Old Man Eloquent: John Quincy Adams ca. 1843
Old Man Eloquent: John Quincy Adams ca. 1843


Last Link to the Founding Fathers

John Quincy Adams lived 1767-1848.

He served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825-1829.

Image Above

John Quincy Adams

Copy by Southworth & Hawes of a lost original daguerreotype by Phillip Haas (active 1839-57), ca. 1843.

Scroll down for the entire image.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

His father, second U.S. president
John Adams, must have been pleased. His eldest son turned out to be a brilliant diplomat. JQA's political career led him all the way to the presidency in 1825. Interestingly, wisdom and experience urged Adams Senior to remark,

"No man who ever held the office of President
would congratulate a friend on obtaining it."

Thanks to an opposition that aimed to frustrate, JQA's presidential term was less successful than his time as Secretary of State (1817-1825.)


Why Quincy?

His mother's grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, died when wee John was born. He inherited his name.

A part of Braintree, Massachusetts, JQA's birthplace, later became the city of Quincy, in honor of the very Colonel.

Unlike that city of Quincy in Massachusetts, the city of Quincy in Illinois was actually named after John Quincy Adams.


John Quincy Adams' Background, Life, and Family

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, in Braintree (Quincy), Massachusetts, and lived a prolific 80 years.

His father was John Adams, his mother Abigail Smith Adams. They married in 1764.

JQA had three siblings: Abigail ("Nabby" 1765-1813), Charles (1770-1800), and Thomas Boylston (1772-1832).


Abigail Smith Adams by Benjamin Blyth
Abigail Smith Adams by Benjamin Blyth
Massachusetts Historical Society

JQA's childhood years coincided with the American Revolution (1775-1783.)

These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great challenges are formed. Great necessities call out great virtues.

Abigail Adams in a letter to her son John Quincy Adams,
January 19, 1780

Wee John Quincy was properly groomed for a diplomatic career, which commenced when he was only 13 years old.

Adams worked as a lawyer, a professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard College, and held several other jobs for the government including French interpreter.

He was a hard worker, got out of bed between four and six o'clock in the morning and often went for a walk around the city or for a swim in the Potomac River before breakfast.


His wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, née Johnson, was born in London, England, which makes her the only First Lady born outside the United States.

She was raised in France and England,
played the harp and the piano, and
read Greek, French, and English literature.

She often accompanied JQA on his many travels.

Louisa Catherine Adams 1775-1852
Louisa Catherine Adams


George Washington Adams 1801-1829
George Washington Adams

JQA's eldest son was George Washington Adams.

George was born on April 12, 1801, in Berlin, Prussia.

He drowned in Long Island Sound on April 30, 1829, which might or might not have been suicide.


His second son was John Adams II.

John Jr. was born on July 4, 1803, in Boston.

He died from complications of alcoholism
on October 23, 1834.

John Adams II (1803-1834)
John Adams II


Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886)
Charles Francis Adams

His third son was the diplomat Charles Francis Adams.

Charles Francis was born on August 18, 1807,
in Boston.

He died in Boston on November 21, 1886.

A baby girl, Louisa Catherine II, was born in August 1809, but died a year later from dysentery.

Notable grandson via Charles Francis Adams was Henry Adams (1838-1918.)

John Quincy Adams' Strong Points

Adams was an excellent speaker. They called him "Old Man Eloquent." He used this skill alongside an iron determination to argue against slavery.

When, off the coast of Cuba in July 1839, a group of African slaves mutinied and later landed with the captured Spanish vessel in a U.S. harbor, John Quincy Adams agreed to join their lawyers, defended them in court and won their freedom. They didn't have to return to their owners, which would have meant their certain death.

Hollywood was delighted.

Anthony Hopkins is John Quincy Adams in Amistad, 1997
Anthony Hopkins is John Quincy Adams in Amistad, 1997
© Dreamworks

And speaking of Adams' fight against slavery...


The Pro-Slavery Gag Rule

In the 1830s, an avalanche of anti-slavery petitions flooded Congress. According to the Capitol Visitor Center, 

Petitions were so large Congress began referring to them by weight rather than by source or title.

In one year alone, 130,000 petitions were signed. And all in all, Congress received more than 2,000,000 signatures of citizens demanding to free slaves.

How did Congress deal with this?

In May 1836, a pro-slavery member of the House of Representatives, Henry Laurens Pinckney of South Carolina, introduced three resolutions to make sure the slaves didn't go nowhere. One of these resolutions was the Gag Rule which would instantly gag any anti-slavery petition as soon as it was received, thus keeping it off the floor. Debate or discussion of these petitions were indefinitely postponed, and shelved as soon as they arrived.

Congress kept the Gag Rule alive for each following session until December 3, 1844, when it was repealed thanks to the constant opposition of men like Joshua Reed Giddings of Ohio and John Quincy Adams.

Adams, by now a Massachusetts Whig, deemed the gag rule "to be in direct violation of the Constitution of the United States."


And Women's Rights

Arguing against slavery led directly to arguing for women's rights. How so?

When women petitioned to the House against the annexation of Texas because it was pro-slavery, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Benjamin Chew Howard of Maryland, "felt regret when petitions thus signed were presented to the House relating to the political matters."

"Thus signed" meant signed by women.

And Howard followed up with the following nugget:

He thought that these females could have a sufficient field for the exercise of their influence in the discharge of their duties to their fathers, their husbands, or their children, cheering the domestic circle, and shedding over it the mild radiance of the social virtues, instead of rushing into the fierce struggles of political life.

He felt sorrow at this departure from their proper sphere, in which there was abundant room for the practice of the most extensive benevolence and philanthropy, because he considered it discreditable, not only to their own particular section of the country, but also to the national character, and thus giving him a right to express this opinion.

In a nutshell, Howard felt that the women had disgraced themselves and their country by presenting their petitions.

John Quincy "Old Eloquent" Adams had a field day with Howard's reasoning. He replied:

I subscribe, fully, to the elegant compliment passed by him upon those members of the female sex who devote their time to these duties. But I say that the correct principle is, that women are not only justified, but exhibit the most exalted virtue when they do depart from the domestic circle, and enter on the concerns of their country, of humanity, and of their God.

Now to say, respecting women, that any action of theirs was disgraceful, was more than merely contesting their legal right so to act: it was contesting the right of the mind, of the soul, and the conscience.


And why stop there. Inch by inch JQA dismantled, mocked, and exposed. From June 16 to July 7, 1838, he mopped the floor with his opponents' arguments regarding women's proper place, soon arriving at the historic issue of votes for women.

And the right to petition... is to be denied to women because they have no right to vote! Is it so clear that they have no such right as this last? And if not, who shall say that this argument of the gentleman's is not adding one injustice to another?

And back to slavery:

Europe ... point to us as a nation of liars and hypocrites, who publish to the world that all men are born free and equal, and then hold a large portion of our own population in bondage.

This is the
Speech of JQA of Massachusetts, upon the right of the people, men and women, to petition; on the freedom of speech and of debate in the House of Representatives of the United States; on the resolutions of seven state legislatures and the petitions of more than one hundred thousand petitioners, relating to the annexation of Texas to the Union.
Delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, in fragments of the morning hour, from the 16th of June to the 7th of July, 1838, inclusive.


John Quincy Adams' Weak Points

JQA was not very social and often felt depressed.

What some people described as a high-minded, dignified, upright, patriotic, even noble character, others interpreted as simply being cold and elitist, an imperialist, and as generally having an aristocratic stick up him bum.

This didn't work to his advantage especially when he was president.


John Quincy Adams' Achievements

He was one of America's greatest diplomats.

John Quincy Adams led the American delegation that negotiated the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, which ended the War of 1812. Although, in a letter to his wife written on January 13, 1815, Adams gave fellow diplomat Albert Gallatin credits for having contributed "the largest and most important share to the conclusion of the peace."

As Secretary of State under President Monroe, he arranged with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon Country in 1818.

He negotiated the Transcontinental Treaty, also called the Purchase of Florida, of 1819.

Adams further formulated what came to be known as the  Monroe Doctrine, a warning to European powers to keep their colonial ambitions away from the Americas.


John Quincy Adams in Presidential Elections

JQA was part of three presidential elections:

:: 1820 Election

The 1820 presidential election was pretty straightforward. President James Monroe ran for a second term completely unopposed. He won 231 out of 235 electoral votes. Why not 235 out of 235? Because three electors had died, and William Plumer of New Hampshire voted for John Quincy Adams, who didn't even run. Why? Because he could.

Electoral Votes of the 1820 Presidential Election
Electoral Votes of the 1820 Presidential Election

Here is more on the 1820 Election from the Library of Congress.


:: 1824 Election

Also called the "corrupt bargain" election by Jacksonians (followers of Andrew Jackson.) How so?

The 1824 Presidential Election
The 1824 Presidential Election
No candidate having a majority in the electoral college, the election had to be decided in the House of Representatives where J.Q. Adams was chosen President.

According to the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution,

The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

So, the "three on the list" with the "highest number" were Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. Clay as the fourth on the list was out. So was Crawford who, unfortunately, suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed and blind, which made it a race between Jackson and Adams.

The House of Representatives had to pick, and chose Adams, who as soon as he became president, made Clay, the former Speaker of the House, his Secretary of State.

The Jacksonians claimed this stunk and called it a corrupt bargain, a sale. In the end, there was no evidence to support these allegations. But it sure made for some solid Jacksonian roadblocks during Adams' time in office.

Interestingly, some say that Jackson hinted that, if elected, he would make Richard Mentor Johnson his secretary of war. Johnson then voted for Jackson. And, when Jackson lost, it was Johnson who remarked to the National Intelligencer:

As for this [Adams'] administration, we will turn them out as sure as there is a God in heaven. ... By the Eternal, if they act as pure as the angels that stand at the right hand of the throne of God, we'll put them down.

Which gives us an idea of how efficient Congress was during Adams' presidency.

Later, Warren R. Davis of South Carolina said in hindsight:

Well do I remember the enthusiastic zeal with which we reproached the administration of that gentleman, and the ardor and vehemence with which we labored to bring in another. For the share I had in these transactions, and it was not a small one, I hope God will forgive me, for I shall never forgive myself.

For what it's worth, in his speech in the House of Representatives on February 22, 1839, William Slade of Vermont called JQA's presidency "the purest Administration the country ever had."

In summary, the country prospered under President John Quincy Adams, but any bigger achievements were blocked by a hostile Congress.

John Caldwell Calhoun
, by the way, was JQA's vice president.

And here some "corrupt bargain election" trivia:

John Randolph was so furious about Henry Clay's vote for Adams that he challenged Clay to a duel. The first shot of both contestants missed completely, Clay's second shot pierced Randolph's coat upon which Randolph shot his second bullet into the air. Then, both shook hands.

Here is more on the 1824 Election from the Library of Congress.


:: 1828 Election

The 1828 election was a nasty mud-slinger on both sides.

In the end, Jackson defeated Adams comfortably with 178 to 83 votes from the electoral college. Former vice president John Caldwell Calhoun, was re-elected.

The 1828 Presidential Election
The 1828 Presidential Election

Here is more on the 1828 Election from the Library of Congress.


The Presidents of the United States

Quick recap:


First President of the U.S.
George Washington 1789 - 1797
Second President of the U.S.
John Adams 1797 - 1801
Third President of the U.S.
Thomas Jefferson 1801 - 1809
Fourth President of the U.S.

James Madison

1809 - 1817
Fifth President of the U.S.
James Monroe 1817 - 1825
Sixth President of the U.S. John Quincy Adams 1825 - 1829
Seventh President of the U.S. Andrew Jackson 1829 - 1837
Eighth President of the U.S. Martin Van Buren 1837 - 1841
Ninth President of the U.S. William Henry Harrison 1841
Tenth President of the U.S. John Tyler 1841 - 1845
Eleventh President of the U.S. James K. Polk 1845 - 1849


John Quincy Adams: Brief Biography

July 11, 1767 Birth in Braintree (Quincy), Massachusetts
February 12, 1775 Birth of his future wife Louisa Catherine Johnson at London, England, to Catherine Nuth, a British citizen, and Joshua Johnson who hailed from Maryland.
June 17, 1775 Witnesses the Battle of Bunker Hill, part of the American Revolution, from the top of Penn's Hill above the family farm.
1778 Accompanies his father to Europe. Studies at a private school in Paris, France.
1780 Studies at the University of Leyden (Leiden), Netherlands. Starts his now famous diary that he will keep meticulously updated for the next 60 years.
1781 Accompanies Francis Dana, the U.S. envoy to Russia, as his private secretary and French interpreter.
1782 Joins his father in Paris, where the negotiations of the Paris peace treaties that will conclude the American Revolution, are underway. John Quincy works as secretary for his father. See more under Peace of Paris 1783.
1785 Returns to Massachusetts, enters Harvard
1787 Graduates from Harvard College, reads law at Newburyport under Theophilus Parsons
1790 Admitted to the bar, practices in Boston, Mass.
1793 Writes a series of articles in which he skillfully defends George Washington's neutrality policy while facing Britain and France going to war (See French Revolutionary Wars, February 1, 1793). Washington is impressed.
May 30, 1794 Appointed U.S. Minister to the Netherlands by President George Washington
November 19, 1794 Jay Treaty between Britain and the U.S. The French are not happy.

Meets his future wife in England.

February - April 1796 Seven portrait sittings for John Singleton Copley, which resulted in this artwork:

John Quincy Adams 1796
John Quincy Adams 1796
Oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, whose wife asked him to paint it as a gift to her friend, Abigail Adams.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

May 30, 1796 Appointed U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal by President Washington. Won't get to work in Portugal, though, because a new assignment will come his way before his departure.
September 17, 1796 Washington's Farewell Address
June 1, 1797 Appointed U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Prussia by his father, John Adams, the new president since April 1797
June and July 1798
Alien and Sedition Acts
July 7, 1798 - September 30, 1800
Quasi War with France
October 1, 1800 Spain and France sign the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso, in which Spain retrocedes Louisiana
November 30, 1800 JQA's brother Charles dies.
1801 Father John Adams loses his reelection. Thomas Jefferson is the new President.
April 12, 1801 At Berlin (Prussia), Louisa Catherine gives birth to their first son, George Washington Adams.
September 4, 1801 John Quincy Adams returns to the States. They arrive onboard the America in Philadelphia.
April 1802 Elected to the Massachusetts Senate
November 1802 Runs unsuccessfully for U.S. House of Representatives as Federalist.
1802, December 22 Gives the annual Plymouth Oration (PDF from the Library of Congress Collection) in which he quotes from Tacitus' Agricola, as one does, as follows:

"Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!"

Tacitus had it like this: "Proinde ituri in aciem et maiores vestros et posteros cogitate."

Or, in other words: "Think, therefore, as you advance to battle, at once of your ancestors and of your posterity."

But more to the point, JQA concludes his oration by quoting the Irish philosopher George Berkeley:

"Westward the Star of empire takes its way."

And adds, "Let us all unite in ardent supplications to the founder of nations and the builder of worlds, that what then was prophecy may continue unfolding into history - that the dearest hopes of the human race may not be extinguished in disappointment, and that the last may prove the noblest empire of time."

Berkeley had it like this:

"Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
Time's noblest offspring is the last."

From Berkeley's
On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America

And as beautiful and eloquent as this is, this speech might prompt us to take a closer look at JQA's opinion on Native American issues. See more under
John Quincy Adams and the Indians

February 1803 Elected to the U.S. Senate as member of the Federalist Party from Massachusetts; serves from March 4, 1803 until his resignation on June 8, 1808
April 30, 1803 Louisiana Purchase
May 16, 1803 France and Britain are at war. (See Napoleonic Wars)
July 4, 1803 Birth of second son John Adams II.
October 1803 Moves his family to Washington.
1807 Breaks with the Federalist Party. Final straw was the Chesapeake-Leopard affair, which he considered a "wanton outrage." The Federalists were pro-British.
September 22, 1807 Supports the Embargo Act. No longer a Federalist, this will cost him his Senate seat.
June 3, 1808 Adams' successor is chosen six months early.
June 8, 1808 Knew he wouldn't get re-elected to the Senate thanks to his support of the Embargo Act, so he resigns. Back to being a lawyer.
February 12, 1809 Abraham Lincoln born
March 6, 1809 Nominated Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia by the new president James Madison. The Senate rejects the nomination.
June 26, 1809 Nominated Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia by Madison for the second time. This time the Senate confirms.
June 27, 1809 Appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia by the new president James Madison. JQA's wife Louisa Catherine and their youngest son, Charles Francis will join him to Russia. George and John Jr. will stay with their grandparents. JQA will serve at the Russian court until 1814.
August 1809 Birth of daughter Louisa Catherine II. Sadly, she will die a year later.
June 12, 1812 The War of 1812 begins.
June 24, 1812 Napoleon launches his Invasion of Russia.
March 11, 1813 President Madison accepts Russia's offer to negotiate between the U.S. and Great Britain. The British will decline. Adams still at St. Petersburg.
August 1813 JQA's sister Abigail dies of cancer.
November 4, 1813 Great Britain rejects Russia's mediation offer, but proposes to negotiate directly.
April 1, 1814 At St. Petersburg, Adams gets notified that he is expected at Ghent (Belgium) to negotiate a peace treaty for the War of 1812.
April 6, 1814 Napoleon's first abdication
April 28, 1814 Adams leaves his post at St. Petersburg for Ghent. Wife and son stay put.
August 8, 1814 Peace negotiations at Ghent begin.
August 24, 1814 The British invade the city of Washington and burn all public buildings including the Capitol and the White House. Check this event in the Timeline of the War of 1812.
December 24, 1814 Co-signs the Treaty of Ghent.

Adams sends for his wife and youngest son, who are still in Russia, to reunite with them in Paris. He will stay for two months in France.

Adams, Gallatin, and Clay travel to London to negotiate a trade treaty with Britain.

Clay and Gallatin return to the States but Adams stays on as U.S. minister to Britain.

February 17, 1815 The War of 1812 ends.
February 28, 1815 Appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom.
May 1815 JQA's sons George and John join the family in the UK after nearly six years of separation.
June 22, 1815 Napoleon's second and final abdication
July 3, 1815 Treaty of commerce with Britain signed. Its official title: A Convention to Regulate the Commerce between the Territories of The United States and of His Britannick Majesty.

This treaty was extended for 10 years by convention of October 20, 1818, and indefinitely by convention of August 6, 1827.

Solid diplomatic work.

August 1, 1816

Excerpt from JQA's letter to his father John Adams:

"Fiat justitia, pereat coelum [Let justice be done though heaven fall]. My toast would be, may our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right."

March 4, 1817 President James Monroe inaugurated. His two terms will be referred to as the "Era of Good Feelings."
March 5, 1817 Monroe appoints Adams Secretary of State.
May 14, 1817 Monroe recalls Adams from London.
April 28, 1817 Rush-Bagot Agreement. To keep peace on the border between Canada and the U.S., this agreement directs that only one vessel per country is allowed on Lake Champlain, one on Lake Ontario, and two on the upper lakes.
July 4, 1817 Construction of the Erie Canal begins at Rome, New York.
August 1817 Adams back in the States. Richard Rush will be his successor as U.S. minister to Britain (nominated and confirmed in December 1817.)
September 22, 1817 Secretary of State. Last day on the job will be March 3, 1825.
October 28, 1818 JQA's mother, Abigail Adams, dies just two weeks before her 80th birthday.
1819 Signs the Purchase of Florida (also called Adams-Onis Treaty or Transcontinental Treaty)
March 6, 1820 Missouri Compromise - Here is JQA's comment on the subject from January 10, 1820.
1820 Accidentally got one vote in the 1820 presidential election. See JQA in Presidential Elections
December 2, 1823  Monroe Doctrine, a message to European powers to stop eye-balling the Americas with colonizational intent.
April 17, 1824 The Russians agree to stay north of today's southern border of Alaska.

This treaty will be ratified in 1825, and thus become the first treaty concluded between Russia and the United States.

1824 Runs against Andrew Jackson in a controversial presidential election.
February 9, 1825 The House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams as the next President of the United States.
March 4, 1825 Sixth President of the U.S.
Chief Justice John Marshall administers the oath of office inside the Hall of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Washington.
Early Fall, 1825 JQA's last visit with his father John Adams.
October 26, 1825 Construction of the Erie Canal is finished.
December 6, 1825 JQA's first Annual Message. Here is an excerpt:

While dwelling with pleasing satisfaction upon the superior excellence of our political institutions, let us not be unmindful that liberty is power; that the nation blessed with the largest portion of liberty must in proportion to its numbers be the most powerful nation upon earth, and that the tenure of power by man is, in the moral purposes of his Creator, upon condition that it shall be exercised to ends of beneficence, to improve the condition of himself and his fellow men.

July 4, 1826 Today, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence coincides with the death of two Founding Fathers: 83-year-old Thomas Jefferson and JQA's 90-year-old father, John Adams.
1828 After losing the 1828 election to Jackson (see JQA in Presidential Elections) Adams will enjoy briefly the life of a private citizen.
March 3, 1829 Last day in office as U.S. president
April 30, 1829 JQA's eldest son George dies.
May 28, 1830 Indian Removal Act
1830 As a Republican, elected to the House of Representatives by the Plymouth, Massachusetts, district by a landslide. Argues against slavery.
March 4, 1831 Twenty-second Congress begins. JQA in the House of Representatives, serves as chairman. He will be re-elected for every following Congress until his death.  
March 13, 1832 JQA's brother Thomas Boylston dies.
1834 Becomes a Whig. Runs unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts
October 23, 1834 JQA's second son John dies.
1836 Principal force behind the endeavor to make the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. become a reality.
March 6, 1836 General Antonio López de Santa Anna takes the Alamo.
November 9, 1843
JQA lays the cornerstone at the dedication of the Cincinnati observatory. His last public speech.
April 25, 1846 - February 2, 1848
Mexican-American War
February 21, 1848 Has a stroke and collapses somewhat appropriately while speaking on the floor of the House in the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
February 23, 1848 Dies at Washington D.C.
May 14, 1852 Louisa Catherine dies at Washington D.C.


John Quincy Adams ca. 1843
John Quincy Adams ca. 1843
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


From the Memoirs of John Quincy Adams

Today, you can buy the Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, comprising portions of his massive diary, for a reasonable price.

Keeping in mind that Adams was famous for his eloquence, the following entry might come as a surprise:

Washington, January 22nd, 1807

... Senate adjourned without taking the question. I spoke about an hour; but the subject had been exhausted by Mr. Giles, and I could only present some of his ideas in new lights. I should have done better to remain silent. My defects of elocution are incurable, and amidst so many better speakers, when the debates are to be reported, I never speak without mortification.

The process of reasoning in my mind is too slow for uninterrupted articulation. My thoughts arise at first confused, and require time to shape into a succession of sentences. Hence the transition from thought to thought is awkward and inelegant, and expression often fails me to accomplish a sentence commenced; so that I often begin a thought with spirit and finish it with nonsense.

The chain of my argument often escapes me, and when lost can seldom be retrieved. I then finish as I can, without producing half the arguments I proposed before I began to speak. These faults are so overpowering that I should sink into perpetual silence, from mere impotence, were it not that sometimes in ardor of debate, when my feelings are wound up to a high tone, elocution pours itself along with unusual rapidity, and I have passages which would not shame a good speaker; this is the only thing that makes me tolerable to others or to myself.


John Quincy Adams and the Indians

After fighting slavery and promoting women's rights, was Adams naturally drawn to defending Native American rights?

The following is an excerpt from JQA's 1802 Plymouth Oration:

The Indian right of possession itself stands with regard to the greatest part of the country, upon a questionable foundation.

Their cultivated fields; their constructed habitations; a space of ample sufficiency for their subsistence, and whatever they had annexed to themselves by personal labor, was undoubtedly by the laws of nature theirs.

But what is the right of a huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he has accidentally ranged in quest of prey?

Penguin's History of the United States of America notes:

The trouble with this formula was that the Americans habitually ignored its distinctions. The Iroquois and Cherokees were primarily farmers, but they were turned off their lands just the same. It was so easy to pretend that they were savage hunters.


What's the Purpose of Government?

Europe, with a few partial and unhappy exceptions, has enjoyed 10 years of peace, during which all her Governments, what ever the theory of their constitutions may have been, are successively taught to feel that the end of their institution is the happiness of the people, and that the exercise of power among men can be justified only by the blessings it confers upon those over whom it is extended.

John Quincy Adams, First Annual Message, December 6, 1825



See also the US Election Map 1796-1968

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