The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Making History: Boston's Bicentennial

On September 17, 1830, Boston celebrated the bicentennial of its settlement. Such a noteworthy occasion would hardly be complete without the presence of one of the state’s leading families, particularly a former president. Thus, John Quincy Adams was invited to participate in the commemoration events held in Boston that day. Before meeting with the other members of the parade at the State House, John stopped by to see if his son Charles Francis Adams was in his Boston office and would join him. Charles, however, was not there but at his home in Medford. He reported in his diary entry for the day, “As this was the day destined for the Celebration of the Anniversary of the settlement of Boston, and about to produce a tremendous consequent fuss I thought it would be expedient for me to have nothing whatever to do with it. I have a great horror of Crowds, and if I make up my mind to attend public days always have cause to repent it.”

A grand procession of city and state officials as well as Boston residents marched through Boston Common and down Tremont and State Street to Old South Church. There the President of Harvard University and former Boston mayor, Josiah Quincy III, gave an oration that John Quincy Adams considered, “worthy of the subject and received with universal approbation” and a number of songs were sung in celebration of the city. The music included a rewrite of Great Britain’s “God Save the King” with new lyrics by Rev. John Pierpont and Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” The group processed back to the State House. That evening, fireworks were set off over the common and John Quincy attended a party hosted by Lieutenant Governor Thomas Winthrop.

The momentous occasion also included the first hints of a historic event on the horizon—Adams’s election to the House of Representatives. Before returning to Quincy for the evening, a number of gentlemen at the party approached Adams to discuss an article which ran in the September 6, 1830 issue of the Boston Courier, which suggested that Adams be nominated for the Plymouth congressional district of which Quincy was a part. John Quincy was initially dismissive of the idea: “As the Editor of the Paper has been uniformly hostile to me, I supposed this nomination was made with the same Spirit, and did not imagine it was seriously thought of by any one.” Serious it was though, and two months later, President John Quincy Adams was representative-elect Adams—the first and only president to serve in Congress after his presidency.


permalink | Published: Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 12:00 AM


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