spacer John Adams John Adams, (1735-1826)
Second President (1797-1801)

In 1789, after performing invaluable service to his country both during and after the Revolution, John Adams became George Washington's Vice President and claimed the unhappy distinction of being the first to discover how insignificant that office could be. The position, however, yielded one important compensation: it became the springboard for his election to the presidency in 1796.

Chief among Adams's presidential successes was the avoidance of hostilities over France's infringement on American neutrality in its war with Great Britain. Unfortunately, the route to achieving that desirable end inspired bitter animosity among allies and foes alike. As a result, Adams left the White House in 1801 largely discredited on all sides. Recalling his administration years later, he noted: "No man who ever held the office of President would ever congratulate a friend on obtaining it."

John Trumbull's portrait of Adams was derived from sittings that occurred during Adams's vice presidency. By then, Trumbull had painted two other likenesses of him, including one that was eventually incorporated into Trumbull's famous picture depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which now resides in the rotunda of the United States Capitol.

John Trumbull (1756-1843)
Oil on canvas, 1793
National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution

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