From 1825 until 1829, John Quincy Adams, the son of John and Abigail Adams served as the sixth President of the United States. He was a diplomat, a Senator, and a member of the House of Representatives over the years, and he was a member of numerous political parties.
Adams was one of America’s best diplomats in his pre-presidential years, especially formulating the Monroe Doctrine; in his post-presidential years, he waged a relentless and often spectacular campaign against the extension of slavery. His presidency years were challenging, despite his promise. In 1848, he died in Washington, D.C.
Childhood and Early Years
On July 11, 1767, John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, to John and Abigail Adams, two ardent revolutionary patriots who lived in New England for five generations. Abigail gave birth to her son just two days before her illustrious grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, died; thus, the boy was called after him. The child learned about the sacrifices individuals must make to preserve and safeguard society’s wellbeing through his father and mother’s example. His father came to New York to participate in the First Continental Congress when John Quincy Adams was seven years old. Representatives from the American colonies met there to discuss their objections to the Colonial Government of England.
A second Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia in 1775 to continue independence. John wrote to Abigail from Philadelphia about the Congress’s activities and their responsibilities as parents to teach a new generation of Americans.
“Let us teach them not only to do virtuously but to excel.
To excel, they must be taught to be steady, active, and industrious.”
John Quincy Adams’ parents were successful in their goal, as the young Adams quickly wrote that he was working hard on his studies and wished to “become a better lad.” War drove young John to mature at an even faster rate.
Abigail carried her boy to the top of Penn’s Hill, near their property, where they viewed the Charlestown burning and heard the Battle of Bunker Hill cannons explode. John Quincy Adams was a child of the American Revolution, having witnessed the conflicts of the Revolutionary War in the Boston area from 1775 to 1776 and reading his father’s letters from Philadelphia about the struggle to proclaim independence. He absorbed the sense of destiny his parents conveyed about the United States from his earliest memories and dedicated his life to the republic’s consolidation and extension.
In 1781, John Adams traveled to Russia with Francis Dana. The Continental Congress selected Dana as the United States’ first Secretary of State. Minister to Russia, Adams accompanied him as his private secretary and French interpreter. This quest would take John Quincy on two more lengthy and arduous voyages across Europe. He wrote and translated for Dana while continuing his studies in history, science, and languages. In 1783, when he returned to France, the young Adams worked as an additional secretary to the American negotiators negotiating the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War.
President Washington was so impressed by the younger Adams’ support that he named John Quincy Adams the new President of the United States. Holland’s Minister. John Quincy provided regular reports to the State Department on military and diplomatic activities in Europe and warnings against U.S. involvement.
He became a lawyer after graduating from Harvard College. He was appointed Minister to the Netherlands at 26 and later promoted to the Berlin Legation. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1802. President Madison nominated him, Minister, to Russia six years later.
Secretary of the State
Adams was one of America’s great secretaries of state, arranging with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon territory, winning the cession of the Floridas from Spain, and developing the Monroe Doctrine with the President.
As Secretary of State, Adams was seen as the political heir to the presidency in the early nineteenth-century political tradition. However, before the clamor for a popular choice in 1824, the conventional means of choosing a president gave way.
During this period, he negotiated the Adams-Onis Treaty, which gave the United States control of Florida. He also assisted in the negotiations of the Treaty of 1818, which resolved a long-standing border conflict between the British and the Americans over the Oregon Country and strengthened relations between the United Kingdom and her former colonies.
By the age of 50, Adams had accumulated an outstanding record of public service, but the Monroe Doctrine was undoubtedly his most notable and enduring achievement. Following the end of the Napoleonic wars, some Spanish colonies in Latin America rose and declared independence. The Monroe Doctrine, first introduced in 1823, stated that the United States would resist any European country’s efforts to thwart Latin American independence movements; the doctrine, which was first introduced in 1823, served to protect U.S. intervention in Latin America throughout the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries.
By 1824, Adams was a strong contender for the presidency of the United States. However, the political atmosphere had transformed the way presidents were elected; only the Democratic-Republican Party was viable, and five contenders arose, each representing a different part of the country. Southerners John C. Calhoun and William Crawford and Westerners Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson ran against Adams. In addition, during the 1824 election, 18 of the 24 states had switched from electing Electoral College electors through state legislatures to selecting electors to the Electoral College through popular vote.
Jackson, who earned and won the popular vote and was widely expected to become President, was stunned by Adams’ victory. When Adams eventually named Clay secretary of state, Jackson Democrats screamed “corrupt bargain” and were outraged at the ostensibly shady deal.
Even though he knew he would face opposition in Congress, Adams announced a stunning national program in his first Annual Message. He recommended that the federal government connect the sections with a network of highways and canals and develop and conserve the public domain with revenues raised from the sale of federal property. He broke ground on the 185-mile C & 0 Canal in 1828.
Adams also advocated for the United States to take the lead in the growth of the arts and sciences by establishing a national university, funding scientific expeditions, and constructing an observatory. His detractors said that such actions went beyond the bounds of the Constitution.
The 1828 campaign, in which his Jacksonian opponents accused him of dishonesty and public pillage, was a harrowing experience for Adams. After his defeat, he returned to Massachusetts, intending to spend the rest of his life on his farm and writing novels.
After leaving the presidency, Adams did not retire from public life. In 1830, he ran for and won a seat in the United States Congress. In the House of Representatives, he once again demonstrated his status as a statesman of the first rank. In 1836, Adams channeled his long-held anti-slavery emotions into overturning a Southern-imposed gag rule that stifled debate. In the famous Amistad case in 1841, he fought in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of escaped African slaves and gained their liberation.
Adams fell on the floor of the House of Representatives on February 21, 1848, making his final contribution to his country, asking for the United States to be honored. Army officers who served in the Mexican-American War, during which he opposed the war but believed the U.S. government owed its veterans honor. Adams fainted during the event, suffering from a significant brain hemorrhage. On February 23, 1848, he was taken to the Speaker’s Room in the Capitol Building, where he died two days later.