John Quincy Adams

6th president - 1825-1829


Despite being born and bred for the role, John Quincy Adams was one of the least liked presidents. Brilliant, hard-working and idealistic, he was also charmless and prone to depression. He was only the second president not to be re-elected. (His father was the first.)

He worked as his father's secretary while he was a diplomat in Europe, and was later appointed to a series of diplomatic posts himself, in the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and Great Britain. An accomplished linguist – he spoke seven languages – he also wrote copious diaries.

He became a Senator in 1802, and in 1814 was chief negotiator of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war with Britain. He then became Secretary of State under President Monroe. He was instrumental in obtaining from Spain the cession of the Floridas, helped to formulate the Monroe Doctrine, and was generally considered a towering success in the role.

His election to the presidency, in 1824, was messy. No candidate won a majority of electoral votes, and the election was decided by the House of Representatives. His main rival, Andrew Jackson (who had won substantially more popular votes and electoral votes), accused Adams of securing victory through a "corrupt bargain" with another candidate, Henry Clay, whom Adams appointed Secretary of State.

The hostility of Jackson and his supporters proved a constant handicap to Adams. His attempts to develop a national infrastructure of highways and canals – and a national university – were criticised as unconstitutional. Repeated charges of corruption – apparently unfounded – further undermined his popularity, and Jackson defeated him comfortably in 1828. Like his father, Adams left town in order to avoid his successor's inauguration.

Depressed by his defeat ("I have no plausible motive for wishing to live," he wrote in his diary), Adams retired to his farm in Massachusetts. But in 1830 he was unexpectedly elected to the House of Representatives, where he proved a far more effective figure than he had as president, tirelessly defending civil liberties. It was here that he earned his nickname, "Old Man Eloquent". His greatest success was obtaining the repeal (after an eight year battle) of the 1836 "gag rule", passed by southern Congressmen, that prevented the issue of slavery from being debated in the House.

In 1848, he collapsed on the floor of the House from a stroke. He died two days later.

In his own words

"The four most miserable years of my life were my four years in the presidency."

"I am a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners: my political enemies say, a gloomy misanthropist, and my personal enemies, an unsocial savage."

In others' words

"A disgusting man to do business [with]. Coarse, dirty and clownish in his address and stiff and abstracted in his opinions, which are drawn from books exclusively." William Henry Harrison


Adams had an eye wound, sustained while trying to instruct his sons in the correct use of firearms.

Adams was an unforgivingly perfectionist parent, once forbidding his son to visit him until he had improved his class rankings at school. Two of his three sons became alcoholics, of whom one probably committed suicide.

He was fond of taking ice-cold baths, and was also a keen swimmer. He regularly swam in the Potomac river, often in the nude, last doing so when he was 79.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial