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John Quincy Adams
JQA Photo.tif
Adams in the 1840s. Photo portrait by Mathew Brady
6th President of the United States
In office
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
In office
September 22, 1817 – March 4, 1825
President James Monroe
Preceded by James Monroe
Succeeded by Henry Clay
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1803 – June 8, 1808
Preceded by Jonathan Mason
Succeeded by James Lloyd
Member of the United States
House of Representatives

from Massachusetts
In office
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)
Personal details
Born (1767-07-11)July 11, 1767
Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, British America
Died February 23, 1848(1848-02-23) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place United First Parish Church
Political party Federalist (1792–1808)
National Republican (1828–30)
Anti-Masonic (1830–34)
Whig (1834–48)
(m. 1797)
Children George
Parent(s) John Adams
Abigail Smith
Relatives See Adams political family and Quincy political family
Education Harvard University (BA, MA)
Signature Cursive signature in ink

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.

Early life

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 University 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.

As Secretary of State when James Monroe was President, Adams organized joint control of Oregon with the United Kingdom and helped get Florida from Spain. He also helped make the Monroe Doctrine.


John Quincy Adams was elected President of the United States in 1824 by the U.S. House of Representatives. It was the first time that the President was decided by the House of Representatives because none of the five candidates for President earned the required 131 electoral votes. (Andrew Jackson earned the most, with 99.) Adams made one of his opponents, Henry Clay, his Secretary of State.

Adams passed laws for U.S. improvements as part of what he called the “American System.” He created roads and canals using high tariffs, or taxes, on imports. He wanted to create a national university, a naval academy, and a national observatory. Adams also supported a national bank, which supporters of Andrew Jackson did not like.

Adams lost the 1828 election to Jackson. The election was noted for the personal attacks made by the candidates against each other.


In the 1830s, the issue of slavery in the United States was gaining national attention. Many people in the country were taking one of the two sides. John Quincy Adams was strongly against slavery and used his new position in Congress to fight it.

By 1836, the House of Representatives was so tired of seeing Adams’s petitions from citizens requesting to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia that they imposed a “Gag Rule.” This means that any petitions about slavery were “tabled,” or forbidden to be discussed. This rule was favored by Democrats and Southern Whigs but opposed by most Northern Whigs like Adams.

In late 1836, Adams began publicly mocking slave owners and the gag rule. He kept trying to present anti-slavery petitions in Congress, usually upsetting Southern representatives. Even though the gag rule stayed in place, his constant fighting against slavery and the fact that many kept trying to keep him quiet about slavery brought up some issues that needed to be discussed. These issues were: the right to petition, the right to legislative debate, and the morality of slavery. Adams kept fighting against the gag rule and finally saw it removed 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 spoke in front of the Supreme Court to defend the slaves who had revolted on a slave ship called The Amistad. The slaves had taken control of the Spanish ship that was heading to America to sell them. 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.

Later life

After his presidency, Adams 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 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.

John Quincy Adams quotes

  • “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone.”
  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
  • “Try and fail, but don't fail to try.”
  • “Posterity -- you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”
  • “If the fundamental principles in the Declaration of Independence, as self-evident truths, are real truths, the existence of slavery, in any form, is a wrong.”

Interesting 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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