Jun 24

John Quincy Adams

by in American Presidents

Our 6th president: 1825-1829


Just the Facts:

  •  John Quincy Adams was the son of our second President, John Adams
  •  He was the only president to marry a foreigner – his wife Louisa was English.
  •  He was the first President to have his photograph taken.
  •  His nickname was “Old Man Eloquent”
  •  He served under all 5 presidents before him.
  •  He didn’t like being president and said it was “the four most miserable years of my life.”
  •  He liked to play pool and write poetry.
  •  He had a pet alligator, which was given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette.


His Life:  

John Quincy Adams was the son of our second president, John Adams.  He grew up on the family farm in Braintree, Massachusetts (just south of Boston).  JQA (as he referred to himself) learned a lot from his father – he was his fathers secretary at age 11, while they lived in Europe.  He went on to become a diplomat himself, representing America in the Netherlands, Prussia (now Germany), England, and Russia.  He was enormously well-respected for his diplomacy work.


JQA also served as Secretary of State for James Monroe – some people think he’s the greatest Secretary of State that America has ever had.  He negotiated the purchase of Florida from Spain and actually wrote some of the famous Monroe Doctrine.


His Presidency:  

The election of 1824 was hotly contested.  John Quincy Adams became president even though he didn’t have the most votes (Andrew Jackson actually won more votes than Adams). Since no candidate won at least 50% of the votes, the House of Representatives made the decision, and the House chose Adams.  After he won, Adams appointed Henry Clay (Speaker of the House) to the position of Secretary of State – people called it the “Corrupt Bargain.”


JQA wasn’t a particularly popular president – many thought he was a little cranky.  People liked his wife, Louisa, however – she was kind and threw great parties.  In fact, he didn’t really like being President and many of his initiatives failed.  Adams tried to create a national system for infrastructure such as roads and canals, a national university and bank, but was a little ahead of his time.  He didn’t win re-election – Andrew Jackson finally beat him.  Adams was more successful as a representative in Congress than a president – he represented Massachusetts in the House of Representatives for 17 years.


His Family: 

JQA met his wife, Louisa, while in England.  They got married in England while he was living there as the American ambassador.  They had three children (she was pregnant 19 times!) – one of their sons was named “George Washington.”   Louisa loved to sing and play the harp.  She also raised silkworms – she used their silk for her gowns!  JQA loved to garden, play pool and write poetry.  He was also a big swimmer – he swam nearly every day in the Potomac River at 5 am (he swam naked!).  JQA could swim over an hour without stopping for a rest.

JQA never officially retired – he died while serving in the House of Representatives.  In fact, he collapsed on the floor of the House and passed away in a cloak room within the Capitol building.  Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln served as a pallbearer at JQA’s funeral.

Famous Quotes:

“If you actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”


Want to learn more?

Take a virtual tour of his birthplace and farm, now the Adams National Historic Park at http://www.nps.gov/adam/index.htm

Learn about plans for an Adams Memorial in Washington DC at http://adamsmemorial.org

Learn more at one of these websites:




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