Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ADAMS, John Quincy, president of the United States 1825-29, eldest son of John Adams, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, July 11, 1767, and died in Washington, Feb. 23, 1848. He was graduated at Harvard in 1788, was admitted to the bar in 1791, and in 1794, by Washington's appointment, became minister to the Hague. In 1803 he was chosen, as a federalist, United States senator from Massachusetts. In 1803 his support of the embargo was censured by his state legislature, and he at once resigned and went over to the opposite party, by which he was made minister to Russia and (in 1815) to Great Britain. In 1817 he became secretary of state under Monroe. In 1825 he was chosen president (see DISPUTED ELECTIONS, II.) His support came mainly from the same commercial and business interests which had formed the federal party, but which now, while accepting, without any thought of dissimulation, the republican name, retained all the federalist tendencies. He received but a few (6) scattering electoral votes from the south and west, and these two sections united in a determined opposition to him, which lasted through his administration, and in the next election (1828) was successful in gaining over the middle states and overthrowing Adams, as his father had been overthrown. (See DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY, II., III.; FEDERAL PARTY, II. Adams has been blamed in part for his own defeat, on the score of his action in raking up, in 1828, the embers of a former charge of secessionist designs against the federalist leaders of New England (see SECESSION, I.; EMBARGO); but as he received the solid New England vote in 1828, the causes of his defeat are evidently to be sought elsewhere.


—Adams retired, but not to permanent private life. His anti-federalist action above mentioned cut him off from all hopes of advancement at the hands of the national republican party in Massachusetts, but the anti-masons (see ANTI-MASONRY, I.) of his district sent him to congress in 1881, and he was regularly re-elected until his death, seventeen years after. In congress he was his own party, and became one of the most prominent members of the house. He opposed or supported the democratic administrations with absolute independence, and when the abolitionist petitions were cut off by the passage of "gagrules" (see PETITION,) he fought the obnoxious rules for years. In February, 1836, on the second of Pinckney's resolutions (see SLAVERY,) that congress had no constitutional right to interfere with slavery in the states, which was carried by a vote of 201 to 7, Adams voted in the minority, and defended his vote by a full, though hypothetical, statement of the war powers of the federal government, under which slavery was eventually abolished. In February, 1837, for asking permission to offer a petition from a number of slaves, he was threatened with the censure of the house, but rode out the storm successfully. In 1839-40, he was counsel for the slaves in the Amistad case. In the course of this series of anti-slavery labors, he gradually drifted into co-operation with the abolitionists (see ABOLITION,) though in his mind his abolitionist warfare seems to have been only an incidental feature in his nationalizing struggle against the overbearing particularism, developed by slavery, of southern leaders. In this sense his work was unfortunate in being 20 years before its time, and he may be considered as a republican of 1856, developed 20 years too early, and almost equally distasteful to both whigs and democrats. He died almost in harness, having fallen from his seat in the house through a paralytic stroke, from whose effects he died two days afterwards.


—See W. H. Seward's Life of John Quincy Adams; C. F. Adams' Memoirs of John Quincy Adams; Quincy's Memoir of John Quincy Adams; and authorities under articles referred to.


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