Better Know A President VI: John Quincy Adams

15 02 2009


-Served from 1825-1829.

-Elected from Massachusetts

-Second son of former President John Adams. Like his father, he failed to win re-election. John Quincy got the Quincy from his mother’s grandfather, who was a Colonel in the Revolution.

-At age 7, he witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill.

-Before becoming President, he served as Ambassador to the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Prussia, and Britain. He also served as a US Senator, and Secretary of State under previously mentioned James Monroe. He also the only President to serve as a US Representative after leaving the Presidency.

-Adams’ wife, Louise was not American born. To date, she’s the only First Lady to be from a foreign country (Britain).

-Adams became President after a difficult and extremely controversial election. The Election of 1824 had 4 main contenders: Adams, Andrew Jackson, a US Senator from Tennessee, then Speaker of the House Henry Clay from Kentucky (my high school was named after Clay!), and then Secretary of War John C. Calhoun. After the election was counted, not one of the 4 had a majority of either electoral votes or popular votes. The XII Amendment states that when this occurs, the election goes to the House to be decided. Only the top 3 candidates get considered, meaning that Clay, who came in 4th, was eliminated. Jackson had the most electoral votes and the most popular votes, and he was sure that the House would name him President. However, when the House convened, Clay, who was still Speaker of the House, threw a wrench into the election. Clay did not like Jackson, and wanted to see Adams get the presidency, so he threw his support behind Adams. The 1st round of ballots was the only one needed, and Adams won handedly. Jackson was furious. He would eventually resign as US Senator to focus on winning the 1828 Election. (Yes, he spent the next four years trying to win the next Presidential election!)

-During his inauguration, he took the oath on a book of laws, rather than a Bible. He wanted to maintain the separation between church and state.

-One of the highlights of Adams’ Presidency was that he was against the removal of native Indian tribes. The government, at times during Adams’ presidency, defended the tribes. After Adams’ though, Andrew Jackson and then Van Buren would reverse this policy.

-He had difficulty doing anything during his Presidency. Many politicans were upset by his unfair victory over Jackson and refused to support him. He tried to create tariffs to support more American industry, but many of his proposals were rejected. He didn’t help himself either when he did not remove supporters of Jackson from the White House when he was inaugurated. Ultimately, Adams is seen by most historians as a much better diplomat (one of the greatest in US history) than he was a president.

-After Jackson was elected by a large margin in 1828, he refused to attend his Inauguration. Only three Presidents have done this, including his father John Adams, and Andrew Johnson. Ironically, John Quincy only won the same states John Adams won when he lost his election.


Adams was an awkward man. He didn’t quite have the chops for politics. During his campaign in 1824, a farmer approached him and said that his wife had once served in his father’s house. He went on to say that she once combed Adams’ hair to which he replied, “Well, I suppose she combs yours now.”

Adams was a fan of skinny dipping. He would often rise an hour or two before dawn and swim in the Potomac. Thurlow Weed, a New York politican made it his mission while in Washington to see Adams swimming. Another story goes that one morning when Adams was swimming, he had his clothes stolen and had to ask someone to go to the White House so he could get dressed. The most famous is when  journalist Anne Royall held his clothes hostage until he granted her an interview.

I think John Quincy Adams looks a little like Scrooge McDuck.


America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.