John Quincy Adams
(president from 1825-1829 6th)
By Richard E. Noble
Son of the irascible John Adams, John Quincy seems to have inherited his dad's personality. He too was a patriot, right from the time when at eight years of age, mom took him to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill. (What was it, a sporting event or what?)
John Quincy had an active political career of which the presidency was merely an interlude. Before being elected to the presidency in 1825, he was ambassador or minister to everywhere. Besides going to Paris with his dad, he served as secretary to the Russian minister, then serves, himself, as minister to the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain. He served as a State Senator, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State under Monroe and then as a U.S. Congressman for another eighteen years until his death in 1848. They recently made a movie of his defense of the rebellious slaves in the Amistad case.
Like his dad he only made it through one term as president, and also like his dad, he seems very lucky to have managed that. He was not popular with his peers, which must stand as a compliment. Anyone hated by his fellow politicians can't be all that bad. He signed the treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, which really doesn't seem to be that great of an accomplishment. The treaty didn't seem to solve much of anything. John Quincy Adams is credited as being the real blood and guts behind the Monroe Doctrine, and the man who made it work with the Spanish, the British and the Russians.
One of the best stories I've yet read about John Quincy had to do with his grandson. It seems one day his grandson was having a debate with his mother over the benefits of education. He didn't want to go to school anymore. The eighty year old Grandpa steps out of his bedroom and without a word grabs junior's hand and escorts the boy all the way up the hill and down the road to his desk at the local schoolhouse. He never released the boy's hand, until he sat him in his chair at the schoolroom and he never spoke a word. But it was an event the little boy later admits that he never, ever forgot. Good for Grandpa!
His election to the presidency was very, very controversial. Neither he nor Andrew Jackson had the necessary majority of electoral votes. Jackson had 99 to Adams's 84, and Jackson had 40,000 more popular votes. Henry Clay who was also in the battle had 34. Henry, an old associate but not clearly a friend of J.Q. Adams, threw his support behind Adams and Adams won. A few weeks before Adams' inauguration, he announces that Henry Clay will now become his Secretary of State, and the poop hits the fan.
During his term Adams proposed an interstate network of roads and canals; a department of the Interior to regulate natural resources; expeditions to map the country; a naval academy; a series of astronomical observatories; a federal aid to education program; and guaranteed lands to the Indians out West. All of his proposals were defeated.
He refuses to get involved in party politics and allows Congress its head on a tariff decision, and gains himself credit on the passing of what becomes known as the Tariff of Abominations. He refuses to campaign for a second term, declaring campaigning for office below the dignity of the Adams's, in effect, turning the presidency over to Andrew Jackson with hardly a fight.