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John Quincy Adams, Our 6th President

By Ruth Browning

John Quincy Adams was born July 11, 1767, in Braintree, Massachusetts, to John and Abigail Adams. As a seven year old, he watched the battle of Bunker Hill from the top of Penn’s Hill above the family farm. Much of his youth was spent accompanying his father John Adams on overseas trips. The senior John served as an American envoy to France and later to the Netherlands. John Q. became fluent in a number of languages and was much more educated and well-traveled that most Americans even twice his age.  Upon graduating from Harvard College, John Q. became a lawyer. At the age of 26, he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands by President George Washington. In 1802 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Six years later President James Madison appointed him Minister to Russia.   He served as a highly successful Secretary of State under President James Monroe, obtaining from Spain the cession of Florida and working with the President on the formulation on the Monroe Doctrine.  Adams was one of four nominees for President in 1824: Adams, Gen. Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford and Henry Clay. No candidate received a majority of the votes so the election had to be decided among the top three (Jackson, Adams and Clay) by the House of Representatives. Clay threw his support to Adams who was elected. Thus John Q. became the first President who was the son of a President.  When Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State, Jackson yelled “Foul” and charged a “corrupt bargain” had taken place. Jackson immediately began a campaign to take the Presidency from Adams in the election of 1828, which he did.  As President, Adams proposed a network of highways and canals to bring the sections together and also urged the U.S. to take the 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. Jackson and others declared these measures went beyond the limitations of the Constitution.  Adams lost the election of 1828 but, in 1831, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1848. The following story might not be true but, again, it could be. Adams is supposed to have been the first President to give an interview to a woman journalist. He first refused requests for interviews from reporter Anne Royall, but she found a way to accomplish her goal. She learned that Adams liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River almost every morning about 5 a.m. She went to the river, gathered up his clothes and sat on them until he answered all her questions.