John Adams As A Child


Michael Benton, Contributor

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John Adams was born in 1735 in a part of Braintree, Massachusetts which is now in the town of Quincy. His father, John Adams, Sr., was a Puritan deacon of the church, a farmer, and town selectman who was educated at Harvard. John's mother was Susanna Boylston Adams; both of his parents were descended from early pilgrims to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The childhood of John Adams was both free and dedicated to scholastic achievement. John learned to read at an early age and was encouraged by his father to take his academics seriously. The young John Adams, however, preferred hunting to books and was known to bring his guns to school so that he might be able to shoot game on his way home. John Adams early life and education were successful, though, and he managed to earn a scholarship to Harvard. By the age of 20, John Adams had a degree from Harvard and began an apprenticeship under a Mr. Putnam of Worcester. Here he was granted access to the records of the Attorney General of Massachusetts and put his comprehension skills to work in developing a great understanding of law.

There aren't many records of John Adams' early life outside of his own account of his childhood, as he was not famous until 1765 when he argued voraciously against the legality of the Stamp Act. Thus, John Adams' childhood facts are limited to his own opinions. John was one of three children, the eldest son with two younger brothers, Peter and Elihu. He wrote about his mother's short temper but most of his autobiographical writing on his family had focused on his admiration for his father. John Adams, as a child, worshipped his father's intelligence, diligence and faith. Known in town as Deacon John, his father was not only a leader in the church but also elected as a selectman, a position we would recognize as a town councilman, who oversaw the administration of schools and roads as well as a lieutenant of the local militia. The young John Adams recorded that his father was not a strict man but certainly knew how to inspire his children; when John, Jr. said that he wanted to be a farmer instead of an educated man, his father took him out to the farm and worked him all day to remind him what that life would be like. Apparently, the lesson stuck and John Adams followed a career in law and politics that led him into the halls of the American Pantheon.

Later in life, he would often speak of his connection to the ideals of his Puritan pilgrim forebears. Although he did not live in a time of strict Puritan laws, he did worship the writing of John Winthrop who laid the groundwork for the theory of American exceptionalism. What was John Adams childhood like? His household was dedicated to faith, freedom, and hard work. When he was distracted by hunting and trivial things, his father reminded him what was important, and as a successful academic he advanced himself to the height of political power.