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John Quincy Adams

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John Quincy Adams
6th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
Vice President John Calhoun
Preceded by James Monroe
Succeeded by Andrew Jackson
8th United States Secretary of State
In office
September 22, 1817 – March 4, 1825
President James Monroe
Preceded by James Monroe
Succeeded by Henry Clay
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
April 28, 1814 – September 22, 1817
Appointed by James Madison
Preceded by Jonathan Russell (Acting)
Succeeded by Richard Rush
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
November 5, 1809 – April 28, 1814
Appointed by James Madison
Preceded by William Short
Succeeded by James Bayard
United States Ambassador to Prussia
In office
December 5, 1797 – May 5, 1801
Appointed by John Adams
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Henry Wheaton
United States Ambassador to the Netherlands
In office
November 6, 1794 – June 20, 1797
Appointed by George Washington
Preceded by William Short
Succeeded by William Vans Murray
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1843 – February 23, 1848
Preceded by William Calhoun
Succeeded by Horace Mann
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from 's 12th district
In office
March 4, 1833 – March 4, 1843
Preceded by James Hodges
Succeeded by George Robinson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1831 – March 4, 1833
Preceded by Joseph Richardson
Succeeded by John Reed
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1803 – June 8, 1808
Preceded by Jonathan Mason
Succeeded by James Lloyd
Personal details
Born (1767-07-11)July 11, 1767
Braintree Massachusetts Bay (now Quincy)
Died February 23, 1848(1848-02-23) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., United States
Political party Whig Party (1838–1848)
Other political
Federalist Party (Before 1808)
Democratic-Republican Party (1808–1830)
National Republican Party (1830–1834)
Anti-Masonic Party (1834–1838)
Spouse(s) Louisa Johnson
Children Louisa
Alma mater Leiden University
Harvard University
Profession Lawyer
Religion Unitarianism
Signature Cursive signature in ink.

John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767– February 23, 1848) was the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He was also an American diplomat and served in both the Senate and House of Representatives. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of President John Adams and Abigail Adams. The name "Quincy" came from Abigail's maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts, is named. As a diplomat, Adams was involved in many international negotiations, and helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine as Secretary of State. Historians agree he was one of the great diplomats in American history.

As president, he proposed a program of modernization and educational advancement, but was stymied by Congress, controlled by his enemies. Adams lost his 1828 bid for re-election to Andrew Jackson. In doing so, he became the first President since his father to serve a single term. As president, he presented a vision of national greatness resting on economic growth and a strong federal government, but his presidency was not a success as he lacked political adroitness, popularity or a network of supporters, and ran afoul of politicians eager to undercut him.

Adams is best known as a diplomat who shaped America's foreign policy in line with his deeply conservative and ardently nationalist commitment to America's republican values. More recently he has been portrayed as the exemplar and moral leader in an era of modernization when new technologies and networks of infrastructure and communication brought to the people messages of religious revival, social reform, and party politics, as well as moving goods, money and people ever more rapidly and efficiently.

Adams was elected a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts after leaving office, the only president ever to do so, serving for the last 17 years of his life with far greater success than he had achieved in the presidency. Animated by his growing revulsion against slavery, Adams became a leading opponent of the Slave Power and argued that if a civil war ever broke out the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers, a correct prediction of Abraham Lincoln's use of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Adams predicted the dissolution of the Union on the slavery issue, though he mistakenly predicted that if the South became independent there would be a series of bloody slave insurrections.

Early life

John Quincy Adams was born to John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. Quincy in 1767 was the "north precinct" of Braintree, Massachusetts; Quincy became incorporated as an independent town in 1792 and was named for John Quincy, just as John Quincy Adams had been. The John Quincy Adams Birthplace is now part of Adams National Historical Park and open to the public. It is near Abigail Adams Cairn, marking the site from which Adams witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill at age seven.

In 1779 Adams began a diary that he kept until just before he died in 1848.

Adams first learned of the Declaration of Independence from the letters his father wrote his mother from the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Much of Adams' youth was spent accompanying his father overseas. John Adams served as an American envoy to France from 1778 until 1779 and to the Netherlands from 1780 until 1782, and the younger Adams accompanied his father on these journeys.

Adams acquired an education at institutions such as Leiden University. For nearly three years, at the age of 14, he accompanied Francis Dana as a secretary on a mission to St. Petersburg, Russia, to obtain recognition of the new United States. He spent time in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark and, in 1804, published a travel report of Silesia.

During these years overseas, Adams gained a mastery of French and Dutch and a familiarity with German and other European languages. He entered Harvard College and graduated in 1788, Phi Beta Kappa. ( Adams House at Harvard College is named in honour of Adams and his father.)

He apprenticed as a lawyer with Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, Massachusetts, from 1787 to 1789. He was admitted to the bar in 1791 and began practicing law in Boston.

Early career

Gilbert Stuart, Portrait of Louisa Catherine Adams

George Washington appointed Adams minister to the Netherlands (at the age of 26) in 1794 and Portugal in 1796. He then was promoted to the Berlin Legation.

Adams lived at the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, Boston, 1806-1809

When the elder Adams became president, he appointed his son in 1797 as Minister to Prussia at Washington's urging. There Adams signed the renewal of the very liberal Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce after negotiations with Prussian Foreign Minister Count Karl-Wilhelm Finck von Finckenstein. He served at that post until 1801.

While serving abroad, Adams married Louisa Catherine Johnson, the daughter of an American merchant, in a ceremony at the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London. Adams remains the only president to have a foreign-born First Lady.

On his return to the United States Adams was appointed a commissioner of bankruptcy in Boston by a Federal District Judge. However, Thomas Jefferson rescinded this appointment. He again tried his hand as a lawyer, but shortly entered politics. John Quincy Adams was elected a member of the Massachusetts State Senate in April 1802. In November 1802 he lost in a congressional election where he was the Federalist candidate for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

The Massachusetts General Court elected Adams as a Federalist to the U.S. Senate soon after, and he served from March 4, 1803, until 1808, when he broke with the Federalist Party. Adams, as a Senator, had supported the Louisiana Purchase and Jefferson's Embargo Act, actions which made him very unpopular with Massachusetts Federalists. The Federalist-controlled Massachusetts Legislature chose a replacement for Adams on June 3, 1808, several months early. On June 8, Adams broke with the Federalists, resigned his Senate seat, and became a Democrat-Republican. While a member of the Senate, Adams also served as a professor of rhetoric at Harvard University.

New President James Madison appointed Adams as the first ever United States Minister to Russia in 1809 (though Francis Dana and William Short had previously been nominated to the post, neither was able to present his credentials at St. Petersburg). Louisa Adams was with him in St. Petersburg almost the entire time. While not officially a diplomat, Louisa Adams did serve an invaluable role as wife-of-diplomat, becoming a favorite of the tsar and making up for her husband's utter lack of charm. She was an indispensable part of the American mission. In 1812 Adams reported back to Washington the news of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and his disastrous retreat. In 1814, Adams was recalled from Russia to serve as chief negotiator of the U.S. commission for the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. Finally, he was sent to be minister to the Court of St. James's (Britain) from 1815 until 1817, a post that had first been held by his father.

Secretary of State

John Quincy Adams by Gilbert Stuart, 1818

Adams served as Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President James Monroe from 1817 until 1825, a tenure during which he was instrumental in the acquisition of Florida. Typically, his views concurred with those espoused by Monroe. As Secretary of State, he negotiated the Adams-Onís Treaty and wrote the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European nations against meddling in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. Adams' negotiated an agreement with Britain for a joint patrol against the slave trade, but it was watered down by the Senate and ultimately rejected. On Independence Day 1821, in response to those who advocated American support for Spanish America's independence movement from Spain, Adams gave a speech in which he said that American policy was moral support for but not armed intervention on behalf of independence movements, stating that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." After the Napoleonic wars, Spain lost control of most of the American colonies. They revolted and declared independence. Rebels used American ports to equip privateers to attack Spanish ships, a practice defended by Henry Clay, who severely criticized both Monroe and Adams for their more cautious wait-and-see policy. The Floridas, still Spanish territory but with no Spanish presence to speak of, became a refuge for runaway slaves and Indian raiders. Spain was not in charge. Monroe sent in General Andrew Jackson who pushed the Seminole Indians south, executed two British merchants who were supplying weapons, deposed one governor and named another, and left an American garrison in occupation. Jackson thought he had Washington's approval, but the orders were vague. President Monroe and all his cabinet, except Adams, believed Jackson had exceeded his instructions. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun proposed to punish Jackson. Adams argued that since Spain had proved incapable of policing her territories, the United States was obliged to act in self-defense. Adams so ably justified Jackson's conduct as to silence protests either from Spain or Britain. Congress debated the question, with Clay as the leading opponent of Jackson, but it would not disapprove of what Jackson had done.

Adams negotiated the "Transcontinental Treaty" also known as the "Florida treaty" with Spain in 1819 that turned Florida over to the U.S. and resolved border issues regarding the Louisiana Purchase. The treaty recognized Spanish control of Texas (a claim taken up by Mexico when it declared independence of Spain). The post of Secretary of State was the normal path to the White House. After 1820 Adams, intent on winning the presidency, was less successful at the State Department. He failed to make key commercial treaties because he feared the necessary American concessions would be used to attack his candidacy. Instead the nation suffered from trade wars that could have been prevented.

1824–25 presidential election

As the election of 1824 drew near people began looking for candidates. New England voters admired Adams' patriotism and political skills and it was mainly due to their support that he entered the race. The old caucus system of the Democratic-Republican Party had collapsed; indeed the entire First Party System had collapsed and the election was a free-for-all based on regional support. Adams had a strong base in New England. His opponents included John C. Calhoun, William H. Crawford, Henry Clay and the hero of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson. During the campaign Calhoun dropped out, and Crawford fell ill giving further support to the other candidates. When the election day came, Andrew Jackson won, although narrowly, pluralities of the popular and electoral votes, but not the necessary majority of electoral votes.

Under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment, the presidential election was thrown to the House of Representatives to vote on the top three candidates: Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. Clay had come in fourth place and thus was ineligible, but he retained considerable power and influence as Speaker of the House. Crawford was unviable due to the stroke.

Clay's personal dislike for Jackson and the similarity of his American System to Adams' position on tariffs and internal improvements caused him to throw his support to Adams, who was elected by the House on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot. Adams' victory shocked Jackson, who had gained the plurality of the electoral and popular votes and fully expected to be elected president. When Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State—the position that Adams and his three predecessors had held before becoming President— Jacksonian Democrats were outraged, and claimed that Adams and Clay had struck a " corrupt bargain". This contention overshadowed Adams' term and greatly contributed to Adams' loss to Jackson four years later, in the 1828 election.

Presidency 1825–1829

~ John Quincy Adams ~
Issue of 1938

Adams served as the sixth President of the United States from March 4, 1825, to March 4, 1829. He took the oath of office on a book of laws, instead of the more traditional Bible, to preserve the separation of church and state.


Adams' singular intelligence, vast experience, unquestionable integrity, and devotion to his country should have made him a great chief executive. But, like his father, he lacked political sense and an ability to command public support, and his contentious spirit spelled defeat for him personally and for many of his policies. He proposed a comprehensive program of internal improvements (roads, ports and canals), the creation of a national university, and federal support for the arts and sciences. He favored a high tariff to encourage the building of factories, and restricted land sales to slow the movement west. Opposition from the states' rights faction quickly killed the proposals, Even more serious was the attack by the followers of Jackson, who accused him of being a partner to a "corrupt bargain" to obtain Clay's support in the election and then appoint him secretary of state. Refusing to play politics, Adams did little or nothing to build up a personal following committed to his re-election. He refused to discharge federal officeholders when they actively joined the opposition, and even considered appointing Jackson to his cabinet. Losing control of Congress in the elections of 1826, he still persisted in his independent policies and thus insured his own overwhelming defeat by Jackson two years later. He was particularly embittered by the unfounded accusations of fraud and extravagance made against him during the campaign by his opponents (not to mention the false accusation that he had pimped for the Czar of Russia). The Adams administration recorded no major legislative, diplomatic, military or administrative achievements. Congress did pass the high Tariff of 1828—the "tariff of abominations" that created a violent outcry especially in South Carolina. Jackson defeated Adams in a landslide in 1828, and created the modern Democratic party thus inaugurating the Second Party System.


In 1826, Adams was president of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences who counted among their members many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions.

Domestic policies

During his term, Adams worked on developing the American System, consisting of a high tariff to support internal improvements such as road-building, and a national bank to encourage productive enterprise and form a national currency. In his first annual message to Congress, Adams presented an ambitious program for modernization that included roads, canals, a national university, an astronomical observatory, and other initiatives. The support for his proposals was limited, even from his own party. His critics accused him of unseemly arrogance because of his narrow victory. Most of his initiatives were opposed in Congress by Jackson's supporters, who remained outraged over the 1824 election.

Nonetheless, some of his proposals were adopted, specifically the extension of the Cumberland Road into Ohio with surveys for its continuation west to St. Louis; the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the construction of the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and the Portland to Louisville Canal around the falls of the Ohio; the connection of the Great Lakes to the Ohio River system in Ohio and Indiana; and the enlargement and rebuilding of the Dismal Swamp Canal in North Carolina.

One of the issues which divided the administration was protective tariffs. Henry Clay was a leading advocate, but Vice President John C. Calhoun was an opponent. After Adams lost control of Congress in 1827, the situation became more complicated. By signing into law the Tariff of 1828 (also known as the Tariff of Abominations), extremely unpopular in the South, he limited his chances to achieve more during his presidency.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at Swain's Lock

Adams and Clay set up a new party, the National Republican Party, but it never took root in the states. In the elections of 1826, Adams and his supporters lost control of Congress. New York Senator Martin Van Buren, a future president and follower of Jackson, became one of the leaders of the Senate.

Much of Adams' political difficulties were due to his refusal, on principle, to replace members of his administration who supported Jackson (contending that no one should be removed from office except for incompetence). For example, his Postmaster General, John McLean, continued in office through the Adams administration, although he was using his powers of patronage to curry favour with Jacksonites.

Another blow to Adams' presidency was his generous policy toward Native Americans. Settlers on the frontier, who were constantly seeking to move westward, cried for a more expansionist policy. When the federal government tried to assert authority on behalf of the Cherokees, the governor of Georgia took up arms. In contrast, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren instigated the policy of Indian removal to the west (i.e. the Trail of Tears). Adams defended his domestic agenda as continuing Monroe's policies.

A copy of a lost daguerreotype of Adams taken by Philip Haas in 1843

Foreign policies

Adams is regarded as one of the greatest diplomats in American history, and during his tenure as Secretary of State he was the chief designer of the Monroe Doctrine.

Adams had witnessed the Barbary Wars against the Islamic pirates of North Africa, and the Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Turks. Adams accepted that the Greek fight for independence from the Turks was only the beginning of a long conflict between Islam and the West. Although he sympathised with the Greeks, and held a deep mistrust of the defeated Muslims, he was reluctant to support America's involvement in continuing wars far from home.

On July 4, 1821, he gave an address to Congress:

... But she [the United States of America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

During his term as president, however, Adams achieved little of consequence in foreign affairs. A reason for this was the opposition he faced in Congress, where his rivals prevented him from succeeding.

Among the few diplomatic achievements of his administration were treaties of reciprocity with a number of nations, including Denmark, Mexico, the Hanseatic League, the Scandinavian countries, Prussia and Austria. However, thanks to the successes of Adams' diplomacy during his previous eight years as Secretary of State, most of the foreign policy issues he would have faced had been resolved by the time he became President.

Administration and Cabinet

The Adams Cabinet
Office Name Term
President John Quincy Adams 1825–1829
Vice President John C. Calhoun 1825–1829
Secretary of State Henry Clay 1825–1829
Secretary of Treasury Richard Rush 1825–1829
Secretary of War James Barbour 1825–1828
Peter B. Porter 1828–1829
Attorney General William Wirt 1825–1829
Secretary of the Navy Samuel L. Southard 1825–1829
Presidential Dollar of John Quincy Adams

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court

  • Robert Trimble – June 16, 1826 – August 25, 1828

Other courts

Adams was able to make eleven other appointments, all to United States district courts.

States admitted to the Union


Departure from office

John Quincy Adams left office on March 4, 1829, after losing the election of 1828 to Andrew Jackson. Adams did not attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, who had openly snubbed him by refusing to pay the traditional "courtesy call" to the outgoing President during the weeks before his own inauguration. He was one of only three Presidents who chose not to attend their respective successor's inauguration; the others were his father and Andrew Johnson.

Election of 1828

After the inauguration of Adams in 1825, Jackson resigned from his senate seat. For four years he worked hard, with help from his supporters in Congress, to defeat Adams in the Presidential election of 1828. The campaign was very much a personal one. As was the tradition of the day and age in American presidential politics, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized many campaign events. Both candidates were rhetorically attacked in the press. This reached a low point when the press accused Jackson's wife Rachel of bigamy. She died a few weeks after the elections. Jackson said he would forgive those who insulted him, but he would never forgive the ones who attacked his wife.

Adams lost the election by a decisive margin, 178–83 in the Electoral College. He won exactly the same states that his father had won in the election of 1800: the New England states, New Jersey, and Delaware. Jackson won everything else except for New York, which gave 16 of its electoral votes to Adams, and Maryland, which cast 6 of its votes for Adams. Adams and his father were also the only U.S. Presidents to serve a single term during the first 48 years of the Presidency (1789–1837).

Glass collodion negative copy c. 1860 of a daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams in 1847 or 1848, attributed to Mathew Brady (retouched)

Member of Congress

John Quincy Adams portrait.

Adams did not retire after leaving office. Instead he ran for and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 1830 elections as a National Republican. He was the first president to serve in Congress after his term of office, and one of only two former presidents to do so; Andrew Johnson later served in the Senate. He was elected to eight terms, serving as a Representative for 17 years, from 1831 until his death. Through redistricting Adams represented three districts in succession: Massachusetts's 11th congressional district (1831–1833), 12th congressional district (1833–1837), and 8th congressional district (1837–1843), serving from the 22nd to the 30th Congresses. He became a Whig in 1834.

In Congress, he was chair of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures ( 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 28th and 29th), the Committee on Indian Affairs (for the 27th Congress) and the Committee on Foreign Affairs (also for the 27th Congress). He became an important antislavery voice in the Congress. During the years 1836–37 Adams presented many petitions for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia and elsewhere to Congress. The Gag rule prevented discussion of slavery from 1836 to 1844, but he frequently managed to evade it by parliamentary skill.

United First Parish Church

In 1834 he unsuccessfully ran as the Anti-Masonic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, losing to John Davis. Adams then continued his legal career.

Adams sat for the earliest confirmed photograph still in existence of a U.S. president in 1843. The original daguerreotype is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

Although there is no indication that the two were close, Adams met Abraham Lincoln during the latter's sole term as a member of the House of Representatives, from 1847 until Adams' death. Thus, it has been suggested that Adams is the only major figure in American history who knew both the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln.

Enemy of slavery

Before 1820, Adams was best known as an exponent of American nationalism. Late in life, especially after his election to the House, he was noted especially as most prominent national leader opposing slavery. The turning point came with the debate on the Missouri Compromise in 1820 he broke with his friend John C. Calhoun, who became the most outspoken national leader in favour of slavery. They became bitter enemies. Adams vilified slavery as a terrible evil and preached total abolition, while Calhoun countered that the right to own slaves had to be protected from interference from the federal government to keep the nation alive. Adams said slavery contradicted the principles of republicanism, while Calhoun said that slavery was essential to American democracy, for it made all white men equal. Both men pulled away from nationalism, and started to consider dissolution of the Union as a way of resolving the slavery imbroglio. Adams predicted that if the South formed a new nation, it would be torn apart by an extremely violent slave insurrection. If the two nations went to war, Adams predicted the president of the United States would use his war powers to abolish slavery. The two men became ideological leaders of the North and the South. In the House Adams became a champion of free speech, demanding that petitions against slavery be heard despite a "gag rule" that said they could not be heard.

In 1841, Adams had the case of a lifetime, representing the defendants in United States v. The Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court of the United States. He successfully argued that the Africans, who had seized control of a Spanish ship on which they were being transported illegally as slaves, should not be extradited or deported to Cuba (a Spanish colony where slavery was legal) but should be considered free. Under President Martin Van Buren, the government argued the Africans should be deported for having mutinied and killed officers on the ship. Adams won their freedom, with the chance to stay in the United States or return to Africa. Adams made the argument because the U.S. had prohibited the international slave trade, although it allowed internal slavery. He never billed for his services in the Amistad case. The speech was directed not only at the justices of this Supreme Court hearing the case, but also to the broad national audience he instructed in the evils of slavery.

Adams repeatedly spoke out against the " Slave Power", that is the organized political power of the slave owners who dominated all the southern states and their representation in Congress.. He vehemently attacked the annexation of Texas (1845) and the Mexican War (1846-48) as part of a "conspiracy" to extend slavery.

Death and burial

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, the House of Representatives was discussing the matter of honoring US Army officers who served in the Mexican-American War. Adams firmly opposed this idea, so when the rest of the house erupted into 'ayes', he cried out, 'No!' Immediately thereafter, Adams collapsed, having suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Two days later, on February 23, he died with his wife and son at his side in the Speaker's Room inside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. His last words were reported to have been, "This is the last of Earth. I am content."

His original interment was temporary, in the public vault at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.. Later, he was interred in the family burial ground in Quincy across from the First Parish Church, called Hancock Cemetery. After his wife's death, his son, Charles Francis Adams, had him reinterred with his wife in a family crypt in the United First Parish Church across the street. His parents are also buried there, and both tombs are viewable. Adams' original tomb at Hancock Cemetery is still there, marked simply "J.Q. Adams".


Tombs of Presidents John Adams (left) and John Quincy Adams (right) and their wives, in a family crypt beneath the United First Parish Church
John Quincy Adams' original tomb at Hancock Cemetery, across the street from United First Parish Church

John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine (Johnson) Adams had three sons and a daughter. Louisa was born in 1811 but died in 1812 while the family was in Russia. They named their first son George Washington Adams (1801–1829) after the first president. Both George and their second son, John (1803–1834), led troubled lives and died in early adulthood. (George committed suicide and John was expelled from Harvard before his 1823 graduation.)

Adams' youngest son, Charles Francis Adams (who named his own son John Quincy), also pursued a career in diplomacy and politics. In 1870 Charles Francis built the first memorial presidential library in the United States, to honour his father. The Stone Library includes over 14,000 books written in twelve languages. The library is located in the " Old House" at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts.

John Adams and John Quincy Adams were the first father and son to each serve as president (the others being George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush). In addition, each Adams served only one term as President.

Harvard professor of rhetoric

Disowned by the Federalists and not fully accepted by the Republicans, Adams used his Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard as a new base. Adams' devotion to classical rhetoric shaped his response to public issues. He remained inspired by classical rhetorical ideals long after the neo-classicalism and deferential politics of the founding generation had been eclipsed by the commercial ethos and mass democracy of the Jacksonian Era. Many of Adams's idiosyncratic positions were rooted in his abiding devotion to the Ciceronian ideal of the citizen-orator "speaking well" to promote the welfare of the polis. Adams was influenced by the classical republican ideal of civic eloquence espoused by British philosopher David Hume. Adams adapted these classical republican ideals of public oratory to America, viewing the multilevel political structure as ripe for "the renaissance of Demosthenic eloquence." Adams's Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory (1810) looks at the fate of ancient oratory, the necessity of liberty for it to flourish, and its importance as a unifying element for a new nation of diverse cultures and beliefs. Just as civic eloquence failed to gain popularity in Britain, in the United States interest faded in the second decade of the 18th century as the "public spheres of heated oratory" disappeared in favour of the private sphere.


John Quincy Adams is rated in the second quartile in the majority of historical presidential rankings.

He was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the 1997 film Amistad.


Through his father, Adams was descended from a long line of Puritan colonists and farmers. Through his mother, he was a descendant of the prominent Quincy family, and through them, of the English House of Beaufort and of Edward III of England.

Pronunciation note

  1. ^ The name Quincy has subsequently been used for at least nineteen other places in the United States. Those places were either directly or indirectly named for John Quincy Adams (for example, Quincy, Illinois was named in honour of Adams while Quincy, California was named for Quincy, Illinois). The Quincy family name was pronounced  /ˈkwɪnzi/, as is the name of the city in Massachusetts where Adams was born (spoken pronunciation of Adams' name). However, all of the other place names are locally pronounced  /ˈkwɪnsi/. Though technically incorrect, this pronunciation is also commonly used for Adams' middle name. Sources: "Frequently Asked Questions". City of Quincy. Retrieved 2009-07-09.; Wead, Doug (2005). The raising of a president: the mothers and fathers of our nation's leaders. New York: Atria Books. p. 59. ISBN  0743497260. OCLC  57358429. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
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