John Quincy Adams

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Adams, John Quincy

Adams, John Quincy, 1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86). He accompanied his father on missions to Europe, gaining broad knowledge from study and travel—he even accompanied (1781–83) Francis Dana to Russia—before returning home to graduate (1787) from Harvard and study law. Washington appointed (1794) him minister to the Netherlands, and in his father's administration he was minister to Prussia (1797–1801).

In 1803 he became a U.S. senator as a Federalist, but his independence led him to approve Jeffersonian policies in the Louisiana Purchase and in the Embargo Act of 1807; the Federalists were outraged, and he resigned (1808). Sent as minister to Russia in 1809, he was well received, but the Napoleonic wars eclipsed Russian-American relations. He then helped to draw up the Treaty of Ghent (1814), and served as minister to Great Britain. As secretary of state (1817–25) under James Monroe, Adams gained enduring fame. He negotiated a major treaty with Spain, which secured for the United States a great expanse of land that stretched to the Pacific. Perhaps most notably, Adams was also the architect of the somewhat misleadingly named Monroe Doctrine (1823).

In 1824 Adams was a candidate for the U.S. presidency. Neither he, nor Andrew Jackson, nor Henry Clay received a majority in the electoral college, and the election was decided in the House of Representatives. There Clay supported Adams, making him president. Adams appointed Clay secretary of state, over the Jacksonians' cry that the appointment fulfilled a corrupt bargain. With little popular support and without a party, Adams had an unhappy, ineffective administration, despite his attempts to institute a broad program of internal improvements.

After Jackson won the 1828 election, Adams retired to Quincy, but returned to new renown as a U.S. representative (1831–48). His eloquence, persistence, and moral forcefulness brought an end (1844) to the House gag rule on debate about slavery, and he attacked all other measures that would extend that institution, as well as Jackson's forced removal of southeastern tribes (1837) and the 1846 invasion of Mexico. Cold and introspective, Adams was not generally popular, but he was respected for his high-mindedness and knowledge. His interest in science led him to promote the Smithsonian Institution.


See his diary (selections ed. by C. F. Adams, 12 vol., 1874–77, repr. 1970; abridged by A. Nevins, 1928 and 1951), a valuable document; The Adams Papers are publishing the definitive version (2 vol., 1981–). Most of his writings were edited by W. C. Ford (7 vol., 1913–17); some appear in The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (ed. by A. Koch and W. Peden, 1946). See also the definitive biography by S. F. Bemis (2 vol., 1949–56) and biographies by J. T. Morse (1883, repr. 1972), B. C. Clark (1932), P. C. Nagel (1997), R. V. Remini (2002), F. Kaplan (2014), and J. Traub (2016); J. T. Adams, The Adams Family (1930); M. B. Hecht, John Quincy Adams: A Personal History of Independence (1972); R. Brookhiser, America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735–1918 (2002).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Adams, John Quincy


Born July 11, 1767; died Feb. 23, 1848. American statesman and diplomat; son of John Adams.

As the first US minister to Russia (1809–14), John Quincy Adams brought about the strengthening of Russian-American relations. From 1815 to 1817 he was US minister to Great Britain and during the period 1817–24 served as secretary of state; Adams was one of the principal authors of the Monroe Doctrine. He was president of the USA from 1825 to 1829, and in the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie he introduced a high protective tariff (1828). This action created discontent among planters and farmers. Later, as a member of Congress, Adams represented the moderate wing of the opponents of slavery.


Memoirs . . . , Comprising Portions of His Diary From 1795–1848, vols. 1–12. Edited by C. F. Adams. Philadelphia, 1874–77.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Adams, John Quincy

(1767–1848) sixth U.S. president; born in Braintree (later Quincy), Mass. (son of John Adams). Reared for public service, he traveled in childhood on his father's diplomatic missions and at age 14 was private secretary to the American envoy at St. Petersburg. In 1787 he graduated from Harvard and was admitted to the bar in 1790. Successively ambassador to the Netherlands, Great Britain, Portugal, and Berlin, he was elected as a Massachusetts Federalist to the U.S. Senate (1803); in 1806, however, his support of Jefferson outraged New England Federalists and he lost his seat in 1808. In 1809 he was ambassador to Russia; in 1814, a member of the commission to negotiate peace with Great Britain; and from 1815 to 1817, ambassador to Great Britain. As a brilliant secretary of state under President Monroe (1817–25), Adams negotiated with Spain the treaty for the acquisition of Florida and wrote a good deal of the "Monroe Doctrine" (1823). In 1824 he won the presidential election over Andrew Jackson, but only after a close vote in the House of Representatives. Cold in manner and too independent to command a following, he was an ineffective president and lost to Jackson in 1828. In 1831 he entered the U.S. House of Representatives where for the rest of his life he was a champion of the antislavery faction. In 1841 he successfully defended the African mutineers of the slave ship Amistad. He suffered a stroke while sitting in the House and died two days later.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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