Tuesday, August 08, 2006
John Quincy Adams 1767-1848...He did not have a fun personality..But my God he did so much!! Now I am walking in his footsteps.
A young J.Q. Adams
The old man...in his study in Quincy in 1843. He was always known as old man eloquent...and always he was even in deaths grip. As he laid dying in the United States Capital he said "tis the end of earth, but I am composed".. Eloquent in life and in death.
The church in which he rests now
Adams rests in the crypt of the church with not only his wife...but his father and mother. the only place where two Presidents lie in the same place. The only church that holds two Presidents. The only other church that holds a president is the Washington Cathedral, it holds President Woodrow Wilson.
The Man who led John Quincy Adams, his father. John Adams 1735-1826... the 2nd President.
Working and writing in front of the old house in Quincy. Following the path and looking for clues in the writings of Adams and trying to find the graves he wrote of in 1824. I found them.
John Quincy Adams was perhaps one of the most unique person's to walk this earth. He was truly his fathers son.
He stood on the hills of Quincy with his mother at the age of seven and half and saw the battle of Bunker Hill.
He was his father's Secretary at the age of 10 in Europe.
He was taken in tow for tours of Europe by Benj. Franklin and spent much time with Thomas Jefferson. (John Adams mentioned to Jefferson once that J.Q. Adams was as much his son as Jefferson's.)
He was with his father through the terrible trials of the American Revolution. He had everything in life that could be had except one thing...a childhood!!
John Quincy Adams was an adult for all intents by the time he is 10. His mother wrote him and said she would rather have him die at sea than to give the family dishonor. What a heavy burden put on to a child by his mother. The result was as would be expected, he became a rather sour, cold, and painfully introverted man. He would have his passions, but he hid them from the public.
He enjoyed playing cards with friends. But could not stand anyone who he considered uneducated, boring or just stupid. He also said he came across too people as cold. Yes he did. he hated the sound of women singing. Oddly enough he married a lovely and very rich lady in Europe named Louisa, and yes she was a musician, and she sang and played the harp.
Adams it seems married for money, but as soon as the engagement was announced her family went bankrupt...but he went ahead with the union. Neither of the partners seemed to be very happy...It was never a passionate marriage.
He was made an ambassador by George Washington who considered him one of the nation's greatest assets. He would serve in Washington's and his father's administration.
Jefferson recalled Adams to spite his father. He became a senator and served for 6 years. While doing that he also taught at Cambridge and authored a set of books on his lectures.
The article of "homespun" sent by Adams to Jefferson to restart their friendship was a set of the books written by John Quincy.
John Q was sent to Russia as an ambassador and then to settle the peace conference with Great Britain in 1814.
In 1817 he was made Secretary of State by James Monroe. Adams was perhaps the greatest Secretary of State this country ever had. He was successful in many avenues.
One of the most important works of his was the "Monroe doctrine" Most people know of this document, but they are blissfully unaware of its author, John Quincy Adams.
He was elected President in 1824. His father lived to see his son become President. His presidency was marked from the onset with bitter politics. The election was too close so it went to the House of Representatives. There Henry Clay pushed his weight to make Adams President beating out Andrew Jackson for the prize. Clay hated Jackson, and by doing this action it brought out cries of a corrupt bargain when Adams named Clay his Secretary of State.
In the old days the position of Secretary of State was the launch pad for the presidency. Every man who had held the office till Jackson had held that office first before becoming President. Jefferson had held it in Washington's cabinet.
Adams Presidency started with a bang of internal improvements of roads and canals. The public and Congress had no sense of the future at the time and they shot it all down.
The office became a prison to him. He hated ever moment of it. he came to understand his fathers comment which was...Basically saying that anyone having served in the office of President would never congratulate another for getting the office.
His beloved father, rich in years died on July 4th 1826. J.Q. arrived back in the old house in Quincy 7 days after the funeral and wrote in his diary...
"Everything about the house is the same. I was not fully sensible of the change till I entered his bed chamber, the place where I had last taken leave of him, and where I had most sat with him at my two last yearly visits to him at this place. That moment was inexpressible painful, and struck as if it had been an arrow to the heart. My father and mother have departed. The charm which has always made house to me an abode of enchantment is dissolved; and yet my attachment to it, and to the whole region round, is stronger than I ever felt it before. I feel it is time for me to begin to set my house in order, and prepare for the church-yard myself".
He left the office of the Presidency in 1829. He had no desire to be at the swearing in of Andrew Jackson whom he considered an uneducated, unprepared and frightening individual.
In 1828 he had the bodies of his parents moved into the crypt of the Unitarian Church in Quincy. In 1829 he came back home to Quincy to rest, write, lick his wounds, and to spend a good deal of his time with his gardening.
In 1830 he was elected by the citizens of his state to represent them in Congress. He felt this a greater honor than having won the Presidency. In this office he would do his greatest work. For 17 years he would represent the people...not the party.
Two things that occurred during his tenure there that truly deserve mention. First was the great Amistad Trial.
In which J.Q. represented slaves that had been illegally been brought to America's shores.
They fought for their freedom and were treated like savages.
J.Q. was 74 years old when he decided to fight for them. He spoke before the Supreme Court (sad it had to go that far for a persons freedom) He said a few things that were so amazing.
That if these men where white they would not even be here, and if their captors had been British they would not be able to walk for all the metals we would put on them and books would be written about them...
He mentioned that in life and in liberty.."Who we are is, who we were.
He fought and won the slaves freedom. he was presented with a bible by the freed slaves of Amistad. He wrote about it in his diary.....
"For the Amistad Africans...I find impulses of duty upon my own conscience which I cannot resist, while on the other hand are the magnitude, the danger, the insurmountable burden of labor to be encountered in the undertaking to touch upon the slave-trade. No one else will undertake it; no one but a spirit unconquerable by man, woman,or fiend can undertake it but with the heart of martyrdom. The world, and all the devils in Hell are arrayed against any man who now in this North American Union shall dare to join the standard of Almighty God to put down the African Slave-Trade; and what can I, upon the verge of my seventy fourth birthday, with a shaking hand, a darkening eye, a drowsy brain, and with all faculties dropping from me one by one, as teeth are dropping from my head- What can I do for the cause of God and man, for the progress of human emancipation, for the suppression of the African Slave trade?......Yet my conscience presses me on; let me but die upon the breach".
He continued to fight all that he felt was an affront to man and God. Mainly slavery.
He fought against the "gag rule"..What was the gag rule? It was a rule in Congress that would not allow slavery to be brought up in session. Adams constantly fought again it. Always causing a near riot! He received tons of death threats, nasty letters, insults, and all the battles that were caused by this seemed to give the old boy more energy!
He was enjoying himself. For the first time in his life he was a popular national figure, and he was amazed by that. He toured the country giving speeches and laying cornerstones. He was behind the creation of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
He was behind the building observatories to study the planets. He was truly a remarkable man.
He finally was able to defeat the gag rule..But there was not much fight left in him.
He had been presented with a cane and it was asked that he would mark it when the gag rule was defeated. He had that cane for a while but soon it was ready to be marked. But he was so pleased to see the gag rule defeated he wrote about it in his diary on March 11, 1845 ... .....
"At the Patent Office, I applied to the commissioner Henry L. Ellsworth, for the ivory can made from a single tooth, presented to me by Julius Pratt & Co. of Meriden, Conn., and which on the 23rd of April last I deposited in the Patent Office. There is in the top of the cane a golden eagle inlaid, bearing a scroll with the motto.."Right of Petition Triumphant" engraved upon it. The donors requested of me that when the gag-rule should be rescinded I would cause the date to be added to this motto; which I promised to do, if the event should happen in my lifetime. Mr Ellsworth sent the cane to my house. There is a gold ring immediately below the pommel of the cane, thus engraved: To John Quincy Adams ..JUSTUM ET TENACEM PROPOSITI VIRUM......I crave pardon for the vanity of this memorial".
This was the end of his days...He suffered a stroke in 1846 and was away from Congress for many months. When returned in 1847 the entire house rose to greet him. He was the last link to the revolutionary war. He was the last link to Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson...
Through out 1847 he served..but each day he became more feeble. Finally on Feb 21 1848 he had a severe stroke on the floor of the house...Where else would death find him, but at his post, doing his duty for his country. There was never another like him..I seriously doubt there ever will be.
He was buried in Quincy and his son decided to have J.Q. buried next to his father and mother in the Unitarian church with his wife. So they were moved there in 1852.
Henry Adams took a peek into the coffin of J.Q. in 1852 to see how the old boy was fairing...and he slid down the door on the glass window of the coffin lid and there he saw old J.Q. looking fine, and just with a little stubble and then the glass fogged up.
I was there in Quincy and I wanted to find the graves and markers that J.Q. had talked about in his diary. He did not refer to a name for the graveyard...So I was guessing for a while it was the grave yard near the old house. Here is what J.Q. wrote in his diary on September 20, 1824.
" I walked in the burying-yard, and viewed the granite tomb stones erected over the graves of my ancestors by my father. Henry Adams, the first of the family, who came from England; Joseph Adams, Sr. and Abigail Baxter, his wife; John Adams Sr., my father's father, and Susannah Boylston, his wife. Four generations, of whom very little more is known than is recorded upon these stones. There are three succeeding generations of us now living. Pass another century, and we shall all be moldering in the same dust, or resolved into the same elements.
Who then of our posterity shall visit this yard? And what shall he read engraved upon the stones? This known only to the creator of all. The record may be longer. May it be of as blameless lives"
I followed in J.Q.'s footsteps and tried to find out where he was looking. I asked a lot of people but they did not know....Finally I made to Hancock cemetery...and finally I found the Granite markers that J.Q. spoke of. I could see where had been and where he looked. it was a journey in time and one that was interesting to follow.
What was most important to me as I wrote in my journal that I keep every day..That I came to Quincy and found the graves and saw the writings on J.Q. and said to him...." I am here from your posterity, and glad to be here and do know you are respected and beloved in America for your work and great services". That was my tribute to J.Q. to answer his question that he wrote in 1824. It was a special moment that is hard to explain, but one that I wanted to do for nearly 30 years.
I have always had a great respect for the Adams family of Quincy.I truly believe they should be honored more than they are now. Where in Washington is the Adams Memorial? Two men who gave everything for their country..It is time to do justice to their memory.
The Adams family sure made their mark on the world and there is so much more to write about in their work and the changes they made. Thank you John Quincy Adams..Every person who believes in freedom and fair play, eternally applauds you.