John Quincy Adams

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Part of the P.O.T.U.S Series

Who: John Quincy Adams

What: 6th President of the United States, diplomat, Senator, member of the House of Representatives

Where: Born Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy); died Washington D.C.

Why: First President to have been son of another President, first President elected despite losing the popular vote, first to serve in Congress after serving in the Presidency, first to have his photograph taken

When: Born July 11, 1767; died February 23, 1848 (aged 80)

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams in 1818

John Quincy Adams in 1818

Fortunate Son

If any man was born to be President, John Quincy Adams was it. He enjoyed a privileged childhood, personally witnessing the Battle of Bunker Hill from his family estate and accompanying his father on his many trips abroad. He served as a Senator and Foreign Minister before James Monroe selected him as his Secretary of State. As a phenomenally effective Secretary, he established the U.S.-Canada border, the acquisition of Florida and helping to create the Monroe Doctrine. In 1824, he participated in one of the most controversial elections in U.S. history. With Andrew Jackson winning the popular vote 41.4% to Adams’ 30.9%, the election went to the House of Representatives with no clear majority. Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who detested Jackson, swayed the electoral college vote in Adams’ favour, which prompted Jackson to declare the election ‘a corrupt bargain’.

Unfortunate President

As one of four presidents to have not won the popular vote, the election severely weakened Adams’ administration and the office of the president, as many lost faith in the ‘democracy’ that had ignored their popular vote. Adams was essentially a lame duck for his term in office, with his perceived illegitimacy compounded by his inability to work with opposition in Congress. Adams passed law for U.S. infrastructural improvements, creating roads and canals to help with the massive rate of growth the United States was experiencing. He lost the election of 1828 to Jackson, and returned to the House of Representatives before his death in 1848, aged 80.

Facts about John Quincy Adams

Adams was fluent in French, Dutch and German and proficient in Latin, Classical Greek, Russian and Italian

He kept a diary, starting in 1779 aged 12, up until just before his death in 1848. The fifty volume, 14,000 page diary provide some of the most important insights into the early republic

Adams suffered from depression for most of his life

He was an avid swimmer, and bathed nude in the Potomac every morning at 5:00a.m.

He, like his father, was an abolitionist. He was an early proponent of the Manifest Destiny, but reversed his position upon realising territorial expansion would propagate slavery. He also represented the defendants of the famous Amistad case in 1841.

He married America’s only foreign-born First Lady, Louisa Catherine Johnson in 1797. Johnson was born in London, daughter of an Englishwoman and an American merchant

While is Presidency was ineffective, Adams is regarded as one of the most accomplished Secretaries of State in American history

Adams was also the first President to have his picture taken, in 1843.

Further reading:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/johnquincyadams

http://millercenter.org/president/jqadams

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