John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

John Quincy Adams: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! Writings of John Quincy Adams By John Quincy Adams; Worthington Chauncey Ford Macmillan, vol.1, 1913
Librarian's tip: Questia has multiple volumes of the writings of John Quincy Adams
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz By Richard H. Immerman Princeton University Press, 2010
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "John Quincy Adams and America's Tortured Empire"
To Provide for the General Welfare: A History of the Federal Spending Power By Theodore Sky University of Delaware Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "John Quincy Adams's 'Spirit of Improvement'"
John Quincy Adams and American Conservatism By Mattie, Sean Modern Age, Vol. 45, No. 4, Fall 2003
Presidential Campaigns By Paul F. Boller Jr Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. Ten "1824: John Quincy Adams and the 'Corrupt Bargain'" and Chap. Eleven "1828: Jackson vs. Adams"
American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell By Edward S. Mihalkanin Greenwood Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: "John Quincy Adams" begins on p. 20
U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook By Halford Ryan Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: "John Quincy Adams" begins on p. 54
Presidential Anecdotes By Paul F. Boller Jr Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "John Quincy Adams"
John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas By George A. Lipsky Thomas Y. Crowell, 1950
FREE! Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams By Josiah Quincy Phillips, Sampson, 1858
Travel Experience in the Formation of Leadership: John Quincy Adams, Frederick Douglass and Jane Addams By Hunt, James B Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.