforced its authority over the colonies and often spoke against British taxes.

Even though he did not believe the British had the colonies' best interests at heart, he did not favor the radical anti-British movements in the colonies, particularly in Boston. Adams disapproved of events such as the Boston Tea Party when a group of patriots disguised themselves as Native Americans and dumped hundreds of pounds of British tea into the Boston Harbor.

Surprisingly, Adams also represented the British soldiers on trial after the Boston Massacre. In this event, British soldiers fired into an angry crowd of colonists, killing five people. Even though they were British soldiers, Adams believed they still had a right to a fair trial and wanted to ensure they received one.

In 1774, Adams was asked to be a delegate, or representative, of Massachusetts at the Continental Congress.

Adams was capable of recognizing talents. He nominated George Washington to be the commander of the Continental Army and nominated Thomas Jefferson to author the Declaration of Independence.

During the Revolutionary War, Adams spent significant time in France with Benjamin Franklin, trying to rally French support. Their work proved effective because France gave America loans to finance the war and even helped the Americans fight.

After the war, Adams was sent with Franklin and John Jay to negotiate a treaty. He helped write the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which officially ended the war and forced Great Britain to recognize American independence.

After the war, Adams remained in Europe for several years, acting as the American ambassador to Great Britain. In that role, he worked to rebuild the United States’ relationship with the British.

Eventually, he returned to the United States and served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention, helping create the United States Constitution.

During the early presidential elections, presidents and vice presidents ran for office separately. Adams received the most votes for the position of vice president during the first presidential election.

He served as vice president under George Washington for two terms before being elected the second president of the United States after Washington retired.

Adams only served one term as president. Many people opposed the laws he passed, known as the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Great Britain was at war with France at the time. Adams feared that the United States could get pulled into this war and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts to protect American interests.

The Alien and Sedition Acts increased the requirements for becoming an American citizen, made it illegal to publish anti-government writing, and allowed the government to arrest anyone who strongly disagreed.

These acts caused many people to oppose Adams’ presidency because they felt the laws gave too much power to the government.

After his term as president, Adams retired to his home in Massachusetts.

Throughout his life, he maintained a written correspondence with fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. He and Jefferson were the longest-living signers of the Declaration of Independence.

On July 4, 1826, Adams breathed his last words, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

He did not know Thomas Jefferson had died that morning! The last two signers died on the same day on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Watch the video below to review what you read and continue adding to your accomplishments list. Remember, you can pause the video to write down the important information you see and hear.

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Use your list of information to help you answer these questions on a separate piece of paper.

  • Why did John Adams help the British soldiers even though he was a patriot?
  • What leadership characteristics did John Adams display throughout his life?
  • How does John Adam’s work continue to impact Americans today?
  • How does John Adams compare to the other Founding Fathers you have learned about?

When you are ready, move to the Got It? section to research more about John Adams.

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