American History: John Quincy Adams

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John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was a successful lawyer working out of Boston, Massachusetts and a member of the House of Representatives. He followed in his father, John Adams, footsteps and eventually became the United States’ sixth president. He was very accomplished academically, but his presidency was less eventful than he intended due to difficult relations with congress (John Quincy Adams Wikipedia, 2019).

Being the son of a founding father greatly influenced John Quincy Adam’s life and career choices. Because John Adams was so involved politically, he was rather absent during his son’s upbringing and left this responsibility to his wife (Abigail Adams).

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This trend would only continue once John Adams joined the revolutionary war. John Quincy Adams spend a large amount of his late childhood in fear for his family’s safety during the war and would effectively become the “head of the house.” During his early adulthood, John Quincy Adams traveled with his father to Paris (in 1780) and eventually studied at the Passy Academy. He would spend the next few years moving around Europe. At age 14, he took a break from school to take a job in St. Petersburg as a translator and personal assistant. Finally, in 1785 Quincy Adams moved back to America and finished his degree at Harvard College (John Quincy Adams: Life Before the Presidency, 2017).

According to Wikipedia, “In 1794, Washington appointed Adams as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands; Adams considered declining the role but ultimately took the position at the advice of his father. (John Quincy Adams Wikipedia, 2019)” Quincy Adams was only a few years into his legal career when he received this offer, and as stated above, was hesitant. However, this opportunity launched Adams’ career as a political figure. 5 years later he became the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal. (John Quincy Adams Wikipedia, 2019).

Adams ran for president as a Republican. At this point in history, republicans were the only party. However, according to, “Republican–sectionalism and factionalism were developing, and each section put up its own candidate for the Presidency. (John Quincy Adams The White House, 2019)” Officially, additional political parties had not formed yet but this certainly foreshadowed what was to come. Andrew Jackson, Adams’s adversary, was victorious according to the popular vote, but none of the candidates were victorious according to the Electoral College. So, the House of Representatives stepped in to make a final call on the elections results. Henry Clay, who appears to be what we would consider today a “swing vote,” was the vote that Adams needed to be in his favor to clutch the presidency. In 1796, Adams became president (John Quincy Adams The White House, 2019).

John Quincy Adams drew inspiration from the legacy of his father during his political career and presidency. He pushed for infrastructure legislation to build more roads and canals for easy of transport between states. He funded many educational endeavors, including an intuition and a science observatory (John Quincy Adams The White House, 2019). He even attempted to push for designated land for Native Americans in the west, but this idea was unsuccessful with congress (Editors, 2009). Despite his push for change, his presidency was tainted with corruption accusations pertaining to the election of 1796, by none other than Andrew Jackson. Many members of congress supported Andrew Jackson’s point of view, thus making it challenging for Adams to accomplish much more than what was previously mentioned (Editors, 2009). He lost the following election, but remained active in the House of Representatives. Despite pushback from his southern colleagues, Adams remained opposed to legislation that prohibited discussion of the “petition of slavery.” Many years of resistance from Adams would eventually lead to this laws appeal (John Quincy Adams The White House, 2019).

Adams’s health began to decline in the late 1840s. He suffered a stroke while attending a house session which lead to his death only a few days later. Despite the political controversy that surrounded his election, Adams remained true to his own beliefs and morals, even if he was unable to act on them (John Quincy Adams The White House, 2019).


  1. “John Quincy Adams.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Mar. 2019,
  2. “John Quincy Adams: Life Before the Presidency.” Miller Center, 20 June 2017,
  3. “John Quincy Adams.” The White House, The United States Government, 5 Mar. 2019,
  4. Editors, “John Quincy Adams.”, A&E Television Networks, 27 Oct. 2009,
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American History: John Quincy Adams. (2020, Apr 09). Retrieved from