Ideas & Events: The Adams Influence

Starting with the birth of John Adams in 1735 and ending with the death of Brooks Adams in 1927, the Adams Memorial will chronicle the outsized role that family members played in U.S. history, politics, and culture—and their continuing influence to this day.

Leadership in war and peace

For more than 150 years, family members stood at the center of many contemporary events and ideas. John Adams, with Abigail’s support, was instrumental in making the case for American independence and ensuring the colonies had the resources needed to wage the Revolutionary War. As a diplomat and secretary of state, John Quincy Adams deftly negotiated with foreign powers, expanded U.S. borders, and established America’s primacy in the Western Hemisphere by authoring the Monroe Doctrine. As a diplomat during the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams played a critical role in ensuring foreign support for the North and preservation of the Union.

Promoting democratic ideals

Early on, family members espoused ideas that are now ingrained in the fabric of our national life. They believed in individual rights and equal justice, as evidenced by John Adams’s defense of British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre and John Quincy’s representation of the Amistad captives. Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams were outspoken in promoting women’s rights and opposing slavery.

Arts, letters, and history

The later generations made significant contributions to arts and letters and to preserving the family’s historic legacy. Charles Francis compiled John Adams’s most important writings, published a collection of Abigail’s letters, and built a library to house the family’s valuable collection of books and papers. Charles’s son Henry Adams was an influential journalist and historian whose autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, is still considered a masterpiece of the genre.