George P.A. Healy
John Quincy Adams, 1858
Oil on canvas
62 x 47 in.
White House Collection/White House Historical Association


John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
The son of a president, born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1767, John Quincy Adams in many respects paralleled the career, as well as the temperament and viewpoints, of his illustrious father. Serving under President Monroe, Adams was one of America’s great secretaries of state, arranging with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon country, obtaining from Spain the cession of the Floridas, and formulating with the president the Monroe Doctrine.
In the political tradition of the early 19th century, Adams as secretary of state was considered the political heir to the presidency. But the old ways of choosing a president were giving way in 1824 before the clamor for a popular choice. Within the one and only party, sectionalism was developing, and each section put up its own candidate for the presidency. Since no candidate received a majority of electoral votes, the election was decided by the House of Representatives in favor of Adams.
In his first annual message, Adams proposed that the federal government bring the sections together with a network of highways and canals and that it develop and conserve the public domain, using funds from the sale of public lands. Adams also urged the United States to take a lead in the development of the arts and sciences through the establishment of a national university, the financing of scientific expeditions, and the erection of an observatory.
After his defeat in the campaign of 1828, Adams returned to Massachusetts, and in 1830 the Plymouth district elected him to the House of Representatives. In 1848, “Old Man Eloquent” collapsed on the floor of the House from a stroke and was carried to the Speaker’s Room, where two days later he died.


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