Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
Abigail Adams Smith House (Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden), 421 E 61st St, New York, NY 10065
First Presbyterian Church Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Charles Adams (May 29, 1770 – November 30, 1800) was the second son of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams (née Smith).
At the age of nine, he traveled with his father and older brother John Quincy to Europe, studied briefly in Passy, Amsterdam, and Leiden. He matriculated in Leiden on January 29, 1781.
In December 1781, Charles returned to America unaccompanied by family members. After graduating from Harvard University in 1789, he moved to New York City, where plans had been made for him to work in the legal office of Alexander Hamilton. Shortly after, however, Hamilton was named secretary of the treasury and Adams moved to the law office of John Laurance to continue his studies.
Beginning of the 1790s Adams met John Mulligan and they lived together until late 1792. The future president did not approve the intense nature of their relationship and insisted that Adams and Mulligan split up. Both men wrote to Steuben who offered them to live with him. Steuben wrote to Mulligan:
"Philadelphia, January 11, 1793.
Your letter of the 7th was handed me yesterday by Mr. Hamilton. In vain, my dear child, should I undertake to explain to you the sensation which the letter created in my heart. Neither have I the courage to attempt to arrest the tears you have so great reason to shed. For a heart so feeling as yours this was the severest of trials, and nothing but time can bring consolation under circumstances so afflicting.
Strength of mind in enfeebled by griefs of this nature; but, my friend, one ought not to suffer it to be entirely extinguished, for it is the duty of a sensible man to cherish the heavenly fire with which we are endowed by Providence.
Despite moral philosophy I weep with you, and glory in the human weakness of mingling my tears with those of a friend I so tenderly love.
My dear Charles ought, ere this, to have received my answer to the touching letter he wrote.
I repeat my entreaties, to hasten your journey to Philadelphia as soon as your strength permits. My heart and my arms are open to receive you. In the midst of the attention and fetes which they have the goodness to give me, I enjoy not a moment's tranquility until I hold you in my arms. Grant me this favor without delay, but divide your journey, that you may not be fatigued at the expense of your health... if our friend could accompany you! Embrace him for me, with the same tender friendship I feel for you."
Mulligan accepted the offer and continued to live with Steuben until this latter death, acting as his secretary.
Abigail Adams Smith House
On August 29, 1795, Adams married Sarah "Sally" Smith (1769–1828), the sister of his brother-in-law, William Stephens Smith. They had two daughters, Susanna Boylston (1796–1884) and Abigail Louisa Smith (1798–1836). Abigail married the banker and philosopher Alexander Bryan Johnson; their son Alexander Smith Johnson would become a judge. At the age of 37, Abigail Louisa died of uterine cancer.
After struggling with alcoholism for many years, he died in New York City of cirrhosis of the liver on November 30, 1800. Adams was buried at First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
BACK TO HOME PAGE