Childhood & Early Life
John Quincy Adams was the eldest son of John Adams (second President of the United States) and Abigail Adams (second, first lady of the country).
He completed his initial education from a private academy located in the outskirts of Paris and later enrolled at the Leiden University, from where he matriculated on January 10, 1781.
As a child he, accompanied his father on various diplomatic missions, hence was groomed well for public service.
As a youth, from 1781 to 1782, he served as the private secretary, as well as, interpreter to U.S. Minister to Russia, Francis Dana.
In 1787, he graduated in Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and later in 1790, earned an A.M. from Harvard.
Between 1787 and 1789, he completed his apprenticeship as an attorney with Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
In 1791, he was admitted to the bar and thereafter started his law practice in Boston.
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Adams early diplomatic career, away from his father’s shadow, started in 1794, when he was appointed as the minister to the Netherlands, by the then President, George Washington.
In 1797, he was posted as the minister plenipotentiary to Berlin; however, he returned to America at the behest of his father, who had lost his presidential bid in 1800.
In April 1802, he won the elections and became a member of the Massachusetts State Senate.
After serving a year in the State Senate, in 1803 Adams was elected by the Massachusetts General Court as its representative to the U.S. Senate, a post that he served on from March 4, 1803 to 1808.
As a Senator, in 1807 he supported the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo, which was a stand much different from the Federalist Party lines.
His independent stand from the party ideology cost Adams his seat in the Senate.
In 1809, he was appointed as the first ever minister plenipotentiary to Russia, by President James Madison.
Next five years, Adams stayed in St. Petersburg, with his wife and youngest son. From there, in 1812 he reported on the Napoleon’s ambitious escapade across Europe and his failed attempt to conquer Russia.
In 1812, the United States declared war against Great Britain, Adams tried to broker a deal between the two nations through Russian intermediation.
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The impasse between America and Great Britain continued, hence he was recalled to U.S. in 1814, so that he could negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which he did successfully. This ended the War of 1812.
In 1815, he was appointed as the U.S. representative to Great Britain, a position he held till 1817.
In 1817, he returned to America and was appointed as the Secretary of State, by President Monroe.
During his tenure as the Secretary of State, he played an instrumental role in formulating various international and domestic policies. He was the chief negotiator of the 1819 Transcontinental Treaty with Spain.
In 1821, the authoritative Report on Weights and Measures presented before the Congress was another of his major accomplishments. Besides this, he was also one of the key members behind the development of 1823 Monroe Doctrine
His run for the presidency in 1824 did not culminate in a unanimous victory, he became a minority president and his term extended from March 4, 1825, to March 4, 1829.
As president he wanted to boost the infrastructural growth of the country, by building, road and canal system, but being in minority undermined his zealous efforts.
Despite all the difficulties, he was able to phenomenally bring down the national debt from $16 million to $5 million, during his short presidential term, which ended in 1829, since he lost his reelection bid.
He did not retire from politics, after his defeat, instead contested the 1830 elections and won a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
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He remained a member of the Congress from 1831 to 1848. During this time he became a vociferous opponent of slavery and also opposed the Mexican war and Texan annexation. He stayed active in politics till his last breath.
Personal Life & Legacy
John Quincy Adams tied the knot with Louisa Catherine Johnson, daughter of rich American merchant in London. The couple had one daughter and three sons.
He died at the age of 80, while he was attending the proceedings of the House of Representatives, after he collapsed and was taken to the Speaker’s Room in the Capitol.
One of the most significant legacies of Adams is his extensive personal journal, which spreads over 50 massive volumes. It was started by him when he was 11 years old and he continued to write till his death.
As the sixth President of the United States, he envisioned a grand plan for national improvements, in which he wanted to garner federal support for the development in the field arts and sciences.
In the 1997 film Amistad, his character was played by Anthony Hopkins and once again in 2008, a mini-series based on his life was showcased by HBO.
His personal journals were kept under lock and key until 1951. It was then, when the unedited copies were released for the general public by his great grandsons.
He is at times referred to as the father of Smithsonian, which was established in 1846.
He regularly violated the gag rule, which prohibited the presentation of antislavery petitions.