John Quincy Adams
At a Glance
6th President of the United States (1825-1829)
Born: July 11, 1767, Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts
Nickname: "Old Man Eloquent"
Formal Education: Harvard College (graduated 1787)
Marriage: July 26, 1797, to Louisa Catherine Johnson (1775-1852)
Children: George Washington (1801-1829), John (1803-1834), Charles Francis (1807-1886), Louisa Catherine (1811-1812)
Career: Lawyer, Senator, Diplomat
Political Party: Federalist, Democratic-Republican, Whig
Writings: Memoirs; Writings of John Quincy Adams
Died: February 23, 1848, Washington, D.C.
Buried: First Unitarian Church, Quincy, Massachusetts
Presidential Life in Brief: Four men campaigned for the presidency in 1824: former Secretary of War William H. Crawford of Georgia, House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky, Tennessee's General Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams. Crawford won the Republican congressional caucus nomination. This was a landmark election, the first in which popular vote actually mattered. Sixteen states had moved to choose presidential electors by popular vote while six still left the choice up to the state legislature. After a fierce campaign, Jackson took a plurality in the popular vote, followed, in order, by Adams, Clay, and Crawford. In the Electoral College, however, Jackson had thirty-two votes fewer than he needed to prevail. Acting under the Twelfth Amendment, the House of Representatives met to select the President. Speaker of the House Clay threw his support behind Adams and gave him the election by a single vote. Soon thereafter, Adams named Clay secretary of state. It was a bad beginning. Jackson resigned from the Senate and vowed to unseat Adams in 1828.
Adams believed strongly that it was constitutional and appropriate for the federal government to sponsor broad programs to improve American society and prosperity. He backed Henry Clay's proposed "American System," envisioning a national marketplace in which North and South, town and country were tied together by trade and exchange. To realize this vision, Adams proposed to Congress an ambitious program involving the construction of roads, canals, educational institutions, and other initiatives. Lacking congressional allies, Adams was unable to maneuver most of these programs into law. Congress also blocked many of his foreign initiatives. His support of the so-called Abominable Tariff of 1828, which protected American interests but caused higher prices, cost him popularity among the voters.
By 1828, Andrew Jackson had been campaigning for three years. He characterized Adams's election as a "corrupt bargain" typical of the elitist eastern "gamesters," such as Adams and Clay. Following a campaign marred by vicious personal attacks -- Jackson's wife was called an adulteress) -- Jackson won in a landslide.
The American System was a plan to strengthen and unify the nation. It was promoted by a number of leading politicians especially Henry Clay during the JQA (and Monroe) administration. It included:
Development of a system of internal improvements (such as roads and canals) which would tie the nation together
Support for a high tariff to protect American industries and generate revenue for the federal government (it also made European goods more expensive and encouraged consumers to buy relatively cheap American-made goods)
Although the American System only enjoyed partial success, it remains one of the most historically significant examples of a government-sponsored program to harmonize and balance the nation's agriculture, commerce, and industry.
Adams saw some of his internal improvement proposals adopted, such the extension of the Cumberland Road and the construction of the Delaware Canal; a transportation network to grow and thrive economically.
He signed into law the Tariff of 1828 (otherwise referred to as the Tariff of Abominations). The goal of the tariff was to protect industry in the northern and southern United States, which was being driven out of business by low-priced European (especially British) manufactured goods. As a result, the U.S. placed a tax on imported goods. Inadvertently, the South was harmed by having to pay higher prices on goods the region did not produce. The reaction in the South, particularly in South Carolina, lead to the Nullification Crisis that began in late 1832.