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John Quincy Adams
Adams in the 1840s. Photo portrait by Mathew Brady
|6th President of the United States|
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
|Vice President||John C. Calhoun|
|Preceded by||James Monroe|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Jackson|
|8th United States Secretary of State|
September 22, 1817 – March 4, 1825
|Preceded by||James Monroe|
|Succeeded by||Henry Clay|
|United States Senator
March 4, 1803 – June 8, 1808
|Preceded by||Jonathan Mason|
|Succeeded by||James Lloyd|
|Member of the United States
House of Representatives
March 4, 1831 – February 23, 1848
|Preceded by||Joseph Richardson|
|Succeeded by||Horace Mann|
|Constituency||11th district (1831–33)
12th district (1833–43)
8th district (1843–48)
July 11, 1767|
Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America
|Died||February 23, 1848
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Resting place||United First Parish Church|
|Political party||Federalist (1792–1808)
National Republican (1828–30)
Louisa Johnson (m. 1797)
|Relatives||See Adams political family and Quincy political family|
|Education||Harvard University (BA, MA)|
John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was the sixth President of the United States. He was the first President who was a son of a President. Also, Adams was the first president to be photographed, instead of painted.
Adams was a Federalist and served in the administrations of all the presidents that preceded him. He was Secretary of State under James Monroe, his predecessor as president. He began his service when he was just 27 in 1794 when he was named United States Minister to the Netherlands by President Washington.
Adams led the fight against slavery in Congress. In 1838, at age 71, he spoke for the African slaves of the slave ship Amistad. He won the case. He also challenged the constitutionality of the Gag Rule in Congress and saw through its removal in 1844 after an eight-year struggle against it.
He was born in 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts. As a child he watched the Battle of Bunker Hill, a fight of the American Revolutionary War, from his family's farm. When his father, John Adams, traveled to Europe, John Quincy went with him as his secretary. He became good at speaking other languages. Aside from English, he was also fluent in Latin and French, and had partial knowledge of Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.
He went to Harvard College and became a lawyer. At age 26, he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands and then he went to Berlin. In 1802, he was elected to the United States Senate. Six years later, President James Madison appointed him as Minister to Russia.
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."
In 1836, partially in response to Adams's consistent presentation of citizen petitions requesting the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the House of Representatives imposed a "gag rule" that immediately tabled (ignored) any petitions about slavery. The rule was favored by Democrats and Southern Whigs but was largely opposed by Northern Whigs like Adams.
In late 1836, Adams began a campaign to ridicule slave owners and the gag rule. He frequently attempted to present anti-slavery petitions, often in ways that provoked strong reactions from Southern representatives. Though the gag rule remained in place, the discussion ignited by his actions and the attempts of others to quiet him raised questions of the right to petition, the right to legislative debate, and the morality of slavery. Adams fought actively against the gag rule for another seven years, eventually moving the resolution that led to its repeal in 1844.
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 February 24, 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.
Adams was elected president by the United States House of Representatives after the 1824 United States presidential election gave nobody a majority of electoral votes. People who wanted Andrew Jackson to win said there was a deal between Adams and Speaker of the House Henry Clay; Adams had made Clay his Secretary of State.
Adams passed law for U.S. improvements as part of what he called the "American System." This means he created roads, canals, and used high tariffs, or taxes on imports. Among his proposals were the creation of a national university, a naval academy, and a national astronomical observatory. Adams fought Congress many times as many supporters of Andrew Jackson did not like his support of a national bank and tariffs.
Adams lost the 1828 election to Jackson. The election was noted for the personal attacks made by the candidates against each other.
Adams returned to Massachusetts for a short time after he was lost. He returned to Washington D.C. in 1831 after being elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was a leading opponent of slavery. He remained in Congress until the day of his death on February 23, 1848.
On February 21, 1848, Adams suffered a stroke in the House chamber. He collapsed and died in the House two days later on February 23, 1848. He was eighty years old.
Key facts about John Quincy Adams
- His father was the second President of the United States.
- John Quincy Adams spent his entire adult life in politics, until the day he died.
- He served in many roles for the United States under all of the Presidents who came before him.
- He became the sixth President of the United States and the first to be chosen by the House of Representatives.
- John Quincy Adams was against slavery and used his experience within the government to try to abolish (get rid of) it.
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