Muscatine County Iowa

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1889, page 39


JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, the sixth President of the United States, was born in the rural home of his honored father, John Adams, in Quincy, Mass., on the 11th of July, 1767. His mother, a woman of exalted worth, watched over his childhood during the almost constant absence of his father. When but eight years of age, he stood with his mother on an eminence, listening to the booming of the great battle on Bunker's Hill, and gazing on upon the smoke and flames billowing up from the conflagration of Charlestown.

When but eleven years old, he took a tearful adieu of his mother, to sail with his father for Europe, through a fleet of hostile British cruisers. The bright animated boy spent a year and a half in Paris, where his father was associated with Franklin and Lee as minister plenipotentiary. His intelligence attracted the notice of these distinguished men, and he received from them flattering marks of attention.

Mr. John Adams had scarcely returned to this country, in 1779, ere he was again sent abroad. Again John Quincy accompanied his father. At Paris he applied himself with great diligence, for six months, to study ; then accompanied his father to Holland, where he entered, first a school in Amsterdam, then the University at Leyden. About a year from this time, in 1781, when the manly boy was but fourteen years of age, he was selected by Mr. Dana, our minister to the Russian court, as his private secretary.

In this school of incessant labor and of enobling culture he spent fourteen months, and then returned to Holland through Sweden, Denmark, Hamburg and Bremen. This long journey he took alone, in the winter, when in his sixteenth year. Again he resumed his studies, under a private tutor, at Hague. Thence in the spring of 1782, he accompanied his father to Paris, traveling leisurely, and forming acquaintance with the most distinguished men on the Continent ; examining architectural remains, galleries of paintings, and all renowned works of art. At Paris he again became associated with the most illustrious men of all lands in the contemplations of the loftiest temporal themes which can engross the human mind. After a short visit to England he returned to Paris, and consecrated all his energies to study until May, 1785,when he returned to America. To a brilliant young man of eighteen, who had seen much of the world, and who was familiar with the etiquette of courts, a residence with his father in London, under such circumstances, must have been extremely attractive ; but with judgment very rare in one of his age, he preferred to return to America to complete his education in an American college. He wished then to study law, that with an honorable profession, he might be able to obtain an independent support.

Upon leaving Harvard College, at the age of twenty, he studied law for three years. In June,1794, being then but twenty-seven years of age, he was appointed by Washington, resident minister of the Netherlands. Sailing from Boston in July, he reached London in October, where he was immediately admitted to the deliberations of Messrs. Jay and Pinckney, assisting them in negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain. After thus spending a fortnight in London, he proceeded to the Hague.

In July, 1797, he left the Hague to go to Portugal as minister plenipotentiary. On his way to Portugal on arriving in London, he was met with despatches directing him to the court of Berlin, but requesting him to remain in London until he should receive his instructions. While waiting he was married to an American lady to whom he had been previously engaged,--Miss Louisa Catherine Johnson, daughter of Mr. Joshua Johnson, American consul in London ; a lady endowed with that beauty and those accomplishments which eminently fitted her to move in the elevated sphere for which she was destined.

He reached Berlin with his wife in November, 1797; where he remained until July, 1799, when having fulfilled all the purposes of his mission, he solicited his recall.

Soon after his return, in 1802, he was chosen to the Senate of Massachusetts, from Boston, and then was elected Senator of the United States for six years, from the 4th of March, 1804. His reputation, his ability and his experience, placed him immediately among the most prominent and influential members of that body. Especially did he sustain the Government in its measures of resistance to the encroachments of England, destroying our commerce and insulting our flag. There was no man in America more familiar with the arrogance of the British court upon these points, and no one more resolved to present a firm resistance.

In 1809 Madison succeeded Jefferson in the Presidential chair, and he immediately nominated John Quincy Adams minister to St. Petersburg. Resigning his professorship in Harvard College, he embarked at Boston, in August, 1809.

While in Russia Mr. Adams was an intense student. He devoted his attention to the language and history of Russia; to the Chinese trade; to the European system of weights, measures and coins; to the climate and astronomical observations; while he kept up a familiar acquaintance with the Greek and Latin classics. In all the universities of Europe, a more accomplished scholar could scarcely be found. All through life the Bible constituted an important part of his studies. It was his rule to read five chapters every day.

On the fourth of March, 1817, Mr. Monroe took the Presidential chair, and immediately appointed Mr. Adams Secretary of State. Taking leave of his numerous friends in public and private life in Europe, he sailed in June, 1819, for the United States. On the 18th of August, he again crossed the threshold of his home in Quincy. During the eight years of Mr. Monroe's administration, Mr. Adams continued Secretary of State.

Sometime before the close of Mr. Monroe's second term of office, new candidates began to be presented for the Presidency. The friends of Mr. Adams brought forward his name. It was an exciting campaign. Party spirit was never more bitter. Two hundred and sixty electoral votes were cast. Andrew Jackson received ninety-nine; John Quincy Adams, eighty-four; William H. Crawford, forty-one; Henry Clay, thirty-seven. As there was no choice by the people, the question went to the House of Representatives. Mr. Clay gave the vote of Kentucky to Mr Adams, and he was elected.

The friends of all the disappointed candidates now combined in a venomous and persistent assault upon Mr. Adams. There is nothing more disgraceful in the past history of our country than the abuse which was poured in one uninterrupted stream upon this high-minded, upright, patriotic man. There never was an administration more pure in principles, more conscientiously devoted to the best interests of the country, then that of John Quincy Adams; and never, perhaps, was there an administration more unscrupulously and outrageously assailed.

Mr. Adams was, to a very remarkable degree, always rising early, and taking much exercise, When at his home in Quincy, he has been known to walk, before breakfast, seven miles to Boston. In Washington, it was said that he was the first man up in the city, lighting his own fire and applying himself to work in his library often long before dawn.

On the 4th day of March, 1829, Mr. Adams retired from the Presidency, and was succeeded by Andrew Jackson. John C. Calhoun was elected Vice President. The slavery question now began to assume portentous magnitude. Mr. Adams returned to Quincy and to his studies, which he pursued with unabated zeal. But he was not long permitted to remain in retirement. In November, 1830, he was elected representative to Congress. For seventeen years, until his death, he occupied the post as representative, towering above all his peers, ever ready to do brave battle' for freedom, and winning the title of " the old man eloquent." Upon taking his seat in the House, he announced that he should hold himself bound to no party. Probably there never was a member more devoted to his duties. He was usually the first in his place in the morning, and the last to leave his seat in the evening. Not a measure could be brought forward and escape his scrutiny. The battle which Mr. Adams fought, almost singly, against the proslavery party in the Government, was sublime in its moral daring and heroism. For persisting in presenting petitions for the abolition of slavery, he was threatened with indictment by the grand jury, with expulsion from the House, with assissination; but no threats could intimidate him, and his final triumph was complete.

It has been said of President Adams, that when his body was bent and his hair silvered by the lapse of fourscore years, yielding to the simple faith of a little child, he was accustomed to repeat every night, before he slept, the prayer which his mother taught him in his infant years.

On the 21st of February,1848, he rose on the floor of Congress, with a paper in his hand, to address the speaker. Suddenly he fell, again stricken by paralysis, and was caught in the arms of those around him. For a time he was senseless, as he was conveyed to the sofa in the rotunda. With reviving consciousness, he opened his eyes, looked calmly around and said, "This is the end of the earth;" then after a moments pause he added, " I am content." These were the last words of the grand " Old Man Eloquent."

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