Life beyond Elmbridge
John Adams was the second President of the United States of America and father of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President. Elected in 1797, he served one term, being defeated in the election of 1800 by his Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson.
Born in Massachusetts in 1735, Adams studied at Harvard and, after teaching, took up law. In 1770, he somewhat reluctantly agreed to defend several British soldiers who were accused of shooting civilians in what became known as "the Boston Massacre". His brilliant defence resulted in six acquittals and two reductions of charges from murder to manslaughter. Despite his understandable fears that the association with the British military might harm his career, he was elected to Massachusetts General Court in the same year.
Thus began a political career that led to Adams' Presidency and to his being regarded as one of the key members of the Founding Fathers, revered by Americans as having been instrumental in securing Independence from Great Britain.
Following the American War of Independence, Adams was appointed as the young country's first representative at the Court of George III and he moved to London in 1785. John and his wife Abigail lived at 9 Grosvenor Square between May 1785 and March 1788.
Life in Elmbridge
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson visited London, and together Adams and Jefferson took a trip out of town to see the newly completed landscape gardens at Painshill, Cobham. Between 1738 and 1773 Charles Hamilton had overseen the design and development of what became one of the finest examples of the English 18th Century Landscape Park. The two future presidents would no doubt have been pleased to note that, among the architectural attractions, including several "follies", were a number trees and plants that they would have recognised from their homeland. Hamilton was a pioneer of the cultivation of North American flora in England, importing his stock from the famous botanist, John Bartram of Philadelphia.
Painshill fell into disrepair over the years, but in recent times, a loving period of restoration has taken place. As part of this process, the management of the park has created the John Bartram Heritage Collection of trees and shrubs, which was awarded full collection status by Plant Heritage in 2006. Adams wrote in his diary that Painshill was "the most striking piece of art that I have yet seen."
John Adams and his family moved back to America in 1788 and in 1789, he was elected to serve as the first Vice-President of the USA, under George Washington. Following his defeat by Jefferson, Adams largely retired from the political scene, although he expended a great deal of energy in defending himself and his record in office against attacks from politicians and journalists. In 1812, he was reconciled with Thomas Jefferson and he died on 4th July, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and on the same day as Thomas Jefferson!