10 Essential Facts About John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, in Braintree, Massachusetts. He was elected as the sixth president of the United States in 1824 and took office on March 4, 1825. 

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He Had a Privileged and Unique Childhood

Statue of Abigail and John Quincy Adams.
Abigail and John Quincy Adams.

Travel Images / UIG / Getty Images

As the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States and the erudite Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams had an interesting childhood. He personally witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill with his mother. He moved to Europe at the age of 10 and was educated in Paris and Amsterdam. He became a secretary to Francis Dana and traveled to Russia. Then spent five months traveling through Europe on his own before returning to America at the age of 17. He went on to graduate second in class at Harvard University before studying law.

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He Married America's Only Foreign Born First Lady

Painting of Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams
Public Domain / White House

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams was the daughter of an American merchant and an Englishwoman. She grew up in London and France. Sadly their marriage was marked by unhappiness.

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He Was a Famed Diplomat

Painting of George Washington, c.1821
Gilbert Stuart / Getty Images

John Quincy Adams was made a diplomat to the Netherlands in 1794 by President George Washington. He would serve as a minister to a number of European countries from 1794-1801 and from 1809-1817. President James Madison made him minister to Russia where he witnessed Napoleon’s failed attempts to invade Russia. He was further named minister to Great Britain after War of 1812. Interestingly, despite being a famed diplomat, Adams did not bring the same skills to his time in Congress where he served from 1802-1808.

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He Was a Negotiator of Peace

Portrait Of James Madison
GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

President Madison named Adams the chief negotiator for peace between America and Great Britain at the end of the War of 1812. His efforts resulted in the Treaty of Ghent.

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He Was an Influential Secretary of State

Portrait of James Monroe.

In 1817, John Quincy Adams was named the Secretary of State under James Monroe. He brought his diplomatic skills to bear while establishing fishing rights with Canada, formalizing the western US-Canada border, and negotiating the Adams-Onis Treaty that gave Florida to the United States. Further, he helped the president craft the Monroe Doctrine, insisting that it not be issued in conjunction with Great Britain.

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His Election was Considered a Corrupt Bargain

Painting of President Andrew Jackson.
John Parrot/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

John Quincy Adam's victory in the Election of 1824 was known as the 'Corrupt Bargain.' With no electoral majority, the election was decided in the US House of Representatives. The belief is that Henry Clay negotiated that if he gave the presidency to Adams, Clay would be named Secretary of State. This occurred despite Andrew Jackson winning the popular vote. This would be used against Adams in the election of 1828 which Jackson would handily win.

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He Became a Do-Nothing President

Portrait Of John Quincy Adams
GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

Adams had a difficult time pushing forth an agenda as president. He acknowledged the lack of public support for his presidency in his inaugural address when he said,

"Less possessed of your confidence in advance than any of my predecessors, I am deeply conscious of the prospect that I shall stand more and oftener in need of your indulgence."

While he asked for a number of key internal improvements, very few were passed and he did not accomplish much during his time in office.

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He Passed the Much Opposed Tariff of Abominations

Painting of John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun. Public Domain

In 1828, a tariff was passed that its opponents called the Tariff of Abominations. It placed a high tax on imported manufactured goals as a way to protect American industry. However, many in the south opposed the tariff as it would result in less cotton being demanded by the British to make finished cloth. Even Adams own vice-president, John C. Calhoun, was vehemently opposed to the measure and argued that if it was not repealed then South Carolina should have the right of nullification.

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He Was the Only President to Serve in Congress After the Presidency

Illustration of John Quincy Adams
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Despite losing the presidency in 1828, Adams was elected to represent his district in the US House of Representatives. He served in the House for 17 years before collapsing on the floor of the House and dying two days later in the Speaker of the House's private chambers.

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He Played a Key Part in the Amistad Case

Supreme Court Decision in the Amistad Case. Public Domain

Adams was a key part of the defense team for enslaved mutineers on the Spanish ship Amistad. Forty-nine Africans seized the ship in 1839 off the coast of Cuba. They ended up in America with the Spanish demanding their return to Cuba for trial. However, the US Supreme Court decided that they would not be extradited due in large part to Adams' help in the trial.

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Kelly, Martin. "10 Essential Facts About John Quincy Adams." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-john-adams-104764. Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). 10 Essential Facts About John Quincy Adams. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-john-adams-104764 Kelly, Martin. "10 Essential Facts About John Quincy Adams." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-john-adams-104764 (accessed May 30, 2023).