John Adams, the Founding Father whose intellect, passion and political philosophy fueled American independence and gave shape to constitutional governments now found around the world, became the first president to live in the White House on this day in history, Nov. 1, 1800.
“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it,” Adams wrote to first lady Abigail, who had yet to arrive, on his second night in the new executive mansion.
“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Adams was in the final months of his only term as president after he served two terms as the first vice president of the United States under George Washington.
He and his wife Abigail Adams had lived during the earlier days of his administration between the presidential home in Philadelphia and their farmhouse estate Peacefield in Massachusetts.
The month-long election of 1800, which Adams would lose to personal friend and political rival Thomas Jefferson, had begun a day earlier.
Construction of the executive mansion, in the heart of the newly planned capital District of Columbia, began eight years earlier with the laying of its cornerstone on Oct. 13, 1792.
“Constructed of white-gray sandstone that contrasted sharply with the red brick used in nearby buildings, the President’s House, also known as the Executive Mansion, was called the White House as early as 1812,” reported the Library of Congress.
The mansion was known by various names until officially changed to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt on Oct. 12, 1901.
The first family was not impressed by what WhiteHouse.gov called the “damp, unfinished rooms” of the mansion, built into a still swampy riverside, as workers scurried about to put the final touches on construction.
“Although Adams was initially enthusiastic about the presidential mansion, he and Abigail soon found it to be cold and damp during the winter,” noted History.com.
“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House.” — John Adams
“Abigail, in a letter to a friend, wrote that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also noted that she had to hang their washing in an empty ‘audience room’ (the current East Room).”
Adams, born a short distance from fellow Founding Father John Hancock in what’s now Quincy, Massachusetts, played an outsized role in the nation’s founding.
He passionately implored the other colonies to join Massachusetts in its 15-month-old bloody revolt against the British Crown at the Second Continental Congress in 1776.
Adams was among the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to the new American nation.
He almost singlehandedly shaped constitutional government as the world knows it today in his Quincy law office — penning the Massachusetts Constitution in 1779 while the American Revolution still raged.
It laid out three branches of government, a system of checks and balances, a declaration of rights, and a process of amendment.
It served as the foundation of the U.S. Constitution a decade later.
“The building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room.” — Abigail Adams
With victory on the battlefield won in 1781, Adams led negotiations with Britain that secured American independence in the eyes of the world with the Treaty of Paris in 1783 — marking the “redemption of his pledge” of independence, son and President John Quincy Adams wrote in an epitaph.
The Adams presidency, marred by contention and scandal, fell short of the standards of leadership he had exemplified in the fight to build a new nation.
His time in the new executive mansion was brief.
Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as third U.S. president, the first to take his oath in Washington, D.C., on March 4 — just four months after Adams had assumed residence in the White House.
Adams and Jefferson had partnered in many of the crowning achievements in the founding of the nation. It was Adams who tabbed the younger Jefferson to pen the Declaration of Independence.
Their relationship fell apart during the heated election of 1800.
However, they resumed a warm and deep long-distance relationship in their later years, each aware they had partnered in an unprecedented achievement in the history of humanity, filled by voluminous mail correspondence.
Both great intellectuals and Founding Fathers died on July 4, 1826, as the nation celebrated its 50th birthday.
“As Jefferson was being sworn in on March 4, 1801, John Adams was already on his way back to Massachusetts, where he and Abigail lived out the rest of their days at their family farm,” wrote History.com.
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