Adams, John Quincy Essay, Research Paper
The author believes that John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States of
America, is not only a major political figure in the forming of the United States as we now know
it, but also a just and moral Christian man.
John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, in Braintree (now Quincy),
Massachusetts. He was the second of four children–a girl and three boys. From infancy John
saw history being made. Often he was taken to Boston Common to see the hated British soldiers
parade. He heard his father, John Adams (second President of the United states), and his mother,
Abigail Smith Adams, tell about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party just after they
happened. During the Revolutionary war he saw the fires of Charleston and heard the noise of
Bunker hill (Encyclopedia Brittanica 86).
In 1778, John Quincy went with his diplomat father to France and later to Holland.
When he was 14 he accompanied Francis Dana, commissioner to Russia, to the St. Petersburg
court. He served as secretary and French interpreter. After a fourteen moth stay he traveled
alone throughout Europe. By 1785 John Adams was appointed to minister to Great Britain.
John Quincy went home alone to attend Harvard College. His College days were busy and
happy. He debated often, saw much of his friends, and practiced on his flute. He was a graduate
by twenty. Clearly, the lifework for Adams was law. He entered the office of Theophilus
Parsons (later chief justice of Massachusetts), studied for three years, and was admitted to the
bar. Client were few at first, so he occupied his time by writing political articles, signing them
with such names as Publicola, Marcellus, Columbus, and Barneveld. President George
Washington read the articles and appointed Adams Minister to Holland in 1794. He was then
only twenty-seven years old (www.whitehouse.gov).
With his brother Thomas, Adams sailed for Europe. From Holland he reported on
conditions during the French occupation. Back in London, he met Louisa Catherine Johnson,
daughter of the American consul. She was a high-spirited girl, brilliant and sensitive. They were
married July 26, 1797. Adams took his bride to Berlin, where he served as minister to the
Prussian court. He worked out a treaty, read much, and traveled with his wife through Germany.
Their first child, George Washington Adams, was born in Berlin in 1801. The same year they
returned to Boston and Adams? law practice (Gidding 1).
He was soon back in politics, first in the Massachusetts State Senate, then in 1803 in the
United States Senate. At once he was drawn into the fight over the government of the newly
acquired Louisiana Territory. Adams fought unsuccessfully to give the new land a democratic
form of government. The Federalist party was against him. Its members hated him for
supporting the Democratic-Republican action against the British attack on the American frigate
Chesapeake. Adams also supported Jefferson’s embargo policy. Yet he remained independent,
neither Federalist nor wholly Democratic-Republican. In 1808 he resigned from the Senate and
went home to practice law (Encyclopedia Brittanica 86).
In Washington and Boston society Adams was stiff and ill at ease. He had no skill at
small talk. With his family and close friends, however, he was easy and sociable. He liked to
read aloud before small groups. Children loved him and he them. During these years his sons
John and Charles Francis were born (Gidding 2).
In 1809 President Madison appointed him minister to Russia. Adams saw Napoleon
invade Russia and followed the news of his disastrous retreat from Moscow. At the close of the
War of 1812 he was named to the commission which was to work out a peace with Britain. The
commission met with the British at Ghent, Belgium, and in four months hammered out the
Treaty of Ghent (www.whitehouse.gov).
From 1815 to 1817 Adams served as minister to Great Britain. The Adams?s lived quietly
in a country house in Ealing, in London, and sent their sons to English schools. Adams worked
hard to strengthen the peace between Britain and the United States (www.whitehouse.gov).
President Monroe appointed Adams secretary of state in 1817, an office that had often
served as a stepping stone to the presidency. His first important task was to defend Andrew
Jackson in his supposedly unlawful raid of Spanish-held Florida. He won the administration to
his view and quieted Spain and Britain. Next he induced Spain to cede Florida to the United
States. He fought for the Missouri Compromise and helped write the Monroe Doctrine
(Encyclopedia Brittanica 86).
In 1824 Adams was one of four candidates for the presidency. The others were Andrew
Jackson, W.H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. Jackson received the most electoral votes, but not a
plurality. Adams was second. The election was turned over to the House of Representatives, and
Adams won. He was accused of bargaining with Clay, and Jackson used the accusation with
telling effect in the 1828 campaign. Quarrels between Jackson’s supporters (who later formed
the Democratic party) and those of Adams (who later became Whigs) were intense. The
Democrats blocked every bill started by Adams. The South was beginning to unite against him.
He hated slavery, wanted a high tariff, and worked for internal improvements–all against
Southern interests. As a result, few positive measures were enacted in Adams’ administration. In
1828 Jackson’s followers set up a tariff bill, called the Tariff of Abominations, intending to
defeat it. This would be a way to discredit Adams and help defeat him in the 1828 election. To
their astonishment the bill passed and was signed by Adams (Encyclopedia Brittanica 87).
While he was in office Adams lived quietly. He rose about 5:00 AM and in summer went
for a swim in the Potomac. Then he read his Bible and wrote in his diary. After breakfast he met
with his Cabinet. He ate dinner in company, received visitors, and read a good deal. In the late
afternoon he walked or rode his horse and played billiards with his sons. In the election of 1828
he lost to Andrew Jackson, who had 178 electoral votes to Adams’ 83 (Gidding 5).
Adams retired–permanently, he thought. His retirement was brief. In 1831 he was elected
to the House of Representatives and held his seat until his death in 1848. Asked if he felt
lowered by becoming a representative after having been president, he replied, “No person could
be degraded by serving the people as a representative. . . . Nor, in my opinion, would an
ex-president . . . be degraded by serving as a selectman . . . if elected thereto by the people
(Encyclopedia Brittanica 87).”
At once Adams was appointed chairman of the Committee on Manufactures. He fought
for the tariff against the Southern forces, already drifting toward secession. The Southerners
placed a “gag rule” on petitions relating to slavery. Adams fought the gag rule until its repeal in
1844. He stood almost alone against Andrew Jackson’s war on the Bank of the United States . In
the 27th Congress Adams was made chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Adams won the title of Old Man Eloquent–not for his skill as a speaker but for the vast
amount of information in his talks. His rugged honesty and patriotism were plain for all to see. In
1847 Adams suffered a stroke in Boston and a second one a year later on the floor of the House
of Representatives in Washington. He was carried to the Speaker?s Room where two days later
on February 23, 1848 he died. His last words were: ?This is the last of earth. I am content.? He
was buried–as were his father, mother and wife–at First Parish Church in Quincy (Gidding 3).
Over all John Quincy Adams was a man with many successes and many failures but one
come to the conclusion that overall a great man and a descent president. If one must grade John
Quincy on his Presidency one would consider him a B. He is rewarded with the B grade because
he was above the average C president and did much to change the United States by pursuing
what he thought was right; even though, he lacked the criteria of an A because he was not a