Sunday, October 25, 2009

He Liked It So He Put a Ring On It – John Adams Marries Abigail Smith

On October 25, 1764, future President John Adams married Abigail Smith. Abigail was the daughter of a parson who had nurtured an active mind through reading. John Adams was taken with her intellect and her willingness to debate him on any issue. The two entered into one of the most famous marriages in American history, made famous by the publication of their letters to one another in the 1840s.

Their marriage coincided with the increased hostilities between England and the colonies, the ensuing revolution and the beginning of the United States. One can imagine how tough it was on both John and Abigail to be separated at such trying times when no one’s safety was guaranteed. It was during one of these separations in 1774 that Abigail wrote one of her most famous letters to John exhorting him to “remember the ladies” when he and the other members of the Continental Congress got around to writing the laws of the new nation.

Abigail remained one of John’s closest political allies, particularly after the founding of the new nation. John Adams was our nation’s first Vice-President, which left him without much recourse to influence policy. Upon being elected to the Vice-Presidency he reflected, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” After serving two terms as Vice-President, John Adams was elected to the presidency in 1797. Their union must have been a special comfort to John Adams after suffering defeat in his bid for re-election in 1800 at the hands of his former friend turned political rival, Thomas Jefferson. Adams retired to private life with Abigail at their home, Peacefield. Abigail passed away in 1818 due to typhoid fever. Abigail and John had been married for 54 years, and her passing at the age of 73 devastated John Adams. After her passing, he wrote about his grief to his son John Quincy Adams:

The bitterness of Death is past. The grim Specter so terrible to human Nature has no sting left for me.

My consolations are more than I can number. The Separation cannot be so long as twenty Separations heretofore. The Pangs and the Anguish have not been so great as when you and I embarked for France in 1778.

John Adams died famously on the July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

To read transcripts of letters written by John and Abigail Adams throughout their marriage, visit the Massachusetts Historical Society Collection here.

[Image via Vassar]

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