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Who Was John Quincy Adams?

Posted by TMA on November 14, 2017

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 A portrait of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States of America


You're here because you're interested in John Quincy Adams. Gray Line DC has a range of Washington DC tours and we know the history of the US better than anyone. So we thought we'd give you a little background on the man before your next big visit to DC! John Quincy Adams was a wartime president and his strength in negotiations helped to end conflicts quickly. While he’s not one of the most famous presidents, he had a massive impact on the history of the country. And if this interests you, you may like to check out our Brief History of George Washington.

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11th, 1767. Much of what we know about Adams comes from his own private diaries, which he kept from the age of 12 until shortly before his passing. This means we have a great understanding of his personality and the decisions that he made in his life. 

His father, founding father John Adams, had a huge impact on his son. They traveled overseas often, with visits to Europe and Scandinavia a massive part of John Quincy Adam’s childhood. He attended the oldest educational institution in the Netherlands, Leiden University. 

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Eventually, Adams decided that he should return to the United States to further his education and make a start on his political career. With a father who was destined to be president, the political urges in young Adams were incredibly strong, with great ambitions of his own. His first accolade came when he published a paper supporting George Washington, who then appointed him Minister to the Netherlands. 

Although Adams was initially hesitant in accepting this appointment, his father assured him that it was the correct path to take. This turned out to be a pivotal moment for Adams, as it effectively set off the rest of his career. This appointment would also be the one in which he met his future wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson. Interestingly enough, he was the first president to have a first lady who was born outside of the United States, the only other to do so is the current president Donald Trump. 

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Throughout his career, he always seemed to want to return to the United States, but at Washington’s urging, he became Minister to Portugal. When his father became president, Washington advised that the younger Adams should be made Minister to Prussia. He had a real talent for negotiations and this was very much recognized by those in charge. 

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This portrait of John Quincy Adams is on display at the National Portrait Gallery

Later in life, Adams served as the Secretary of State to President Monroe. This appointment gave him the necessary experience to launch a bid for presidency in the next term. During his term as Secretary of State, he was instrumental in defining the foreign policies that are still in place to this day. 

The race to the presidency was a close one, as Adams faced off against another three strong contenders. He served as president for one term before working in congress later in his political career. 

If you head to the National Portrait Gallery in DC, then you can see his photograph. This is one of the first photographs of a president to exist, though some historians claim that a photograph of William Henry Harrison dates even earlier, but this is unconfirmed. This president had an exceptionally interesting life! If you want to learn more about our presidents and our history, then contact us here at Gray Line DC!

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