President of the United States. Specifically it will discuss the life of President John Quincy Adams. The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams was the first son of a former president Americans elected to the office. Historians do not see him as one of America's most outstanding presidents -- he faced adversaries and controversy while he served in office. However, looking back, he was a remarkable man and leader, who literally died on the floor of the House of Representatives, dedicating his entire life to serving the American people.
John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Adams, and he grew up when America was at war with England, fighting for American independence. Some of his earliest memories include watching the Battle of Bunker Hill with his mother (Lipsky 7). By the time he was eleven years old he was accompanying his father to Europe for diplomatic missions. He was always a serious young man, and he seemed much older than his years.
Young Adams received an excellent education. Both of his parents were well educated and they passed this interest in learning on to their son. While in Europe with his father, he studied linguistics, specifically ancient and modern languages that would help him a great deal in his later career as a diplomat and statesman. Throughout his young life, he attended schools in Paris, Amsterdam, and he briefly attended the University of Leiden. Historian George A. Lipsky notes of his education, "it was broad and cosmopolitan but acquired an order and a system only by virtue of his precocious intelligence and diligent application to scholarship under the guidance of a unique father" (Lipsky 8). At a young age, he saw the peace treaty signed between England and the United States, and he socialized with people like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Thus, his education was long, strong, and highly unusual. He always took an interest in economics and politics, so it is not surprising that his career included sixty years in public service. In 1787, he graduated from Harvard University.
After his graduation from Harvard University, young Adams studied law, just as his father had. He was admitted to the bar in 1790 and had a legal office in Boston. However, his law practice was never very successful, and he spent more time writing and publishing essays on a variety of topics than he did practicing law. This, and his background, seemed to push him more and more toward a political life.
His entire family life and education literally led him into politics. He began his political career at the age of fourteen when he served as the private secretary to Francis Dana, the American representative to Russia. He stayed in Russia until 1872, when he returned to Sweden and his family. He also served as secretary to his father. His law practice never took off, and in 1794, President Washington appointed him as minister to the Netherlands, where he had studied as a boy. He later served as minister to the Berlin Court and the Prussian minister. This helped lay the groundwork for his political career. After his term as Prussian minister, he returned to the United States and ran for Massachusetts State Legislature. He was elected in 1802, and in 1803, the Legislators appointed him to the United States Senate. He beat a fellow legislator, Timothy Pickering, and this began a lifelong feud between the two men. During his tenure in the Senate, he also began to disagree with President Jefferson's policies and politics, but he was one of the few Federalists to support Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase, which alienated him from his party (Editors). Adams left the Federalist Party and joined the Republicans. He was never again associated with the Federalists, and this caused animosity between him and his former colleagues, too. In fact, after his support of Jefferson, the legislature failed to return him to the Senate, and he again began working as a diplomat overseas (Lipsky 14, Editors).
Adams was interested in a wide variety of issues, and since his education had been so diverse, this is not surprising. He was quite interested in foreign relations because of all the time he spent throughout his life in Europe. He was also quite interested in social problems and social concerns of the time. He followed the French Revolution with great interest, and he was not a fan of politics, which hampered him in his later career. He was a nationalist and he believed in self-sufficiency, moral laws, restraint, and equality. He also saw the nation as an important player in world politics. He was also anti-slavery.
Adams' presidential campaign was interesting for a number of reasons. He ran against three other men, and the election of 1824 was the first where the people's vote actually played a part in the election. "Sixteen states had moved to choose presidential electors by popular vote while six still left the choice up to the state legislature" (Editors). Adams ran against former Secretary of War William H. Crawford of Georgia, Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, and General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. The campaign was severe and trying for all the men. General Jackson led the popular vote with Adams second. However, Jackson did not have enough votes in the Electoral College, and the House of Representatives actually elected the President. Henry Clay, House Speaker and third in the popular election, tossed his support to Adams and he won the House election by a mere one vote. Later, he appointed Henry Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson, bitter about his defeat, quit the House and vowed to beat Adams in 1828 (Editors).
Adams concentrated on domestic improvements and manufacture during his campaign. He knew American was an industrial nation and must build up this industry in order to survive. He also wanted to unite the country to make it stronger at home and abroad. Unfortunately, during his second campaign against Jackson, he also began to attack Jackson personally -- at least one time during the campaign Jackson's wife was called an "adulteress" (Editors). Thus, Adams did not understand the nuances of politics and popularity with the people, and consistently made mistakes during his campaign and his administration that the people would remember.
Adams wanted to create a stronger America. He proposed a series of roads and canals to help bring the country together. He wanted more education for the nation's children. He felt all people were equal, and did not approve of slavery. His inaugural address stated, "the will of the people is the source, and the happiness of the people the end, of all legitimate government on earth'" (Seward 202). Throughout his administration, domestic production and unity were two of his most important issues. Historian Seward continues he worked hard, "To encourage home labor -- to protect our infant manufactories from a fatal competition with foreign pauper wages -- to foster and build up in the bosom of the country a system of domestic production" (Seward 207). Thus, Adams always wanted to serve the people, and it that, he was extremely successful.
9. What were some of his foreign concerns and were they successful?
Adams had a variety of foreign concerns because of his many years of service overseas. Some of his concerns were French Independence and forging stronger bonds between foreign governments and the United States. Historian Seward continues,
During the four years of his administration, more treaties were negotiated at Washington than during the entire thirty-six years through which the preceding administrations had extended. New treaties of amity, navigation and commerce, were concluded with Austria, Sweden, Denmark, the Hanseatic League, Prussia, Colombia, and Central America Commercial difficulties and various arrangements of a satisfactory character, were settled with the Netherlands, and other European Governments (Seward 208).
If domestic policies were his weak point, foreign policies were his strong point, and he built up excellent relationships with a variety of nations during his tenure as President.
Adams' administration was not as successful as it could have been. He only served one term, from 1825 to 1829, and he lost his reelection bid to Andrew Jackson. In fact, Jackson began deriding Adams almost as soon as his election by the House was over. He suggested corruption between Clay and Adams, and the charges were eventually dropped, but Jackson's questioning creating questions in many American's minds, too. Many people found the President moody, difficult, and grouchy, to say the least. His administration was hampered by Congress in many of things it wanted to do, such as expand roads, canals, and education for the masses. Adams believed in equality for all, and tried to raise money to see his dreams become a reality. He created a tariff in 1828 that people dubbed the "Abominable Tariff." It was not a smart move, as his popularity with voters fell just when he needed it most.