Presidents of the United States

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John Quincy Adams

From: Portrait and Biographical record of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York
By: Chapman Publishing Company
Published: 1895


JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, the sixth President of the United States, was born in the rural home of his honored father, John Adams, in Quincy, Mass., on the 11th of July, 1767. His mother, a woman of exalted worth, watched over his childhood during the almost constant absence of his father. When but eight years of age, he stood with his mother on an eminence, listening to the booming of the great battle on Bunker's Hill, and gazing out upon the smoke and flames billowing up from the conflagration of Charlestown.

When but eleven years old he took a tearful adieu of his mother, to sail with his father for Europe, through a fleet of hostile British cruisers. The bright, animated boy spent a year and a-half in Paris, where his father was associated with Franklin and Lee as Minister Plenipotentiary. His intelligence attracted the notice of these distinguished men, and he received from them flattering marks of attention.

John Adams had scarcely returned to this country, in ere he was again sent abroad. Again John Quincy accompanied his father. At Paris he applied himself to study with great diligence for six months, and then accompanied his father to Holland, where he entered first a school in Amsterdam, then the University at Leyden. About a year from this time, in 1781, when the manly boy was but fourteen years of age, he was selected by Mr. Dana, our Minister to the Russian court, as his private secretary.

In this school of incessant labor and of ennobling culture he spent fourteen months, and then returned to Holland, through Sweden, Denmark, Hamburg. and Bremen. This long journey he took alone in the winter, when in his sixteenth year. Again he resumed his studies, under a private tutor, at The Hague. Then, in the spring of 1782, be accompanied his father to Paris, traveling leisurely, and forming acquaintances with the most distinguished men on the continent, examining architectural remains, galleries of paintings, and all renowned works of art. At Paris he again became associated with the most illustrious men of all lands in the contemplation of the loftiest temporal themes which can engross the human mind. After a short visit to England he returned to Paris, and consecrated all his energies to study until May, 1785, when he returned to America to finish his education.

Upon leaving Harvard College at the age oi twenty, he studied law for three years. In June, 1794, being then but twenty-seven years of age, he was appointed by Washington Resident Minister at the Netherlands. Sailing from Boston in July, he reached London in October, where he was immediately admitted to the deliberations of Messrs. Jay & Pinckney, assisting them in negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain. After thus spending a fortnight in London, he proceeded to The Hague.

In July, 1797, he left The Hague to go to Por tugal as Minister Plenipotentiary. On his way to Portugal, upon arriving in London, he met with despatches directing him to the court of Berlin, but requesting him to remain in London until he should receive his instructions. While waiting he was married to an American lady, to whom he had been previously engaged-Miss Louisa Catherine Johnson, a daughter of Joshua Johnson, American Consul in London, and a lady endowed with that beauty and those accomplishments which eminently fitted her to move in the elevated sphere for which she was destined. He reached Berlin with his wife in November, 1797, where he remained until July, 1799, when, having fulfilled all the purposes of his mission, he so licited his recall.

Soon after his return, in 1802, he was chosen to the Senate of Massachusetts from Boston, and then was elected Senator of the United States for six years, from the 4th of March, 1804. His reputation, his abaity and his experience placed him immediately among the most prominent and influential members of that body.

In 1809, Madison succeeded Jefferson in the Presidential chair, and he immediately nominated John Quincy Adams Minister to St. Petersburgh. Resigning his professorship in Harvard College, he embarked at Boston in August, 1809.

While in Russia, Mr. Adams was an intense student. He devoted his attention to the language and history of Russia; to the Chinese trade; to the European system of weights, measures and coins; to the climate and astronomical observations; while he kept up a familiar acquaintance with the Greek and Latin classics. In all the universities of Europe, a more accomplished scholar could scarcely be found. All through life the Bible constituted an important part of his studies. It was his rule to read five chapters every day.

On the 4th of March, 1817, Mr. Monroe took the Presidential chair, and immediately appointed Mr. Adams Secretary of State. Taking leave of his numerous friends in public and private life in Europe, he sailed in June, 1819, for the United States. On the 18th of August, he again crossed the threshold of his home in Quincy. During the eight years of Mr. Monroe's administration, Mr. Adams continued Secretary of State.

Some time before the close of Mr. Monroe's second term of office, new candidates began to be presented for the Presidency. The friends of Mr. Adams brought forward his name. It was an exciting campaign, and party spirit was never more bitter. Two hundred and sixty electoral votes were cast. Andrew Jackson received ninetynine; John Quincy Adams eighty-four; William H. Crawford forty-one; and Henry Clay thirtyseven. As there was no choice by the people, the question went to the House of Representatives. Mr. Clay gave the vote of Kentucky to Mr. Adams, and he was elected.

The friends of all the disappointed candidates now combined in a venomous and persistent assault upon Mr. Adams. There is nothing more disgraceful in the past history of our country than the abuse which was poured in one uninterrupted stream upon this high-minded, upright and patriotic man. There never was an administration more pure in principles, more conscientiously devoted to the best interests of the country, than that of John Quincy Adams; and never, perhaps, was there an administration more unscrupulously and outrageously assailed.

On the 4th of March, 1829, Mr. Adams retired from the Presidency, and was succeeded by Andrew Jackson. John C. Calhoun was elected Vice-President. The slavery question now began to assume portentous magnitude. Mr. Adams returned to Quincy and to his studies, which he pursued with unabated zeal. But he was not long permitted to remain in retirement. In November, 1830, he was elected Representative in Congress. For seventeen years, or until his death, he occupied the post as Representative, towering above all his peers, ever ready to do brave battle for freedom, and winning the title of "the Old Man Eloquent." Upon taking his seat in the House, he announced that he should hold himself bound to no party. Probably there never was a member more devoted to his duties. He was usually the first in his place in the morning, and the last to leave his seat in the evening. Not a measure could be brought forward and escape his scrutiny. The battle which Mr. Adams fought, almost singly, against the pro-slavery party in the Government was sublime in its moral daring and heroism. For persisting in presenting petitions for the abolition of slavery, he was threatened with indictment by the grand jury, with expulsion from the House, with assassination; but no threats could intimidate him, and his final triumph was complete.

On the 21st of February, 1848, he rose on the floor of Congress with a paper in his hand, to address the speaker. Suddenly he fell, again stricken by paralysis, and was caught in the arms of those around him. For a time he was senseless, as he was conveyed to the sofa in the rotunda. With reviving consciousness, he opened his eyes, looked calmly around and said "This is the end of earth;" then after a moment's pause he added, "I am content." These were the last words of the grand "Old Man Eloquent."

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