The Life of John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States

The first president to also be the son of a president, John Quincy Adams paralleled the temperament, career and opinions of his illustrious father.

John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1767. As a child he was able to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill from a rise above the family farm during the American Revolution. As a child, he also accompanied his father, John Adams, the second President of the United States to Europe. As a result, John Quincy became a highly accomplished linguist and a lifelong diarist.

John Quincy Adams in Politics

Following his graduation from Harvard, John Quincy became a lawyer. At the age of 26, he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands by the US Government. In addition to this, he also took part in the Berlin Legation. In 1802, John Quincy Adams was elected to the United State Senate. He served there until 1808 when he became Minister to Russia during the Madison administration.

As Secretary of State under President Monroe, Adams negotiated joint occupation of the Oregon Territory with Britain. He also arranged the secession of Florida from Spain, in addition to formulating the Monroe Doctrine with President Monroe.

Early in the 19th Century, it was traditional in American presidential politics for the Secretary of State to become the next President. However, by 1824 the old way of electing the next President was giving way in the face of the public’s demand for a popular choice.

Within the Republican Party, factional divisions were appearing. Each faction had its own preferred candidate. Adams came second behind Andrew Jackson during the election. Because no one had enough electoral votes to claim victory, it was decided that the election would be settled by the House of Representatives and Adams was able to win.

President John Quincy Adams

Upon becoming President, John Quincy Adams appointed Henry Clay Secretary of State. Andrew Jackson was outraged, contending that a “corrupt bargain” had been struck. He swore that he would become the next President of the United States.

Meanwhile, Adams faced hostility in Congress. Despite this he proclaimed an ambitious national program that included a network of highways and canals. These were intended to improve trade and communication between the states and in the development of public land. In 1828 construction began on the 185 mile long Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

Adams also urged the United States to take the lead in the development of the arts and sciences. To that end he proposed the establishment of a national university, the funding of scientific expeditions and the construction of an astronomical observatory.

The campaign of 1828 was a fierce one and Adams found himself under attack by Jackson, who claimed that Adams was a corrupt politician and a plunderer of public funds. Following his defeat by Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams retired to his farm and his books.

John Quincy Adams in Congress

In 1830, Adams was unexpectedly elected to the House of Representatives as the Congressman from Plymouth. Adams would remain there for the rest of his life, where he was a respected and powerful leader.

In 1836, southern Congressmen passed a gag rule that prohibited the introduction of any petitions regarding the abolition of slavery. Adams fought against this gag rule for eight years and was able to have it repealed in 1844.

In 1848, Adams suffered a stroke and collapsed on the floor of the House of Representatives. He was taken to the Speaker’s Room where he died two days later. He was buried next to his mother and father at First Baptist Church in Quincy, Massachusetts.