An interview with Nick Adams of Little Rock, Arkansas—descendant of our second president, John Adams

How are you related to John Adams?
In October of 1609 Henry Adams and Edith Squire were married, and they had 12 children. Nine of them were boys. John Adams is the descendent of their 3rd son, Joseph, and based upon my research, I am most likely the descendant of their 2nd son, Henry. He was presumably named after his father.

What about John Adams do you think prepared him for his pivotal leadership role in the shaping of our country?
First and foremost, I would say that John’s wife, Abigail, greatly influenced him as he jumped into public life. She was truly an intellectual equal to John and could argue with him better than anyone else at the time. In this way, I think Abigail really challenged him in a positive way to be a better leader—she sharpened him.

We also need to talk about John’s incredible intelligence. Just the thought processes communicated in his writings showed that he was a leader of vision and insight. He once said: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” This is one of my favorite quotes of his, and I think it explains his genius quite well.

John Adams was a lawyer by trade. How did he view the concept of justice?
I think the Boston Massacre is a great example of how he viewed justice. He defended a group of British soldiers accused of opening fire on innocent citizens. This was a very unpopular case for Adams to take up considering the political climate, but he represented the soldiers anyway. His steadfast commitment to equal protection under the law is what motivated him, despite how much he despised the British occupation.

What was the greatest accomplishment of John Adams as president?
Well, his presidency was historically significant because he set a precedent that has been followed ever since—accepting power from the first president, George Washington, and handing it off to the next president, Thomas Jefferson. That to me is a great accomplishment. Adams also kept the United States out of war by peacefully resolving the Quasi-War crisis with France in 1798. He knew we couldn’t afford such a conflict.

What is the overall legacy of John Adams?
Adams was one of the primary writers of the Declaration of Independence. He was crucial in getting the Declaration passed through all 13 states, setting us up for true independence as a nation. His words and deeds were a big part of our country’s founding. His son, John Quincy, went on to be the 6th president of the United States.