Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "John Quincy Adams"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who is your favorite Adams? Henry, John Quincy, or John?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

My favorite Adams is actually Henry Adams, grandson of John Quincy and great-grandson of John, who was homies with John Hay and wrote one of the greatest and most pretentious autobiographies of all-time, The Education of Henry Adams (BOOK | KINDLE).

But of the two Presidents, I am a fan of both of them, but I probably love John Quincy a little bit more than I love his father.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

6th President of the United States (1825-1829)

Full Name: John Quincy Adams
Born: July 11, 1767, Braintree (present-day Quincy), Massachusetts
Political Party: Democratic-Republican
State Represented: Massachusetts
Term: March 4, 1825-March 4, 1829
Age at Inauguration: 57 years, 236 days
Administration: 10th
Congresses: 19th and 20th
Vice President: John Caldwell Calhoun (1825-1829)
Died: February 23, 1848, Speaker’s Room, United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Age at Death: 80 years, 227 days
Buried: United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts

2012 Dead Presidents Ranking: 26 of 26 [↔]

John Quincy Adams, like James Buchanan, was one of the most qualified men to ever serve as President.  What hindered Adams in the Presidency, however, wasn’t the same things that made Buchanan the worst President; it was the same things that made his father, John Adams, the only one-term President of the first five.  The Adams men didn’t have the temperament for executive leadership and, in an office like the Presidency, it hurt them politically.  Where both of them excelled was in diplomacy and legislative thinking, which is where JQA spent the last 18 years of his life and happily erased the memory of his Presidency.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS:
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine:  11 of 29
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine:  13 of 31
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine:  19 of 38
1990: Siena Institute:  16 of 40
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine:  18 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  19 of 41
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll:  15 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership:  25 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  19 of 42
2010: Siena Institute:  19 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre:  20 of 40

I weep for the liberty of my country. The rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office…The voice of the people of the West have been disregarded, and demagogues barter them as sheep in the shambles for their own views and personal aggrandizement.
Andrew Jackson, on the election of John Quincy Adams, in a letter to John Overton, February 18, 1825
You know my private opinion of Mr. Adams: Talents, virtues, and integrity, and I am free to declare that I have never changed this opinion of Mr. Adams since it was first formed, I think him a man of the first rate mind of any in America as a civilian and scholar, and I have never doubted of his attachment to our republican Government…[I am] at liberty to say in my name both to my friends and enemies — that I will as far as my influence extends support Mr. Adams unless Mr. Calhoun should be brought forward.

Andrew Jackson, stating that he would commit to supporting John Quincy Adams for President in 1824 unless John C. Calhoun entered the race, in a personal letter to James Gadsden, December 6, 1821.

Jackson himself would run for President in 1824 in a four-way race against Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, and become embroiled in a feud with Adams (and Clay) for the rest of their lives because he believed Adams and Clay colluded in a “Corrupt Bargain” to swing the election in Adams’s favor. Calhoun would later serve as Vice President under Adams and Jackson, and also find himself in a vicious feud with Old Hickory.

Tyler is a political sectarian, of the slave-driving, Virginian, Jeffersonian school, principled against all improvement, with all the interests and passions and vices of slavery rooted in his moral and political constitution — with talents not above mediocrity, and a spirit incapable of expansion to the dimensions of the station upon which he has been cast by the hand of Providence.
John Quincy Adams, on John Tyler, shortly after Tyler had assumed the Presidency following the death of William Henry Harrison, 1841
How could I have witnessed this without an unbecoming burst of indignation or of laughter? John Tyler is a slave-monger. With the association of the thundering cannon, which I heard, and the smoke of burning Charlestown, which I saw on that awful day, combined with this pyramid with Quincy granite and John Tyler’s nose, with a shadow outstretching that of the monumental column, I stayed at home and visited my seedling trees and heard the cannonades, rather than watch the President at dinner in Faneuil Hall swill like swine and grunt about the rights of man.
John Quincy Adams, on his thoughts on the irony and hypocrisy of slave-owning President John Tyler visiting JQA’s home state of Massachusetts to commemorate the Bunker Hill monument
I cannot forbear to express here my regret at [Fillmore’s] retirement in the present emergency from [Congress]. There, or elsewhere, I hope and trust he will soon return for whether to the nation or to the state, no service can be or ever will be rendered by a more able or a more faithful public servant.
John Quincy Adams (actually speaking positively about a fellow President!), lamenting Millard Fillmore’s decision to not seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, 1843
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you think Secretary of State would be a good stepping stone to the presidency today, or that the offices are too distinct now?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

At the beginning of the 19th Century, being Secretary of State was almost a guarantee that you’d be elected President.  Five of the first eight Presidents had served as Secretary of State, including three (James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) who went directly to the White House from serving two terms as Secretary of State.  But it’s been nearly 160 years since the last Secretary of State — James Buchanan, who ran President Polk’s State Department from 1845 to 1849 — was elected President.  

I think it’s more difficult now for a couple of reasons.  First of all, Secretaries of State aren’t nearly as powerful now.  The Vice Presidency is a far more influential position today than it was in the 18th, 19th, and first half of the 20th Century, the White House Chief of Staff handles the Administration’s COO-type responsibilities that many Secretaries previously took on, and as other Cabinet posts have increased their profile within the Executive Department it has diminished the power of the Secretary of State, especially when there are turf wars like the feud between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld.  The Secretary of State used to be a Foreign Minister-type position that was basically just short of being equivalent to a Prime Minister; in many ways, the Secretary of State used to be (unofficially) the first-among-equals within the Cabinet.  That changed a bit early in the 20th Century, but especially in the latter part of the last century.  Basically since Nixon’s Presidency, American foreign policy is almost fully run by the White House through the National Security Staff (formerly known as the National Security Council).  The Secretary of State is a member of the National Security Staff and has a role in formulating that policy, of course, but they are more like Super Ambassadors who go where the President sends them and relays messages.  They have always been the top American diplomat, but the job now is much more political, domestically and internationally, than administrative.

Another reason why you don’t see more Secretaries of State running for President directly from the State Department is purely political.  If a President serves a single term, a Secretary of State isn’t going to be an ideal candidate because they’d have to challenge their boss.  If a President serves two terms, there is usually voter fatigue when it comes to the President and his Cabinet.  After two terms, the opposition party will have been sharpening their knives and getting ready for the Presidential election.  A Secretary of State who has either served two terms in office or wants to run for President directly from the State Department after one term in the Cabinet is an easy target.  All Presidents eventually become lame ducks and if someone is serving in their Cabinet as the President’s popularity starts to take a dive, they’ll usually be painted with that same brush.  It’s easy to run against them — whether you’re from the other party or challenging them in the primary.

Hillary Clinton would have a more difficult race in front of her if she were serving as Secretary of State in Obama’s Cabinet right now.  It would be easier to connect her with an unpopular President who is rapidly heading towards lame duck status if she were currently in the Cabinet.  Since she left after the first term, on her own terms, after Obama had been re-elected, she basically left at the perfect time — it’s like when an athlete retires after winning a championship.  If you go out on top, you control your destiny and shore up your legacy.  So, that’s why no Secretaries of State have been elected President since Buchanan in 1856 and few have even won their party’s nomination.  But, if things play out the way I think they will, Hillary will end that drought in 2016.      

Mr. Madison was the intimate, confidential, and devoted friend of Mr. Jefferson, and the mutual influence of these two mighty minds upon each other, is a phenomenon, like the invisible and mysterious movements of the magnet in the physical world, and in which the sagacity of the future historian may discover the solution of much of our national history not otherwise easily accountable.
John Quincy Adams, on the friendship of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, April 30, 1839
Rode the ten-mile round before breakfast. Met Mr. Van Buren riding also his horse, and we stopped and exchanged salutations. Van Buren is now Secretary of State. He is the manager by whom the present Administration has been brought into power. He has played over again the game of Aaron Burr in 1800, with the addition of political inconsistency, in transferring his allegiance from [William H.] Crawford to [Andrew] Jackson. He sold the State of New York to them both. His first bargain failed, by the turn of the choice of Electors in the Legislature. The second was barely accomplished by the system of party management established in that State; and Van Buren is now enjoying his reward. His pale and haggard looks show that it is already a reward of mortification. If it should prove, as there is every probability that it will, a reward of treachery, it will be but his just dessert. Divine retribution is often accomplished by the perfidy of man. Nee lex est justior ulla.
John Quincy Adams, on Martin Van Buren’s role in helping Andrew Jackson get elected in 1828, personal diary entry, July 8, 1829
Monroe showed his usual good sense in appointing [John Quincy] Adams [as his Secretary of State]. They were made for each other. Adams has a pointed pen; Monroe has sound judgment enough for both, and firmness enough to have his judgment control.
Thomas Jefferson, on James Monroe’s appointment of John Quincy Adams as his Secretary of State, 1817
The sentiments do honor to the head and heart of the writer, and if my wishes would be of any avail, they should go to you in the strong hope that you will not withhold merited promotion for Mr. John [Quincy] Adams because he is your son. For without intending to compliment the father or mother…I give it as my decided opinion that Mr. Adams is the most valuable public character we have abroad…There remains no doubt in my mind that he will prove himself to be the ablest of all our diplomatic corps…The public, more and more as he is known, are appreciating his talents and worth, and his country would sustain a loss if these are checked by over delicacy on your part.
George Washington, urging his successor, John Adams, not to recall his son, John Quincy Adams, from his diplomatic post overseas because of any fears about nepotism, 1797
The greatest beggar and the most troublesome of all the office seekers during my Administration was General Harrison.

John Quincy Adams, on William Henry Harrison, 1840.

Perhaps it was the opportunity to create some space between him and Harrison which explains why President Adams appointed the General to be the U.S. Minister in relatively distant Colombia in 1828.