This Day in History: A Future U.S. President is Born

On this day in 1767, John Quincy Adams, son of the second U.S. president, John Adams, is born in Braintree, Massachusetts.

John Quincy Adams not only shared the elder Adams' passion for politics, but seemed to have inherited his father's cantankerous personality as well. At 14, he was already joining his dad on diplomatic missions; he entered the legal arena upon completing his schooling.

As a young man, he served as minister to several countries, including the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Prussia, and England. In 1803, he commenced his first term as a Republican in the Senate and helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. From 1817 to 1824, he served as secretary of state to President James Monroe. While it is Monroe who gets most of the credit for his eponymous Doctrine, historians assert that Adams was the true mastermind behind it.

In the heavily contested presidential election of 1824, a tie between Quincy Adams and Democrat Andrew Jackson put the deciding vote in the hands of the House of Representatives. Adams prevailed and went on to serve one term from 1825 to 1829.

Rather than retire after his days as president came to an end, Adams opted to return to Congress. He much preferred legislative work to the presidency, which he described as the four most terrible years of his life. Beginning in 1831, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, chairing congressional committees on foreign relations, the economy, and Indian affairs.

He would earn the nickname “Old Man Eloquent” for his ardent support of freedom of speech and universal education as well as for his strong arguments against slavery, the latter cementing his reputation as an abolitionist.

On February 21, 1848, Adams suffered a massive stroke and died two days later in a room in the Capitol building.

While John Quincy Adams' presidency has been largely forgotten, he made a number of significant contributions in Congress and is widely regarded as one of the greatest diplomats in U.S. history.

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