US History I-section 2
15 March 2000
John Quincy Adams- a success or a failure?
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. (Graff 92)
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. (Presidents 176) 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. (Presidents 176) In 1794 John began his long political
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. (Diller 27) 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 Ghent that
ended the War of 1812 and his effectiveness as minister to Great Britain
during the last two years of the Madison administration. (Graff 92)
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. (Diller 27)
Many historians give credit to Adams for his contributions to the Monroe
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. (Diller 27)
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. (Graff 92)
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. (Diller 27)
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. (Diller 27)
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
causus was merely a gesture of respect and friendship. (Presidents 188) 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
hrew 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. (Diller 27)
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. (Graff 94)
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 (Presidency 105) 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.
(Cunliffe 83) 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 Jacksonians 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. (Presidents 175)
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. (Graff 98)
Adams lost the following presidential election. He had given up a good
part of his life to serve his country. Unfortunately it seemed neither he nor the
country realized his important contribution.
I should of been one of the greatest benefactors of my country....But the
conceptive 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. (Presidency 91)
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.
Word Count: 1644
|Can't find your paper? Order it from us!
We offer best quality custom research paper writing services. You
custom research papers on any topic or subject. Our writers will
be ready to help you with any paper form, level and number of pages. |
Request your paper now by filling this
research paper writing ordering form!