The Adamses: Exemplifying the Character of a Nation

The Adams Memorial will celebrate the lasting contributions to American democracy and culture that were made by one of our nation’s founding families: the Adamses of Massachusetts. Tracing the lives and achievements of seven family members spanning four generations, the memorial will illuminate their role in shaping our national character and our most cherished ideals.

The first generation

  • John Adams: An influential member of the Continental Congress, key contributor to the Declaration of Independence, the first United States minister to Holland and Great Britain, and the second president of the U.S.
  • Abigail Adams: The devoted yet independent-minded wife of John Adams. She was a fierce patriot in her own right, a legendary manager of the family’s affairs, and an early voice advocating for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.

The second generation

  • John Quincy Adams: A brilliant diplomat and secretary of state, the sixth president of the United States, and an influential member of the House of Representatives for 17 years following his presidency.
  • Louisa Catherine Adams: The wife of John Quincy Adams and the only foreign-born first lady in U.S. history. Her personal warmth, skills as a hostess, and commitment to their shared beliefs helped win supporters for her famously abrasive husband.

The third generation

  • Charles Francis Adams: A member of Congress, the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Civil War, and a gifted historical editor who compiled early editions of John Adams’s papers and Abigail’s letters.

The fourth generation

  • Henry Adams: A journalist, academic, historian, and biographer—and a consummate Washington insider. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography The Education of Henry Adams.
  • Brooks Adams: A respected intellectual and social critic. He ensured the Adams family homestead and historical treasures were preserved for the American public.