Adams followed the usual course of reading the law in order to obtain his license to practice. In 1756, he became an apprentice in the office of John Putnam, a leading lawyer in Worcester.
13 In 1758, he earned an A.M. from Harvard,14 and the following year was admitted to the Massachusetts bar, having completed his studies under Putnam.15 From an early age, he developed the habit of writing descriptions of events and impressions of men which are scattered through his diary, which included his report of the 1761 argument of James Otis Jr. in the Massachusetts Superior Court as to the legality of Writs of Assistance. Otis’s argument inspired Adams to the cause of the American colonies.
16In 1763, he had published seven essays in Boston newspapers, treatises that represented his forging into the convoluted realm of political theory. The essays were offered anonymously, with Adams using the nom de plume “Humphrey Ploughjogger;” this author reappeared in the Boston Gazette in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act.17 Adams was initially not as well known as his cousin Samuel, but his influence emerged through his work as a constitutional lawyer and his in-depth analysis of historical examples, together with his dedication to the principles of republicanism. Even so, Adams often found his inborn contentiousness to be a constraint in his political career.10Adams married his third cousin Abigail Smith (1744–1818) on October 25, 1764. Her parents were Elizabeth Quincy and Rev. William Smith, a Congregational minister at Weymouth, Massachusetts.18 John and Abigail had six children: Abigail “Nabby” in 1765,19 future president John Quincy Adams in 1767,20 Susanna in 1768, Charles in 1770, Thomas in 1772,21 and Elizabeth in 1777.
22 Susanna died after about a year,21 while Elizabeth was stillborn.22 The fate of his three sons is curious. All three became lawyers. Charles and Thomas were both unsuccessful in their law professions and eventually became alcoholics, while John Quincy excelled and launched a career in politics. Adams never divulged in writing his feelings on this fact.23