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John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)


John Quincy Adams, the second child and eldest son of John and Abigail (Smith) Adams, was born July 11, 1767. As a young boy Adams accompanied his father on his diplomatic missions to Europe, where he attended school and university before returning to America. He graduated from Harvard College in 1787 and went on to practice law in Boston. His diplomatic career began in 1794, when President Washington appointed him minister to the Netherlands. In London in 1797, he married Louisa Catherine Johnson, the daughter of the U.S. consul there. Adams served with distinction in a number of capacities, both abroad and at home, including an appointment as secretary of state in the administration of Pres. James Monroe (1817–1825).

Adams's one term as president (1825–1829) was not so successful. He struggled as a minority president and received little support for an ambitious program of national improvements. Although he was defeated for reelection in 1828 by rival Andrew Jackson, Adams soon returned to national politics as a Massachusetts representative, serving in Congress from 1831 to 1848. He became an increasingly vocal opponent of slavery and its expansion; in 1841 he defended the Amistad captives before the Supreme Court. On February 21, 1848, Adams collapsed at his seat in the House and was carried to the Speaker's Room in the Capitol, where he died on February 23.

For more information about the Adamses and an extended biography of John Quincy Adams, please visit The Adams Papers on the MHS website. You can also read his March 29, 1841, diary entry about the Amistad case.

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