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Authors: Harlow Unger

John Quincy Adams

BOOK: John Quincy Adams
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Table of Contents
American Tempest
Improbable Patriot
Lion of Liberty
Last Founding Father
The Unexpected George Washington
John Hancock
Noah Webster
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.
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 book—the 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
John Radziewicz
, Publisher, Da Capo Press
Robert Pigeon
, Executive Editor
Lissa Warren
, Vice President, Director of Publicity
Kevin Hanover
, Vice President, Director of Marketing
Sean Maher
, Marketing Manager
Jonathan Crowe
, Editor
Cisca Schreefel
, Project Editor
Trish Wilkinson
, Designer
Jennifer Kelland
, Copy Editor
Cathy Armer
, Proofreader
Marie Maes
, Indexer
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
—John Quincy Adams (JQA) born in Braintree (later renamed Quincy), Massachusetts, the first son of John and Abigail Adams.
—Sees Battle of Bunker's Hill from hillside near home across Boston Bay.
—Sails for France with father, the emissary of Congress seeking French financial aid for the Revolutionary War.
—Attends school in Paris, then the University of Leyden.
—Goes to St. Petersburg as secretary for American minister Francis Dana at the Russian court.
—Rejoins father in The Hague, then Paris; resumes studies.
—Returns to the United States; earns degree from Harvard College.
—Studies law; admitted to Massachusetts Bar.
—Practices law in Boston; publishes newspaper articles assailing French Revolution and defending Washington policy of neutrality.
—Appointed U.S. minister to Holland by President George Washington; hones skills as a diplomat and undercover observer of political trends.
—John Adams elected second President of the United States; JQA appointed minister to Prussia; marries Louisa Catherine Johnson.
—Father loses bid for reelection and recalls son from Prussia; JQA's first child, George Washington Adams, born; resumes law practice.
—Federalists elect JQA to state senate.
—Elected to U.S. Senate; second son, John Adams II, born.
—Abandons 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.
—President James Madison appoints him minister to Russia.
—Refuses appointment to U.S. Supreme Court.
—Appointed head of commission to negotiate end to War of 1812.
—President James Monroe appoints him secretary of state.
—Negotiates historic treaty with Britain, fixing northern boundaries with Canada; declares support for Latin American revolutions against Spain; mother, Abigail Adams, dies.
—Negotiates U.S. acquisition of East and West Florida from Spain; extension of western U.S. border to Pacific Ocean.
—Missouri Compromise; embraces abolition.
—Rejects military alliance with Britain; writes key passage of Monroe Doctrine.
—Runs in presidential election; Electoral College vote is inconclusive.
—House 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.”
—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both die on July 4.
—Loses presidential election to Jackson, after four years of congressional obstructionism.
—Firstborn son, George Washington Adams, dies.
—Massachusetts voters elect him to House of Representatives; rejects party allegiance; renews pledge to represent “the whole nation.”
—Presents petitions from Pennsylvania Quakers for abolition of slavery; debates over tariffs.
—Begins struggle against nullification; snubs Harvard ceremony for Jackson.
—Supports Jackson demands for French compensation; middle son, John Adams II, dies.
—Presents 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.
—House turns to JQA to organize committees.
—Wins Supreme Court decision freeing black prisoners of the
; becomes first president ever to be photographed.
—Momentous House speech provides basis for Emancipation Proclamation; southern House members charge him with treason and demand censure; wins ban on dueling in Washington, DC.
—Leads unsuccessful struggle to prevent annexation of Texas; promotes construction of astronomical observatories and expanded scientific studies.
—Defeats Gag Rule.
—Suffers stroke; makes startling recovery and returns to House.
February 23, 1848
—Dies 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 things—and 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 expectations—not, 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 Presidents—besides himself.
BOOK: John Quincy Adams
6.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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