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Biography of John Quincy Adams


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JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, sixth president of the United States, and eldest son of President John Adams, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on the 11th of July, 1767. John Adams having been appointed ambassador to France, took with him his son, John Quincy, then in his 11th year. Placed in a school near Paris, he made rapid progress both in the French language and his general studies. Two years later he went with his father on a diplomatic mission to Holland. When his father was appointed minister to Great Britain, he accompanied the family to London. Soon after he returned home, and entered the junior class at Harvard College. He graduated in 1788, and at once entered upon the study of law in the office of Theophilus Parsons, afterwards chief justice of Massachusetts. In 1791, he began the practice of law in Boston. In May 1794, Washington appointed him minister to the Hague. Shortly before the close of Washington's administration, he was appointed minister to Portugal; but his father on becoming president, changed his destination to Berlin. In this promotion of his own son, John Adams acted on the written advice of Washington, who expressed the decided opinion that young Adams was the ablest person in the American diplomatic service, and that merited promotion ought not to be withheld from him merely because he was the president's son. In 1800, he travelled through Silesia, of which, country he gave a description in his letters, which were first published in the Portfolio, a Philadelphia journal. They were afterwards published in book form in London, and being translated into French and German, had a wide circulation. In his political views Adams perfectly agreed with his father, and consequently he was recalled from Berlin on the accession of Jefferson to the presidency. On his return he was engaged as professor of rhetoric in Harvard University; but he soon left his academic post to engage again in politics, and was chosen senator from Massachusetts in 1803. He soon became prominent as a leader of the federal party; but on the question of the embargo, recommended by Jefferson, he separated from them. By Madison, Mr. Adams was sent as minister to Russia, and afterwards to England. On this embassy he took part in the negotiations of peace with England, and assisted by his counsel the deputies sent by the United States to Ghent. When Monroe was elected president, he recalled Adams from Europe, and made him Secretary of State. On the retirement of Monroe, Adams gained the presidency, after a hard contest against Jackson - being elected by the House of Representatives, in February 1825. He now had to strive against Democratic majorities, and a coalition of his enemies, who with bitter hostility brought against him the unsustained charge of corrupt collusion with Henry Clay. Upon the election of General Jackson as president, Adams retired to his estate at Quincy; but in 1830, he was elected to Congress from his district. He now took strong ground in opposition to slavery, and frequently excited the whole House of Representatives against himself by his unceasing petitions on the slavery question. On one occasion (in 1842), in order to assert strongly in the abstract the right of petition, he went so far as to present a petition for the dissolution of the union! This was misunderstood and used against him. His long congressional career, which continuedu ntil his death in 1848, constituted the most useful and influential period of his life. On the 21st of February, 1848, he was stricken with paralysis, while occupying his seat in the House. He was taken to the speaker's private room, where he remained in a state of unconsciousness, though with occasional incohorent utterances, until the 23rd, when he expired. His last words are said to have been, "This is the last of earth; I am content."