The first President who was the son of a President,
John Quincy Adams in many respects paralleled the career as well as
the temperament and viewpoints of his illustrious father. Born in
Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1767, he watched the Battle of Bunker
Hill from the top of Penn's Hill above the family farm. As secretary
to his father in Europe, he became an accomplished linguist and
After graduating from Harvard College, he became a
lawyer. At age 26 he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands, then
promoted to the Berlin Legation. In 1802 he was elected to the
United States Senate. Six years later President Madison appointed
him Minister to Russia.
Serving under President Monroe, Adams was one of
America's great Secretaries of State, arranging with England for the
joint occupation of the Oregon country, obtaining from Spain the
cession of the Floridas, and formulating with the President the
In the political tradition of the early 19th century,
Adams as Secretary of State was considered the political heir to the
Presidency. But the old ways of choosing a President were giving way
in 1824 before the clamor for a popular choice.
Within the one and only party--the
Republican--sectionalism and factionalism were developing, and each
section put up its own candidate for the Presidency. Adams, the
candidate of the North, fell behind Gen. Andrew Jackson in both
popular and electoral votes, but received more than William H.
Crawford and Henry Clay. Since no candidate had a majority of
electoral votes, the election was decided among the top three by the
House of Representatives. Clay, who favored a program similar to
that of Adams, threw his crucial support in the House to the New
Upon becoming President, Adams appointed Clay as
Secretary of State. Jackson and his angry followers charged that a
"corrupt bargain" had taken place and immediately began their
campaign to wrest the Presidency from Adams in 1828.
Well aware that he would face hostility in Congress,
Adams nevertheless proclaimed in his first Annual Message a
spectacular national program. He proposed that the Federal
Government bring the sections together with a network of highways
and canals, and that it develop and conserve the public domain,
using funds from the sale of public lands. In 1828, he broke ground
for the 185-mile C & 0 Canal.
Adams also urged the United States to take a lead in
the development of the arts and sciences through the establishment
of a national university, the financing of scientific expeditions,
and the erection of an observatory. His critics declared such
measures transcended constitutional limitations.
The campaign of 1828, in which his Jacksonian
opponents charged him with corruption and public plunder, was an
ordeal Adams did not easily bear. After his defeat he returned to
Massachusetts, expecting to spend the remainder of his life enjoying
his farm and his books.
Unexpectedly, in 1830, the Plymouth district elected
him to the House of Representatives, and there for the remainder of
his life he served as a powerful leader. Above all, he fought
against circumscription of civil liberties.
In 1836 southern Congressmen passed a "gag rule"
providing that the House automatically table petitions against
slavery. Adams tirelessly fought the rule for eight years until
finally he obtained its repeal.
In 1848, he collapsed on the floor of the House from a
stroke and was carried to the Speaker's Room, where two days later
he died. He was buried--as were his father, mother, and wife--at
First Parish Church in Quincy. To the end, "Old Man Eloquent" had
fought for what he considered right.
Biography from www.whitehouse.gov