Americana: John Quincy Adams


John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, a diplomat, a congressman, a US Senator, and a secretary of state. He was the eldest son of John Adams and was considered the most gifted becoming the second President of the United States and enjoyed many opportunities that prepared him for public service.

In 1802, John Q. Adams was elected as a US Senator from Massachusetts, a member of the Federalist Party; however, he was too independent (like his father) to follow rigidly the political party forum. During the international tensions that resulted from the Napoleonic Wars, he supported the policies of the Jefferson administration. He stood contrary against the position of his political party, which resulted in his replacement as a senator. He resigned, however, before the end of his term; but was appointed a series of diplomatic posts soon after. He was one of the commissioners
who arranged for the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812.

As the Secretary of State, John Q. Adams drafted the Monroe Doctrine and acquired Florida from Spain for the United States. He was the New England candidate for the presidency in 1824, but neither he nor any of the other candidates received the electoral majority required by the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, the election was decided by the House of Representatives each state casting one vote. Henry Clay threw his support to John Q. Adams, who was then elected instead of Andrew Jackson. John Q. Adams made Henry Clay his Secretary of State and those that supported Andrew Jackson accused the president of entering a corrupt bargain. From that time and all during his administration, John Q. Adams dealt with partisan abuse.
Despite all of this, John Q. Adams was probably the most experienced and intelligent of the American presidents; however, his ideas about the role of national government in the development of a nation were too far in advance of the times, economically speaking. His plans were to initiate a federally funded system of internal improvements, canals, turnpikes, et cetera. He also proposed the establishment of a national university and recommended government support for scientific investigation. As part of his national planning, he favored a protective tariff and supported a national banking system that would provide a uniform currency and regulate credit. These ideas were extensions of what Alexander Hamilton had presented, especially those concerning economic affairs; but were more visionary and less social-class-oriented in specific areas of public responsibility. These ideas provided an influence upon the evolution of the Whig Party doctrine established. His first message to Congress that introduced his policies is still considered a brilliant state paper.
John Q. Adams’ administration was bedeviled by partisan attacks, which accounts for its failure. He was attacked as an aristocrat and a quasi-Federalist. Adams lost his re-election to Andrew Jackson in 1828.
In 1831, John Q. Adams was elected to the US House of Representatives. He wasn’t considered an abolitionist, but he fought against a  southern-dominated House of Representatives for the right to present petitions from antislavery groups. He was subjected to a gag rule and threatened with censure and even expulsion, but he persisted, exercising and defending his constitutional rights. Finally, in 1844, Congress repealed its gag rule and the right of petition was restored. In many ways, John Q. Adams’ tenure represented himself and his congressional record as a champion of civil rights. Most impressive was his fight against fellow House of Representative members who refused to allow Representative Adams to present petitions submitted by his constituents – the people of the United States who have a right to do so, regardless
of his personal convictions on the issue. That is truly statesmanship and a true representative of the people as our government was established.


John Quincy Adams and the Union by S.F. Hemis, 1956; The Era of Good Feelings by George Dangerfield, 1952.

[See Also: Adams-Onis TreatyMonroe Doctrine.]