Charles Adams (1770–1800)

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Charles Adams
Charles Adams.jpg
Born May 29, 1770
Quincy, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America
Died November 30, 1800(1800-11-30) (aged 30)
New York City,[1] New York, U.S.
Cause of death Cirrhosis of the liver
Spouse(s) Sarah "Sally" Smith
Children 2
Parent(s) John Adams
Abigail Smith
Family Adams, Quincy

Charles Adams (May 29, 1770 – November 30, 1800) was the second son of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams (née Smith).


At the age of nine, he traveled with his father and older brother John Quincy to Europe, studied briefly in Passy, Amsterdam, and Leiden. He matriculated in Leiden on January 29, 1781.[2][3]

In December 1781, Charles returned to America unaccompanied by family members. After graduating from Harvard University in 1789, he moved to New York City, where plans had been made for him to work in the legal office of Alexander Hamilton. Shortly after, however, Hamilton was named secretary of the treasury and Adams moved to the law office of John Laurance to continue his studies.[4]

On August 29, 1795, Adams married Sarah "Sally" Smith (1769–1828), the sister of his brother-in-law, William Stephens Smith. They had two daughters, Susanna Boylston (1796–1884) and Abigail Louisa Smith (1798–1836). Abigail married the banker and philosopher Alexander Bryan Johnson; their son Alexander Smith Johnson would become a judge. At the age of 37, Abigail Louisa died of uterine cancer.[5]

After struggling with alcoholism for many years, he died in New York City of cirrhosis of the liver on November 30, 1800.[6] Adams was buried at First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.

Depictions in popular culture[edit]

In 2008, HBO presented the miniseries entitled John Adams based on the book by David McCullough. This biographical presentation represents Charles Adams (played by Irish actor Kevin Trainor) as a drunken, irresponsible man with weak character who brings disgrace to his family and is disowned by his father, President John Adams. However, the series also depicts President Adams's actions as a possible influence on Charles's development; he was a frequently absent father whose political life separated him from his family for extended periods, and he did not approve of Charles's choices as an adult. Historians, however, have pointed out the inaccuracies of the series' representation of their relationship.[7]

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ "The Adams Children". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  2. ^ Album Studiosorum Academiae Lugduno Batavae MDLXXV-MDCCCLXXV, kol. 1136.
  3. ^ Index to English speaking students who have graduated at Leyden university / by Edward Peacock, F.S.A. - London : For the Index society, by Longmans, Green & co. 1883, p. 2, 1136.
  4. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2014). John Quincy Adams: American Visionary. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 100. ISBN 9780061915413.
  5. ^ genealogy.cfm#charles The Massachusetts Historical Society
  6. ^ "Lives of the First Ladies".
  7. ^ Jeremy Stern (October 27, 2008). "What's Wrong with HBO's Dramatization of John Adams's Story". History News Network. Retrieved March 18, 2011.

External links[edit]