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John Adams. After a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13002 DLC).

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Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....

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George Mifflin Dallas. Hand-colored lithograph on paper, 1844, by Nathaniel Currier. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Dallas, George Mifflin (10 July 1792–31 December 1864), vice president of the United States, senator, and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alexander James Dallas, a prominent lawyer and Democratic Republican politician, and Arabella Maria Smith. He graduated with highest honors from Princeton in 1810 and studied law with his father before his admission to the bar in 1813....