John Quincy Adams

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John Quincy Adams
Portrait c. 1843–1848
6th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
Vice PresidentJohn C. Calhoun
Preceded byJames Monroe
Succeeded byAndrew Jackson
8th United States Secretary of State
In office
September 22, 1817 – March 3, 1825
PresidentJames Monroe
Preceded byJames Monroe
Succeeded byHenry Clay
14th Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
April 22, 1844 – February 23, 1848
Preceded byDixon Hall Lewis
Succeeded byJames Iver McKay
In office
March 4, 1831 – February 23, 1848
Preceded byJoseph Richardson
Succeeded byHorace Mann
Constituency
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1803 – June 8, 1808
Preceded byJonathan Mason
Succeeded byJames Lloyd
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
In office
April 20, 1802 – March 4, 1803
Diplomatic positions
7th United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
June 8, 1815 – May 14, 1817
Nominated byJames Madison
Preceded byJonathan Russell (1812)
Succeeded byRichard Rush
1st United States Minister to Russia
In office
November 5, 1809 – April 28, 1814
Nominated byJames Madison
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJames A. Bayard
1st United States Minister to Prussia
In office
December 5, 1797 – May 5, 1801
Nominated byJohn Adams
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byHenry Wheaton (1835)
3rd United States Minister to the Netherlands
In office
November 6, 1794 – June 20, 1797
Nominated byGeorge Washington
Preceded byWilliam Short
Succeeded byWilliam Vans Murray
Personal details
Born(1767-07-11)July 11, 1767
Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedFebruary 23, 1848(1848-02-23) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeUnited First Parish Church
Political party
Spouse(s)
Louisa Johnson (m. 1797)
Children4, including George, John II and Charles
Parents
Relatives
Education
Occupation
  • Politician
  • lawyer
SignatureCursive signature in ink

John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, politician, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist. He served as the 6th president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. Before becoming president, he served as the 8th United States secretary of state from 1817 to 1825. He was the eldest son of John Adams, the 2nd president of the United States from 1797 to 1801 and First Lady Abigail Adams.

Adams was a Federalist and later a Democratic-Republican and served in the administrations of all the presidents that were before him. He was Secretary of State under James Monroe, who was president before Adams. He began his service when he was just 27 in 1794 when he was named United States Minister to the Netherlands by President George Washington.

Adams led the fight against slavery in Congress.[2] In 1838, at age 71, he spoke for the African slaves of the slave ship Amistad. He won the case. He also said that the Gag Rule in Congress (which banned all petitions against slavery from being heard in Congress) was illegal and saw through its removal in 1844 after an eight-year struggle against it.

Early life[change | change source]

He was born in 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts. As a child he watched the Battle of Bunker Hill, a fight of the American Revolutionary War, from his family's farm. When his father, John Adams, traveled to Europe, John Quincy went with him as his secretary. He became good at speaking other languages. Aside from English, he was also fluent in Latin and French, and had partial knowledge of Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.[3]

Education[change | change source]

He went to Harvard College and became a lawyer. At age 26, he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands and then he went to Berlin. In 1802, he was elected to the United States Senate. Six years later, President James Madison appointed him as Minister to Russia.

As Secretary of State when James Monroe was president, Adams organized joint control of Oregon with the United Kingdom and helped get Florida from Spain. He also helped make the Monroe Doctrine.

Presidency[change | change source]

Adams was elected president by the United States House of Representatives after the 1824 United States presidential election gave nobody a majority of electoral votes. People who wanted Andrew Jackson to win said there was a deal between Adams and Speaker of the House Henry Clay; Adams had made Clay his Secretary of State. This was called the "corrupt bargain".

Adams passed law for U.S. improvements as part of what he called the "American System." This means he created roads, canals, and used high tariffs, or taxes on foreign goods. Among his proposals were the creation of a national university,[4] a naval academy,[5] and a national astronomical observatory.[6] Adams fought Congress many times as many supporters of Andrew Jackson did not like his support of a national bank and tariffs. Criticism of Adams peaked when Adams passed the Tariff of 1828, also known as the "Tariff of Abominations" by opponents.

Adams lost the 1828 election to Jackson. The election was noted for the personal attacks made by the candidates against each other.

1850 Copy of 1843 photograph of John Quincy Adams

Abolitionist[change | change source]

In the 1830s, slavery emerged as an increasingly polarizing issue in the United States. A longtime opponent of slavery, Adams used his new role in Congress to fight it, and he became the most prominent national leader opposing slavery. After one of his reelection victories, he said that he must "bring about a day prophesied when slavery and war shall be banished from the face of the earth." He wrote in his private journal in 1820:

The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim it, and cast it all upon the shoulder of…Great Britain. But when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom. They look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee's manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?

In 1836, partially in response to Adams's consistent presentation of citizen petitions requesting the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the House of Representatives imposed a "gag rule" that immediately tabled any petitions about slavery. The rule was favored by Democrats and Southern Whigs but was largely opposed by Northern Whigs like Adams.

In late 1836, Adams began a campaign to ridicule slave owners and the gag rule. He frequently attempted to present anti-slavery petitions, often in ways that provoked strong reactions from Southern representatives. Though the gag rule remained in place, the discussion ignited by his actions and the attempts of others to quiet him raised questions of the right to petition, the right to legislative debate, and the morality of slavery. Adams fought actively against the gag rule for another seven years, eventually moving the resolution that led to its repeal in 1844.

In 1841, at the request of Lewis Tappan and Ellis Gray Loring, Adams joined the case of United States v. The Amistad. Adams went before the Supreme Court on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. Adams appeared on February 24, 1841, and spoke for four hours. His argument succeeded; the Court ruled in favor of the Africans, who were declared free and returned to their homes.

Later life[change | change source]

Adams returned to Massachusetts for a short time after he was lost. He returned to Washington D.C. in 1831 after being elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was a leading opponent of slavery. He remained in Congress until the day of his death on February 23, 1848.

Death[change | change source]

John Quincy Adams during his final hours of life after his collapse in the Capitol. Drawing in pencil by Arthur Joseph Stansbury, digitally restored.

On February 21, 1848, Adams suffered a stroke in the House chamber. He collapsed and died in the House two days later on February 23, 1848. He was eighty years old. It was the 7th death of a US president. Due to the importance of Adams, especially in his later years, it was arguably one of the most significant presidential deaths up to that point.

Legacy[change | change source]

Adams is known today as someone who was a good diplomat, Secretary of State and Congressman. It is argued that he was one of the best, if not the best Secretaries of State in history. However, his presidency was at best average. However, this was likely due to Andrew Jackson's opponents in Congress limiting what he could do, leading to Adams not being able to get some things done.

References[change | change source]

  1. Cite error: The named reference bioguide1 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  2. Waldstreicher, David (2017-07-11). "Happy Birthday, John Quincy Adams". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
  3. "List of Multilingual Presidents". WorldAtlas. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
  4. The National University School of Law was not established until 1869
  5. Not established until 1845 during the Polk Administration
  6. A Bill for Observatory was signed by President Adams in 1825; the United States Naval Observatory was formerly established in 1830