John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams was the only son of a president to become president. He had an impressive political background that began at the age of fourteen. He was an intelligent and industrious individual. He was a man of strong character and high principles. By all account, his presidency should have been a huge success, yet it wasn’t.
John Quincy Adams’ presidency was frustrating and judged a failure because of the scandal, attached to his election, the pettiness of his political rivals, and his strong character. John Quincy Adams was born on July 1767, in Braintree Massachusetts. His parents were John and Abigail Adams. Quincy, had every advantage as a youngster. At the time of his birth, his father was an increasingly admired and prospering lawyer, and his mother Abigail Smith Adams, was the daughter of an esteemed minister, whose wife’s family combined two prestigious and influential lines, the Nortons and the Quincys. Accompanying his father on diplomatic missions in Europe, young John Quincy Adams received a splendid education at private schools in Paris, Leiden, and Amsterdam, early developing his penchant for omnivorous reading.
He was able to speak several languages. At the age of fourteen, he was asked to serve as secretary and translator to Francis Dana, the first US ambassador to Russia. Despite his age, young Adams was a valuable aid to the consul; he enjoyed Russia and the exposure to diplomatic circles. He later returned to the United States and attended Harvard. He graduated in two years and entered the law offices of Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Passing the bar in 1790, he set up practice in Boston.
In 1794 John began his long political career. George Washington appointed John Quincy Adams an Ambassador to the Netherlands. After his father was elected as the second president of the United States, he was reassigned to the post of minister to Prussia. He kept this post throughout his fathers term of office. After his fathers defeat to Thomas Jefferson he returned home.
In 1802 he was elected to the Massachusetts senate, which sent him to the U. S senate the following year. He was also appointed to the Supreme Court, a membership he declined. President James Madison then appointed him to minister to Russia in 1809. He continued to serve his country and gained a well-respected reputation.
Adding to his reputation was his brilliant and tough-minded performance as chief American peace commissioner in the negotiations at Gent that ended the War of 1812 and his effectiveness as minister to Great Britain during the last two years of the Madison administration. He continued to distinguish himself by negotiating a treaty with Spain. The Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain, concluded with Spain on February 22, 1819. Provided for the transfer of East and West Florida to the United States and the establishment of a border between Spanish and US territory running from the Gulf of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains and along the forty-second parallel to the Pacific ocean. Historians regard the treaty as a brilliant act of diplomacy, and Adams himself called its conclusion the most important event of my life. Many historians give credit to Adams for his contributions to the Monroe Doctrine. Adams also was the mind behind the Monroe Doctrine, which warned that the United States would oppose any European interference in the internal affairs of an American nation or further European colonization of territory in the Western Hemisphere. There was no doubt that Adams was a deserving candidate for the presidential election of 1824.
He had held high diplomatic positions and displayed both aptitude and ability. He wanted to be President, but although Adams was the most distinguished member of the Monroe Cabinet, his successes were somewhat neutralized by his lack of friends and organizational backing He had also earned himself a reputation of being stubborn and unflexable. He had no problems speaking out against issues he felt were unjust. He also spoke out against his own political party. The son of a leading Federalist Party, Adams proved to be anything but a slavish devotee to that political cause.
When he thought the party was in the wrong, he stood ready to oppose it. In fact, as he told his father, if he thought the country was in the wrong, he could not bring himself to solicit God’s approval for its course. The final break from the Federalist Party came after Adams choice to support President Jefferson’s Embargo act of 1807. Adams, however, angered his fellow Federalists by insisting on considering each issue independently, rather than voting with the party. When he supported President Jefferson’s Embargo act in 1807, the Massachusetts legislature elected his successor six months before his term expired. He later resigned in protest and returned to teach at Harvard.
Despite his break with the Federalist Party, he remained active in politics. He was appointed Minister to Russia and later appointed as Secretary of State under President Monroe. President Monroe, like the Presidents before him served two consecutive terms. In 1824 he was ready to retire. The Presidential candidates were William Crawford of Georgia, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Quincy Adams, Then Crawford was stricken, and his nomination by a small congressional caucuses was merely a gesture of respect and friendship.
The four candidate race split the electoral votes. Although no one received majority needed to win the election, Jackson had received the most votes. The four-candidate race split the electoral vote, and n one received the majority required to be elected. Jackson led Adams 99 to 84 votes, with Crawford and Clay receiving 41 and 37 votes, respectively. The stalemate drew the election into the House of Representatives. There Henry Clay, a powerful member of the House, gave his support to Adams, who emerged victorious despite having received less than one-third of the popular vote. Although Jackson and his supporters were furious, there was nothing they could do. John Quincy Adams was elected as president.
His presidency and the election were immediate judged corrupt. This was due to the fact that Adams made Clay his Secretary of State. What was earlier a murmur became a roar when Adams proffered, and Clay accepted the position of secretary of state in Adams’ cabinet. In a rage at the outcome of the House’s election Jackson said of Clay that the Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver, and in Clays home state he charged that the people had been cheated. Their will defeated by corruption’s and intrigues at Washington. This scandal seemed to taint Adams presidency and reputation.
Neither Adams nor Clay could ever recover from it. After that, nothing went right for Adams. The Jackson men in his cabinet were openly disloyal Any idea or policy Adams proposed was immediately opposed. Yet Adams’ schemes were derided or ignored. He had no party organization to back him.
He lacked the personal magnetism to fire the national imagination and impose his will. Even with all this opposition Adams continued to work hard and serve his country. Serving his country meant not firing his political rivals if they did their jobs. Even though they were intent on ruining his presidency, Adams would not remove them from office as long as they did their jobs. Adams’ chief blunders was simply his fair and high-minded treatment of his political enemies.
The era of the spoil-system did not reward political integrity of the sort that refused to kick men out of office merely because they were performing their jobs ably. The Jacksonian’s and their Whig successors judged political appointees not so much by the quality of their public performance as by their loyalty to the man or the party in power. He not only would not replace his political enemies; he would not condemn them for their wrong doing towards him. Self-defense or countercharge was out of the question: refusing to sink to the level of his opponents, Adams remained tight-lipped, retained his dignity, and was soundly beaten. The sun of my political life, he confided in his diary, sets in the deepest gloom. He remained a man of high moral standards and strong conviction.
His integrity was worth more to him than a second term. He appears to have contemplated his forthcoming political disaster reflectively, fortified by his conviction that the path he had taken was the moral one. Adams lost the following presidential election. He had given up a good part of his life to serve his country. Unfortunately it seemed neither neither he nor the country realized his important contribution. I should of been one of the greatest benefactors of my country…
But the connective power of mind was not conferred upon me but by my Maker, and I have not improved the scanty portions of His gifts as I might and ought to have done. His presidency was judged a failure due in a large part to the presidential scandal he seemed unable to overcome. His rivals were responsible for keeping it alive in everyone’s minds. They never let the public forget his Corrupt Bargain with Clay. They also doomed almost every piece of important legislation he had tried to pass. Adams’ own integrity allowed his rivals free reign.
His own high standards about refusing to abuse his office resulted in his rivals retaining their positions of power. The scandal, political rivals, and his own integrity doomed his presidency to failure.