John Quincy Adams
6th President of the United States (March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829)
Age at inauguration: 57 years old
Vice President: John C. Calhoun
- Old Man Eloquent
- The Abolitionist famed for routinely bringing up the slavery issue against Congressional rules, and for his role later on in the Amistad case. He is the only American President to be elected to the House of Representatives after his Presidency. The nickname gained currency as a result of his campaign against slavery waged as a Congressman, and as the attorney in the Amistad case.
Born: July 11, 1767 Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America (now Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.)
Died: February 23, 1848 (aged 80) Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting Place: United First Parish Church Quincy, Massachusettes, U.S.
Father: John Adams
Mother: Abigail Smith
Married: Louisa Catherine Johnson (m. 1797)
Children: George Washington; John Quincy, Jr.; Thomas Hollis; Carolina; Charles F. Sr.
Education: Harvard University (BA, MA)
Other Government Positions:
- U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts March 4, 1831 – February 23, 1848
- 8th United States Secretary of State September 22, 1817 – March 4, 1825
Presidential Salary: $25,000/year
John Quincy Adams July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman who served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He served as the eighth United States secretary of state immediately before becoming president. During his long diplomatic and political career, Adams also served as an ambassador, and represented Massachusetts as a United States Senator and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was the eldest son of John Adams, who served as president from 1797 to 1801. Initially a Federalist like his father, he won election to the presidency as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and in the mid-1830s became affiliated with the Whig Party.
Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams spent much of his youth in Europe, where his father served as a diplomat. After returning to the United States, Adams established a successful legal practice in Boston. In 1794, President George Washington appointed Adams as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, and Adams would serve in high-ranking diplomatic posts until 1801, when Thomas Jefferson took office as president. Federalist leaders in Massachusetts arranged for Adams's election to the United States Senate in 1802, but Adams broke with the Federalist Party over foreign policy and was denied re-election. In 1809, Adams was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Russia by Democratic-Republican President James Madison. Adams held diplomatic posts for the duration of Madison's presidency, and he served as part of the American delegation that negotiated an end to the War of 1812. In 1817, newly-elected President James Monroe selected Adams as his secretary of state. In that role, Adams negotiated the Adams–Onís Treaty, which provided for the American acquisition of Florida. He also helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine, which became a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.
The presidential election 1824 was contested by Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, all of whom were members of the Democratic-Republican Party. As no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives held a contingent election to determine the president, and Adams won that contingent election with the support of Clay. President Adams called for an ambitious agenda that included federally-funded infrastructure projects, the establishment of a national university, and engagement with the countries of Latin America, but many of his initiatives were defeated in Congress. During Adams's presidency, the Democratic-Republic Party polarized into two major camps: one group, known as the National Republican Party, supported President Adams, while the other group, known as the Democratic Party, was led by Andrew Jackson. The Democrats proved to be more effective political organizers than Adams and his National Republican supporters, and Jackson decisively defeated Adams in the 1828 presidential election.
Rather than retiring from public service, Adams won election to the House of Representatives, where he would serve from 1831 to his death in 1848. He joined the Anti-Masonic Party in the early 1830s before becoming a member of the Whig Party, which united those opposed to President Jackson. During his time in Congress, Adams became increasingly critical of slavery and of the Southern leaders whom he believed controlled the Democratic Party. He was particularly opposed to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican–American War, which he saw as a war to extend slavery. He also led the repeal of the "gag rule," which had prevented the House of Representatives from debating petitions to abolish slavery. Historians generally concur that Adams was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history, but they tend to rank him as an average president.
1824 presidential election
In the 1824 presidential election, Jackson won a plurality in the Electoral College, taking 99 of the 261 electoral votes, while Adams won 84, Crawford won 41, and Clay took 37. Calhoun, meanwhile, won a majority of the electoral vote for vice president. Adams nearly swept the electoral votes of New England and won a majority of the electoral vote in New York, but he won a total of just six electoral votes from the slave states. Most of Jackson's support came from slave-holding states, but he also won New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and some electoral votes from the Northwest. As no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, the House was required to hold contingent election under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment. The House would decide among the top three electoral vote winners, with each state's delegation having one vote; thus, unlike his three rivals, Clay was not eligible to be elected by the House.
Adams knew that his own victory in the contingent election would require the support of Clay, who wielded immense influence in the House of Representatives. Though they were quite different in temperament and had clashed in the past, Adams and Clay shared similar views on national issues. By contrast, Clay viewed Jackson as a dangerous demagogue, and he was unwilling to support Crawford due to the latter's health issues. Adams and Clay met prior to the contingent election, and Clay agreed to support Adams in the election. Adams also met with Federalists like Daniel Webster, promising that he would not deny governmental positions to members of their party. On February 9, 1825, Adams won the contingent election on the first ballot, taking 13 of the 24 state delegations. Adams won the House delegations of all the states in which he or Clay had won a majority of the electoral votes, as well as the delegations of Illinois, Louisiana, and Maryland. Adams's victory made him the first child of a president to serve as president himself. After the election, many of Jackson's supporters claimed that Adams and Clay had reached a "Corrupt Bargain" in which Adams promised Clay the position of Secretary of State in return for Clay's support.
Adams was inaugurated on March 4, 1825. He took the oath of office on a book of constitutional law, instead of the more traditional Bible. In his inaugural address, he adopted a post-partisan tone, promising that he would avoid party-building and politically-motivated appointments. He also proposed an elaborate program of "internal improvements": roads, ports, and canals. Though some worried about the constitutionality of such federal projects, Adams argued that the General Welfare Clause provided for broad constitutional authority. While his predecessors had engaged in projects like the building of the National Road, Adams promised that he would ask Congress to authorize many more such projects.
Adams presided over a harmonious and productive cabinet that he met with on a weekly basis. Like Monroe, Adams sought a geographically-balanced cabinet that would represent the various party factions, and he asked the members of the Monroe cabinet to remain in place for his own administration. Samuel L. Southard of New Jersey stayed on as Secretary of the Navy, William Wirt kept his post of Attorney General, and John McLean of Ohio continued to serve as the Postmaster General, an important position that was not part of the cabinet. Adams's first choices for Secretary of War and Secretary of the Treasury were Andrew Jackson and William Crawford, respectively, but each declined to serve in the administration. Adams instead selected James Barbour of Virginia, a prominent supporter of Crawford, to lead the War Department. Leadership of the Treasury Department went to Richard Rush of Pennsylvania, who would become a prominent advocate of internal improvements and protective tariffs within the administration. Adams chose Henry Clay as Secretary of State, angering those who believed that Clay had offered his support in the 1824 election for the most prestigious position in the cabinet. Though Clay would later regret accepting the position since it reinforced the "Corrupt Bargain" accusation, Clay's strength in the West and interest in foreign policy made him a natural choice for the top cabinet position.
Formation of political parties
In the 1826 elections, Adams's opponents picked up seats throughout the country, as allies of Adams failed to coordinate among themselves. Pro-Adams Speaker of the House John Taylor was replaced by Andrew Stevenson, a Jackson supporter; as Adams himself noted, the U.S. had never before seen a Congress that was firmly under the control of political opponents of the president. After the elections, Van Buren and Calhoun agreed to throw their support behind Jackson in 1828, with Van Buren bringing along many of Crawford's supporters. Though Jackson did not articulate a detailed political platform in the same way that Adams did, his coalition was united in opposition to Adams's reliance on government planning. Adams, meanwhile, clung to the hope of a non-partisan nation, and he refused to make full use of the power of patronage to build up his own party structure.
1828 presidential election
Vice President Calhoun joined Jackson's ticket, while Adams turned to Secretary of the Treasury Richard Rush as his running mate. The 1828 election thus marked the first time in U.S. history that a presidential ticket composed of two Northerners faced off against a presidential ticket composed of two Southerners. In the election, Jackson won 178 of the 261 electoral votes and just under 56 percent of the popular vote. Jackson won 50.3 percent of the popular vote in the free states, but 72.6 percent of the vote in the slave states. No future presidential candidate would match Jackson's proportion of the popular vote until Theodore Roosevelt's 1904 campaign, while Adams's loss made him the second one-term president, after his own father. By 1828, only two states did not hold a popular vote for president, and the total number of votes in 1828 election was triple the number of votes in the 1824 election. This increase in votes was due not only to the recent wave of democratization, but also because of increased interest in elections and the growing ability of the parties to mobilize voters.
In the 1830s, slavery emerged as an increasingly polarizing issue in the United States. A longtime opponent of slavery, Adams used his new role in Congress to fight it, and he became the most prominent national leader opposing slavery. After one of his reelection victories, he said that he must "bring about a day prophesied when slavery and war shall be banished from the face of the earth." He wrote in his private journal in 1820:
The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim it, and cast it all upon the shoulder of…Great Britain. But when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom. They look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee's manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?
In 1841, at the request of Lewis Tappan and Ellis Gray Loring, Adams joined the case of United States v. The Amistad. Adams went before the Supreme Court on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. Adams appeared on 24 February 1841, and spoke for four hours. His argument succeeded; the Court ruled in favor of the Africans, who were declared free and returned to their homes.
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, Massachusetts, across from the First Parish Church, called Hancock Cemetery. After Louisa's death in 1852, his son had his parents reinterred in the expanded family crypt in the United First Parish Church across the street, next to John and Abigail. Both tombs are viewable by the public. Adams's original tomb at Hancock Cemetery is still there and marked simply "J.Q. Adams".
Though in his youth Adams wore a powdered wig he abandoned this fashion and became the first president to adopt a short haircut instead of long hair tied in a queue and to regularly wear long trousers instead of knee breeches. It has been suggested that John Quincy Adams had the highest I.Q. of any U.S. president. Dean Simonton, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, estimated his I.Q. score at 165.