Table of Contents
BOOKS BY HARLOW GILES UNGER
Lion of Liberty
Last Founding Father
The Unexpected George Washington
America's Second Revolution
The French War Against America
Who but shall learn that freedom is the prize
That nature's God commands the slave to rise,
Roll, years of promise, rapidly roll round,
Till not a slave shall on this earth be found.
âJOHN QUINCY ADAMS, 1827.1
My deepest thanks to Sara Georgini, an assistant editor of
The Adams Papers
, at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, for vetting the finished manuscript of this book. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the life and times of the Adams family saved me weeks, probably months, of research and checking. My thanks, too, to Kelly Cobble, curator, and Patty Smith, museum technician, at the Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts, for their gracious and most generous help in providing illustrations for this book. Also very helpful in obtaining illustrations were Richard Sorenson of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Jessica Blesso, of the Library of Congress duplication services; and Anna J. Cook, assistant reference librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
I know of no words that can express my gratitude to all the great folks at Da Capo Press and the Perseus Books Group, which published this bookâthe fourth they've published with my byline. If this were a newspaper or magazine, all their names would appear on a masthead. I have no idea why book publishers don't print mastheads in books, but, to try to thank those responsible for the publication and sale of this volume, I am breaking with
tradition and not only displaying a masthead but dedicating this book to all the people listed.
Da Capo Press
A Member of the Perseus Books Group
, Publisher, Da Capo Press
, Executive Editor
, Vice President, Director of Publicity
, Vice President, Director of Marketing
, Marketing Manager
, Project Editor
, Copy Editor
My most sincere thanks to you all and to the entire sales team of the Perseus Books Group.
NOTE: Spellings, punctuation, and grammar in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century letters, manuscripts, and publications cited in this book have, where appropriate, been modernized without my knowingly altering the intent of the original author. Readers may find the original spellings in the works cited in the notes.
July 11, 1767
âJohn Quincy Adams (JQA) born in Braintree (later renamed Quincy), Massachusetts, the first son of John and Abigail Adams.
âSees Battle of Bunker's Hill from hillside near home across Boston Bay.
âSails for France with father, the emissary of Congress seeking French financial aid for the Revolutionary War.
âAttends school in Paris, then the University of Leyden.
âGoes to St. Petersburg as secretary for American minister Francis Dana at the Russian court.
âRejoins father in The Hague, then Paris; resumes studies.
âReturns to the United States; earns degree from Harvard College.
âStudies law; admitted to Massachusetts Bar.
âPractices law in Boston; publishes newspaper articles assailing French Revolution and defending Washington policy of neutrality.
âAppointed U.S. minister to Holland by President George Washington; hones skills as a diplomat and undercover observer of political trends.
âJohn Adams elected second President of the United States; JQA appointed minister to Prussia; marries Louisa Catherine Johnson.
âFather loses bid for reelection and recalls son from Prussia; JQA's first child, George Washington Adams, born; resumes law practice.
âFederalists elect JQA to state senate.
âElected to U.S. Senate; second son, John Adams II, born.
âAbandons Federalist Party; votes as independent representative of “the whole nation”; votes for Louisiana Purchase; third son, Charles Francis, born in 1807; Federalists force him to resign from Senate.
âPresident James Madison appoints him minister to Russia.
âRefuses appointment to U.S. Supreme Court.
âAppointed head of commission to negotiate end to War of 1812.
âPresident James Monroe appoints him secretary of state.
âNegotiates historic treaty with Britain, fixing northern boundaries with Canada; declares support for Latin American revolutions against Spain; mother, Abigail Adams, dies.
âNegotiates U.S. acquisition of East and West Florida from Spain; extension of western U.S. border to Pacific Ocean.
âMissouri Compromise; embraces abolition.
âRejects military alliance with Britain; writes key passage of Monroe Doctrine.
âRuns in presidential election; Electoral College vote is inconclusive.
âHouse of Representatives elects him sixth President of the United States after Henry Clay shifts votes and is named secretary of state; Andrew Jackson charges “corrupt bargain.”
âJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson both die on July 4.
âLoses presidential election to Jackson, after four years of congressional obstructionism.
âFirstborn son, George Washington Adams, dies.
âMassachusetts voters elect him to House of Representatives; rejects party allegiance; renews pledge to represent “the whole nation.”
âPresents petitions from Pennsylvania Quakers for abolition of slavery; debates over tariffs.
âBegins struggle against nullification; snubs Harvard ceremony for Jackson.
âSupports Jackson demands for French compensation; middle son, John Adams II, dies.
âPresents petitions for abolition in Washington, DC; guards Smithson bequest for national scientific institution; leads abolition movement in Congress; House passes Gag Rule to stifle abolition petitions; attacks Gag Rule as unconstitutional.
âHouse turns to JQA to organize committees.
âWins Supreme Court decision freeing black prisoners of the
; becomes first president ever to be photographed.
âMomentous House speech provides basis for Emancipation Proclamation; southern House members charge him with treason and demand censure; wins ban on dueling in Washington, DC.
âLeads unsuccessful struggle to prevent annexation of Texas; promotes construction of astronomical observatories and expanded scientific studies.
âDefeats Gag Rule.
âSuffers stroke; makes startling recovery and returns to House.
February 23, 1848
âDies in House of Representatives.
He served under Washington and with Lincoln; he lived with Ben Franklin, lunched with Lafayette, Jefferson, and Wellington; he walked with Russia's czar and talked with Britain's king; he dined with Dickens, taught at Harvard, and was American minister to six European countries. He negotiated the peace that ended the War of 1812, freed the African prisoners on the slave ship
served sixteen years in the House of Representatives, restored free speech in Congress, led the antislavery movement . . .
. . . and . . .
He was sixth President of the United States.
John Quincy Adams was all of these thingsâand more.
A towering figure in the formative years of the United States, John Quincy Adams was the only son of a Founding Father and President to become President himself, and he was the first President to serve in Congress after his presidency. The oldest son of John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams seemed destined for greatness from birth. His mother's Quincy forebears had stormed ashore in the Norman landings at Hastings in 1066 and rode to Runnymede in 1215 to force King John to sign the Magna Carta. His father not only served as the nation's first vice president and second President but helped draft the Declaration of Independence,
enlisted George Washington to lead the Continental Army, secured the foreign aid that won the Revolution, and drafted nine of thirteen state constitutions after independence.
Pushed by his parents to climb the heights of their ambitions for him, John Quincy Adams surpassed their expectationsânot, ironically, as President of the United States but as American ambassador to six European nations, a fearless secretary of state, a powerful voice before the Supreme Court, a fighting senator and congressman, and America's first champion of human rights and foe of injustice. He served the American people for two-thirds of a century under ten Presidentsâbesides himself.