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John Adams: Life After the Presidency

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With his retirement from public office, John and Abigail finally obtained the homelife that she had always wanted. They lived at Peacefield, their family farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. For the next twenty-six years, Adams seldom left home. Charles's widow, Sally, and her young daughters moved in with John and Abigail, filling the house with laughter and life. For five years, John Quincy's son lived there as well while his parents were abroad on public service. The family of Thomas Adams, another son, also lived nearby. Early in Adams's retirement, John Quincy came and went constantly, staying for weeks on end as he busied himself in a life of public service that ranged from diplomatic to elected office and culminated in his election as President in 1824.

Within months of retirement, Adams threw himself into his writing and commentary. For the rest of his life, Adams wrote prolifically, including his autobiography and a voluminous correspondence. Nothing seemed too trivial or too weighty for him to address, from the nature of his manure piles at the farm to history and political philosophy. In 1812, mutual friends brought Adams and Jefferson together again, at least via mail, and these two old political rivals exchanged hundreds of letters on every conceivable topic prior to their deaths fourteen years later.

Both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was an anniversary that both founders were determined to live long enough to see. Death took Jefferson at 12:50 in the afternoon. Near noon, close to the time of Jefferson's death, Adams awakened from a deep sleep and with great effort proclaimed, "Thomas Jefferson survives." These were his last words, after which he fell into a coma. At about six o'clock in the evening, as the warm day turned cool, John Adams died. He was ninety-one years old.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

C. James Taylor

Mr. Taylor is the editor-in-chief of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.