John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams, the son of the second President, John Adams, was called "Old Man Eloquent" because of his articulate urbanity. He was a diplomat to several European countries, United States Senator, and Secretary of State under Monroe. He was elected President in the disputed election of 1824 in which he actually ran second in both electoral votes and popular votes to Andrew Jackson. A deal was cooked up in the House of Representatives between Adams and Henry Clay, one of the other defeated candidates, and Adams won the Presidency. He rewarded Clay with the position of Secretary of State. It is unfortunate that a man as honorable as Adams would thus enter the Presidency under a cloud of suspicion.
Adams, like his father, moved from Congregationalist orthodoxy to a moderate form of Unitarianism. He would be considered a conservative Unitarian by today's standards, and it is doubtful that Adams ever moved beyond the Puritan conscience in some aspects of his life. He was a hard taskmaster and was continually critical of his shortcomings. He was very interested in the Bible. In one of his diaries he noted, "I have made it a practice for several years to read the Bible through in the course of every year. I usually devote to this reading the first hour after I rise every morning. My rule is to read five chapters each morning." When he was President, his diary revealed that he had cut this reading down to three chapters, in the Bible with a good commentary. He frequently wrote letters to his son on the Bible and its teachings, and a volume of these letters was published after his death.
Like other early Presidents, however, Adams frequently attended the Episcopal Church. On July 26, 1797) his diary matter-of-factly noted that on that day he was married at the Church of the Parish of All Hallows in London. Adams was married in the Church of England and was our first President to be married abroad. (Theodore Roosevelt's second marriage also occurred in London.)
One writer notes: "Religious faith was the foundation of his character, the source of his energy of conscience and conviction...." In one of Adams' diaries he noted, "Religious sentiments become from day to day more constantly habitual to my mind." His opposition to slavery arose primarily from his religious views. He called slavery "that outrage upon the goodness of God." While in Washington, he did not attend church regularly, because there was no Unitarian or, as he called it, "Independent Congregational" church to attend. He was a man of great character and integrity.
He was essentially a man without a party, because he considered himself an Independent, politically. He broke with his Massachusetts constituents over the Embargo Bill of President Jefferson in Congress. Adams favored the bill and voted for it though he realized it might end his political career. John F. Kennedy, in his PROFILES IN COURAGE, hailed Adams' decision as one of the most courageous in American history. Adams was denied his re-election to the U. S. Senate because of this, but the voters evidently liked him and he carried his State handily twice in the Presidential election.
Unlike most former Presidents, Adams did not just fade away after being defeated for re-election by Andrew Jackson. He decided it would be a great honor to seek a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He did so successfully and held the seat for eighteen years, dying on the floor of the House in his 8lst year. He suffered a stroke at his desk in the chamber and died a few moments later in the Speaker's Room. Perhaps we can best remember Adams by something he wrote shortly before he left the White House. He was disappointed in defeat, but not bitter. He wrote, "Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
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