top of page

John Quincy Adams

What Number President was He?


John Quincy Adams, son of John and Abigail Adams, assumed the role of the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829. Throughout his career, he demonstrated his versatility in multiple political parties and also held positions as a diplomat, Senator, and member of the House of Representatives.

As the first President who was the offspring of a former President, John Quincy Adams shared many aspects of his father's illustrious career, temperament, and perspectives. Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1767, he witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill from the heights of Penn's Hill above the family farm. While serving as his father's secretary in Europe, he honed his linguistic skills and meticulously maintained diaries.

Upon graduating from Harvard College, he pursued a career in law. At the young age of 26, he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands and was subsequently promoted to the Berlin Legation. In 1802, he gained election to the United States Senate, and six years later, President Madison appointed him as Minister to Russia.

During his tenure as Secretary of State under President Monroe, Adams significantly contributed to American diplomacy. He collaborated with England on the joint occupation of the Oregon territory, secured the cession of Florida from Spain, and was instrumental in formulating the Monroe Doctrine alongside the President.

In the early 19th-century political climate, Adams, as Secretary of State, was viewed as a natural heir to the Presidency. However, the conventional methods of selecting a President were shifting in 1824 due to the increasing demand for a popular choice.

Within the Republican Party, the sole party at the time, sectionalism and factionalism were on the rise, leading each region to put forth its own Presidential candidate. Adams, representing the North, trailed behind Gen. Andrew Jackson in both popular and electoral votes. Nevertheless, he outperformed contenders William H. Crawford and Henry Clay. As none of the candidates had an electoral majority, the House of Representatives decided the election among the top three candidates. Clay, whose views aligned with Adams', threw his support behind him, clinching victory for the New Englander.

Upon assuming the Presidency, Adams selected Clay as his Secretary of State. However, Jackson and his supporters accused them of striking a "corrupt bargain" and initiated a campaign to wrest the Presidency from Adams in the 1828 election.

Despite anticipating congressional resistance, Adams outlined an ambitious national agenda in his first Annual Message. He proposed the establishment of a network of highways and canals to unify the nation, as well as the responsible development and preservation of public lands using proceeds from land sales. In 1828, he initiated the construction of the 185-mile C & 0 Canal.

Adams also advocated for the advancement of arts and sciences, proposing a national university, funding scientific expeditions, and establishing an observatory. Critics argued that these endeavors exceeded constitutional bounds.

The 1828 campaign, marked by allegations of corruption and mismanagement by Jacksonian opponents, was a challenging experience for Adams. Following his defeat, he returned to Massachusetts, planning to spend the rest of his days tending to his farm and enjoying literature.

Unexpectedly, in 1830, he was elected to the House of Representatives from the Plymouth district, where he emerged as a prominent leader for the rest of his life. Primarily, he championed the protection of civil liberties.

In 1836, southern Congressmen passed a "gag rule" that automatically dismissed petitions against slavery in the House. Adams persistently fought against this rule for eight years until he finally succeeded in having it repealed.

In 1848, he suffered a stroke and collapsed on the House floor. He was taken to the Speaker's Room, where he passed away two days later. He was interred alongside his father, mother, and wife at the First Parish Church in Quincy. Throughout his life, "Old Man Eloquent" remained a stalwart advocate for his convictions.

John Quincy Adams

“To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” “Virtue is not always amiable.” “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

bottom of page