John Adams (1735-1826) was the second president of the United States. A Massachusetts lawyer, Adams gained prominence during the controversy surrounding the Stamp Act (1765) as a brilliant defender of American rights under British law. As a member of the Continental Congress, he sat on the committee charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence; during the Revolutionary War, he served as a commissioner to France. At the war's end, he was appointed to the American delegation to Paris that negotiated the treaty ending the war with Britain.
As president, Adams resolved to continue Washington's policy of international neutrality. To that end, he negotiated a treaty with France in 1800. But caught in the crossfire between the pro-French Republican Party of Jefferson and the pro-British elements within his own Federalist Party, Adams failed to win reelection. While historians have applauded the pursuit of neutrality that cost Adams his political life, they have criticized his support of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which passed at the height of partisan tension in 1798.