John Quincy Adams
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As a child, John Quincy Adams witnessed firsthand the birth of the nation. From the family farm, he and his mother watched the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. At age 10, he traveled to France with his father, who was securing aid during the Revolution. By age 14, John Quincy was receiving "on-the-job" training in the diplomatic corps and going to school. In 1781, he accompanied diplomat Francis Dana to Russia, serving as his secretary and translator. In 1783, he traveled to Paris to serve as secretary to his father, negotiating the Treaty of Paris. During this time, John Quincy attended schools in Europe and became fluent in French, Dutch, and German. Returning home in 1785, he entered Harvard College and graduated in 1787.
It was well known that he liked to swim in the nude in the Potomac River. After being refused, interviews with him a female journalist called Anne Royall gathered his clothes and sat on them until she had her interview. Before this,, no female had ever interviewed a president. He was the first president to have his photo taken on April 13, 1843. John Quincy Adams was an intelligent statesman whose commitment to certain principles proved to be liabilities as president. For instance, Adams favored a bold economic role for the national government that was far ahead of public opinion. Like the Democratic-Republicans who preceded him in the Era of Good Feelings, Adams supported a federal role in economic development through the American System that was chiefly associated with Henry Clay. Adams' vision of federal leadership was especially creative and included proposals for a publicly-funded National university and government investment in scientific research and exploration.
John Adams', wife Louisa was born outside of the United States. Adams' political enemies used this as fodder to accuse him of being pro-British. Few of Adams' ideas were put into action. He hurt his case by publicly expressing concerns about the potential dangers of democracy. When politicians in Congress refused to act decisively for fear of displeasing the voters, Adams chided them that they seemed to "proclaim to the world that we are palsied by the will of our constituents."
Although he astutely identified a problem faced by leaders in a democracy, to many Americans he seemed to contradict a central tenet of the new nation. Customarily respects, Adams was a figure of an earlier political era. For example, he steadfastly refused to campaign for his re-election because he felt that political office should be a service and not a popularity contest. Although his ideals were surely honorable, when he said that, "if the country wants my services, she must ask for them," he appeared to be an elitist who disdained contact with ordinary people.
In Mutiny, Hale Woodruff captures the terrifying and heroic moment when enslaved Africans aboard, the Amistad launch a rebellion against their captors. John Quincy Adams', public dedication to unpopular principles helped assure his defeat in the presidential election of 1828. They also led him to take on causes that today seem impressive. For example, Adams overturned a treaty signed by the Creek nation in 1825 that ceded its remaining land to the state of Georgia because he believed that it had been fraudulently obtained through coercive methods. Georgia's governor was outraged, but Adams believed that the matter clearly fell under federal jurisdiction. Although Adams' support of the Creeks didn't prevent their removal to the west, he lost political backing from Americans who widely believed that whites deserved access to all Indian lands.
Adams continued this course of following principle rather than popularity when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives after his presidency. Although not a radical opponent of slavery himself, he was an early leader against congressional rules that prevented anti-slavery petitions from being presented to Congress. He also successfully defended enslaved Africans before the U.S. Supreme Court in the celebrated Amistad case.
John Quincy Adams’ Presidency
John Quincy Adams entered the presidency with several debilitating political liabilities, including John Quincy Adams himself. He possessed the temperament of his father: Aloof, stubborn and ferociously independent in his convictions. As president, John Quincy failed to develop the political relationships needed—even among members of his party—to effect significant change. It didn't help that his political opponents were set on making him a one-term president.
In his first year in office, Adams proposed several far-sighted programs that he felt would promote science, as well as encourage a spirit of enterprise and invention in the United States; these goals included building a network of highways and canals to link the different sections of the country, setting aside public lands for conservation, surveying the entire U.S. coast and building astronomical observatories. Adams also saw the need for practical solutions to universal problems, thusly calling for the establishment of a uniform system of weights and measures and improving the patent system.
While these may have been admirable goals for an aspiring nation, they were considered overambitious and unrealistic for America in the 1820s. Adams's proposals were met with scorn and derision by political opponents; critics charged that the president's policies would enlarge the powers and influence of the federal government at the expense of the state and local governments, and some accused Adams of promoting programs to enhance the elite and neglect the common people. In the midterm election of 1826, Jacksonian opponents won majorities in both Houses of Congress. As a result, many of Adams's initiatives either failed to pass legislation or were woefully underfunded.
The election of 1828 was an especially bitter and personal affair. As was the tradition, neither candidate personally campaigned, but supporters conducted ruthless attacks on the opposing candidates. The campaign reached a low point when the press accused Jackson's wife, Rachel, of bigamy. Adams lost the election by a decisive margin, and he left Washington without attending Jackson's inauguration.
John Quincy Adams’ Final Years
John Quincy Adams did not retire from public life after leaving the presidential office. In 1830, he ran for and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, once again distinguishing himself as a statesman of the first order. In 1836, Adams focused his long-standing anti-slavery sentiment on defeating a gag-rule instituted by Southerners to stifle debate. In 1841, he argued in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of escaped African slaves in the famous Amistad case, and won the release of the captives.
On February 21, 1848, in his last contribution to his country, John Quincy Adams was on the floor of the House of Representatives, arguing to honor U.S. Army officers who had served in the Mexican-American War (he opposed the war, but felt that the U.S. government was obligated to honor its veterans). During the event, Adams suddenly collapsed, suffering from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was taken to the Speaker's Room in the Capitol Building, where he died two days later, on February 23, 1848.
John Quincy Adams continued his career in politics as a member of the House of Representatives where he fought for the abolition of slavery, and the end of the 'Gag Rule'. His involvement with the Abolitionist Movement led to his participation in the Amistad Slave Ship Case in which he defended the Africans.
Our nation’s sixth President was born on July 11, 1767, in Quincy, Massachusetts. He died on February 23, 1848, and is buried in Quincy at the First Unitarian Church. He is quoted as saying, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
Adams was well educated. The young Adams studied in Paris, Amsterdam, Leyden, and the Hague, earning his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1787. In fact, Adams House, one of the 12 undergraduate dormitories at Harvard, is named for Adams and his famous father, also a Harvard alumnus.
He became a lawyer without going to law school. Though he did earn a master’s degree from Harvard in 1790, Adams completed his legal education as an apprentice to the great Theophilus Parsons, who would eventually leave private practice in Boston to serve as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In this, he joins the pantheon of historical figures who were lawyers, including Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom also never attended law school.
Adams was the driving force behind the Monroe Doctrine. In 1794, Adams began a career in international diplomacy, serving first as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. He went on to serve as ambassador to Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain before becoming the nation’s eighth Secretary of State under President James Monroe. In that posting, he shaped the Monroe Doctrine, which declared that any European attempt to colonize or interfere with the Americas would be viewed as a direct threat to the safety of the United States and worthy of intervention.
Double rainbow, meet double Senator! Shortly after concluding his service in Prussia, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts Senate on April 1802. He tried running for the U.S. House of Representatives in November that year but lost. Luckily for Adams, the Massachusetts legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate soon after, a post he held for five years before returning to diplomatic service.
Before Bush v. Gore, there was the election of 1824. In the eight years prior, the issues of slavery, states’ rights, regionalism, and the economy began to divide the dominant Democratic-Republicans, leading to a four-way presidential race in which no candidate obtained the necessary majority of electoral votes to win. As instructed by the 12th Amendment, the House held a runoff vote on December 1, 1824, in which Adams emerged victorious. Supporters of the war hero Andrew Jackson railed against a suspected “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Henry Clay, another opponent, the latter of whom interceded with Kentucky’s congressional delegation on Adams’ behalf.
The irrepressible John C. Calhoun served as Adams’ Vice President. Yes, that’s the John C. Calhoun who would go on to defend nullification as Vice President in explicit opposition to his boss, President Andrew Jackson. In 1824, however, Calhoun was above the fray, accepted by all presidential candidates as the obvious vice-presidential pick, no matter the victor. Disgusted by the “corrupt bargain,” Calhoun spent most of his term undermining Adams, filling key Senate posts with anti-Adams politicians and even casting a deciding vote against wool tariffs in 1827.
John Quincy Adams lost a brutal reelection campaign to Andrew Jackson. The presidential election of 1828 featured one of the meanest, dirtiest campaigns in American history. Adams’ privileged background colored him an “elitist,” and Jackson supporters spread a rumor that, as ambassador, Adams offered an American girl to the Russian czar for sexual favors. On the other side, Henry Clay helped lead an attack on Jackson’s wife, Rachel; questions about her previous marriage led a Cincinnati newspaper to ask, “Ought a convicted adultress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?” Adams was trounced.
Just a few years later, he became the only ex-President to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1830, Adams was elected to the House as part of the Massachusetts delegation; he would represent three districts over the course of his congressional career. He was also the first House member to champion abolition and emancipation.
Adams also argued a case before the Supreme Court—and won. On July 1, 1839, the illegally abducted slaves aboard The Amistad seized the ship, killing the captain and cook, and directing the surviving crew to return them to Africa. Instead, they sailed north, where the ship was seized by U.S. officials. Fights over property rights ensued, in which the slaves asserted their freedom. U.S. v. The Amistad was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, where Adams argued on behalf of the slaves. The Court ruled in their favor, with Justice Joseph Story writing the opinion for a 7-1 majority. Adams is certainly not the only President to argue before the Court, though his case may be the most famous.
Sadly, he suffered a stroke on the House floor and died not long after. At age 78, Adams suffered a stroke while on the House floor. He mostly recovered—though he was left partially paralyzed—and returned to service within a few months. Two years after the stroke, on February 21, 1848, Adams collapsed during a debate about the Mexican-American War. He died two days later.
The career of John Quincy Adams included the roles of a Lawyer, Politician, and Statesman. He had an excellent education, studying at European Schools and graduated from Harvard in 1787. He became the sixth President of America in 1825 and served for 4 years until 1829. He spent a miserable and unproductive four years in office trying to work with an uncooperative Congress.
John Quincy Adams married Louisa Catherine Johnson in London and he remains the only president to have a foreign-born First Lady. She was the daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American merchant, and Catherine Nuth-Johnson, an Englishwoman. They had 4 children whose names were Louisa, George, John, and Charles.
John Quincy Adams belonged to the Democratic-Republican Political Party. He was 58 years old when he was inaugurated as the sixth president but his presidency was marred by accusations that that he won his position through corruption. John Quincy Adams owned a pet alligator which he kept in the East Room of the White House and he also had the first pool table installed in the White House.
Things that happened during his political life were during his lifetime he played a key role in important events of the era. John Quincy Adams was instrumental in formulating the Monroe Doctrine and negotiating the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 that ended the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. He led the fight against the 'Gag Rule' to force Congress to receive antislavery petitions and gaining Florida from Spain.
During his life John Quincy Adams suffered from depression, cerebral hemorrhage and a stroke. Because of his recurring depression he often appeared dour or angry. Nevertheless, he had an outgoing, social, even joyful side as well. He died at the age of 80 years old.
He died of paralysis caused by a stroke on February 23, 1848 at the House of Representatives and died in the Speaker's Room inside the Capitol Building. There was a national outpouring of mourning and thousands filed through the Capitol where his body was laid in state. His body was carried by train to Boston, where he was buried in the family crypt below the new First Parish church building in Quincy.
So ends our short biography about the life and presidency of John Quincy Adams. He is remembered for helping to formulate the Monroe Doctrine, negotiating the Treaty of Ghent and leading the fight to force Congress to receive antislavery petitions.
John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848) served as U.S. ambassador to several countries under various presidents, including his father John Adams, before becoming Secretary of State under President James Monroe. He is considered one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history. Adams became the sixth President of the United States in 1825 and served for one term till 1829. Post presidency, he had an illustrious career as a member of the House of Representatives, in which he famously opposed slavery. Know more about the contributions of John Quincy Adams before, during and after presidency through his 10 major accomplishments and achievements.