John Q. Adams

On this date in 1767, John Q. Adams was born in Massachusetts. He witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill from above his family's farm, and accompanied his father to a mission in France at the age of 12. Adams studied in France and later at the University of Leyden in Holland. He graduated from Harvard at 26, and began a career as lawyer, professor, writer and diplomat. He was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1802, and became a U.S. Senator in 1803. He spent several years as minister to Russia under President Madison. He was one of the negotiators of peace with England in 1814, then served as minister to England until President Monroe appointed him Secretary of State. Adams authored the Monroe Doctrine and helped negotiate acquisition of important territories, such as the Floridas. During his candidacy for U.S. president, no candidate--Andrew Jackson, Adams, W.H. Crawford or Henry Clay--received a majority of votes. Although Adams was in second-place, the House of Representatives, with Clay's support, elected Adams president. As president, he proposed a network of highways, the financing of scientific experiments and the building of an observatory. He was defeated in 1828, but returned to Congress in 1830 and held his seat until his death in 1848. His distinguished career there, earning him the sobriquet of "Old Man Eloquent," included his advocacy for the right of petition of abolitionist societies. He battled for eight years and finally succeeded in ending a Southern-imposed gag rule automatically tabling petitions against slavery. Adams collapsed from a stroke on the floor of the U.S. House, and died two days later in the Speaker's room. Like his father, John Adams, the second president, John Q. Adams was a Unitarian. Adams was critical of Sabbatarians and preachers who "rave and rant and talk nonsense for an hour together" in sermons (Diary, Life in a New England Town, 1787-1788). D. 1848.

“This young fellow, who was possessed of most violent passions, which he with great difficulty can command, and of unbounded ambition, which he conceals perhaps, even to himself, has been seduced into that bigoted, illiberal system of religion, which, by professing vainly to follow purely the dictates of the Testament, in vain contradicts the whole doctrine of the New Testament, and destroys all the boundaries between good and evil, between right and wrong. But, like all the followers of that sect, his practise is at open variance with his theory. When I observe into what inconsistent absurdities those persons run who make speculative, metaphysical religion a matter of importance, I am fully determined never to puzzle myself in the mazes of religious discussion, to content myself with practising the dictates of God and reason so far as I can judge for myself, . . .”

—John Q. Adams, diary entry, Life in a New England Town, 1787-1788, cited by Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of our Presidents

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Image by By War Department: Office of Chief Signal Officer (National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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