Last years of John Adams


After his defeat in the 1800 presidential elections by Thomas Jefferson Adams returned to Quincy, he was 65 years old. During the first years of his retirement Adams seldom left Peacefield, only to walk or ride in the countryside. He went through a long period of adjustment to a less active lifestyle. Adams did not publish and correspondence was light, he worked on the farm and liked to read alone in his study.

In 1803 after John Quincy’s return to Massachusetts John Adams came out of his two year self imposed isolation. John Quincy played an active role with the Federalist Party and was elected to the State legislature and then to the US Senate. John Quincy managed his father’s finances and properties. That same year Thomas moved back to Peacefield and opened a law office. Charles’ widow, Sally, and her two children also moved to Quincy. Surrounded by his own children and grandchildren Adams was enjoying his retirement. He started going to public functions such as the 4th of July celebrations and the yearly commencement at Harvard.

The death of his political contemporaries started to become a frequent occurrence. While he remained in good health during the 15 years in retirement, other than the deterioration of his vision, Abigail did not have such luck. In 1807 she was affected by influenza which left her in weak health, in 1809 it was dysentery and in 1812 a pulmonary disorder. She also suffered of deteriorating rheumatism.

In 1811 his older daughter Nabby was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in 1813. He also lost a grandson, son of Thomas, to whooping cough. These two family tragedies and the death of close friends seemed to have changed Adams who was no longer bitter from his departure from Washington. He reconnected with Jefferson and continued to communicate until the end of their lives.

A few years later on Wednesday October 28, 1818 Abigail died from typhoid fever; she was laid to rest next to Nabby. John Adams was emotionally distraught and old but remained mentally alert and with full mental faculties. After 1823 his quality of life started to deteriorate and his sight was nearly gone. In 1824 he got to see his son John Quincy being elected the sixth President of the United States.

He wished to live to see the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; his wish was granted as he died at six o’clock on July 4, 1825. Jefferson died on the same day.

Services were conducted at the Congregational Church and his body was laid to rest next to Abigail’s.


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