AP®︎/College US History
The presidency of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams narrowly beat Andrew Jackson in the presidential election of 1824. Though his 'American System' modernized the American economy, his endorsement of a protective tariff as well as his lenient stance toward Native Americans cast him out of office after one term.
- John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States. He served one term in office from 1825 to 1829.
- John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States. He served as Secretary of State under James Monroe before becoming president.
- Adams was a nimble statesman who is best remembered for his skilled diplomacy and his principled opposition to slavery.
The early life of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Abigail Adams, an early feminist who famously reminded her husband to “remember the ladies” while he was in office. Quincy Adams served as Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825 under President James Monroe and is widely considered one of the best Secretaries of State in US history.
Portrait of John Quincy Adams
As Secretary of State, Adams helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. He also worked with the British to establish the border between British Canada and the United States, negotiated the annexation of Florida from Spain, and composed the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted the Western Hemisphere as the US sphere of influence and warned European imperial powers not to meddle in it.
The presidency of John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams won the 1824 presidential election in a four-way race against Henry Clay, William Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. The election was so close that it was ultimately decided by the House of Representatives, which had the authority under the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution to decide the outcome of a presidential race in which no candidate received a majority of electoral votes.
Because Andrew Jackson had won more electoral votes than any other single candidate, he was embittered by the outcome and declared the election to be a "corrupt bargain.” Jackson alleged that Henry Clay, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, had convinced the House to elect Adams—a charge made more believable by the fact that Adams, once in office, appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Although no evidence surfaced to indicate that Clay had actually corrupted the process, the accusations lent credence to Jackson’s portrayal of Adams as a defender of the elite against the interests of the common man.
As president, Adams supported a program to modernize the US economy. Known as the American System, it included funding for infrastructure development to facilitate trade, a tariff to protect the domestic manufacturing industry, support for a national bank and currency, and a sharp reduction in the national debt, from $16 to $5 million.
Adams's decline in popularity
John Quincy Adams’s popularity declined as a result of his lenient approach toward Native Americans, whom he supported against the demands of westward settlers. Adams’s successor, Andrew Jackson, would go on to implement a policy of Indian removal, which involved relocating eastern tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River.
In 1828, Adams signed off on a protective tariff that became known as the Tariff of Abominations to its southern opponents, who argued that it benefited northern manufacturing interests at their expense. This led to a further decline in Adams’s popularity and opened the way for Andrew Jackson to portray Adams as an eastern establishment elite who didn't care about the interests of the frontier settler or the common man.
The post-presidency of John Quincy Adams
After losing the 1828 presidential election to Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served for 17 years as the representative from Massachusetts.
In the House, Adams became one of the most vocal opponents of slavery. He consistently advocated abolitionist views and policies while condemning slavery as an immoral institution and attacking the interests of Southern slaveholders. During the Mexican-American War of 1848, Adams was one of the leading opponents of annexing Texas, presciently predicting that it would lead to civil war.
In 1841, Adams appeared before the Supreme Court to argue on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. The Supreme Court ruling was favorable; the slaves were declared free men. The incident was a major victory for the US abolitionist movement.
What do you think?
Was John Quincy Adams an effective president? Why or why not?
How would you characterize the main differences between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson?
Do you think Adams had a more successful career during or after his time as president?
Want to join the conversation?
- It says that John Quincy Adams was against slavery, did he own any slaves in his life time; if so did he free them as Benjamin Franklin did ?(17 votes)
- No, he did not own any slaves. He abhorred the idea of slavery, although his father, John Adams, owned three.(31 votes)
- Would the outcome of the United States be any different if Andrew Jackson have had won the election instead of John Quincy Adams in 1824?(10 votes)
- Yes. Think of the Civil war; John Quincy basically represents the north, and Jackson the south.(14 votes)
- How did John Quincy Adams manage to reduce the national debt from 16 million to 5 million?(11 votes)
- The "Tariff of Abominations" in 1828 generated revenue for the federal government. On top of that, Quincy Adams also supported reduction in government spending, which also helped reduce the national debt.(2 votes)
- How was John Quincy Adams viewed during his presidency?(3 votes)
- Due to the whole Corrupt Bargain and Election of 1824 shenanigans, John Quincy Adams wasn't really admired by the fans of his political opponents. His main achievements, such as the Adams-Onis Treaty, were done when he was Secretary of State. John Quincy Adams was definitely qualified to be a president, but many of his plans for the Union were never accepted and some of his arguments were contrary to the political beliefs of that time, and the trends of increased partisan views and voter interest. So, the public viewed him as an average president but terrific Secretary of State, for the most part.(6 votes)
- Why was Native American removal popular with people in the early 19th century??(3 votes)
- It was popular because they didn't see Native Americans as citizens of the United States. They were still being seen as savages, wild animals, etc. The conman people thought it would be better for their new country to drive the Native Americans away. There was also the problem with land still going on from when we first arrive on the continent.(6 votes)
- did john quincy adams know people who owned slaves?(2 votes)
- Though J.Q. Adams did not own any slaves himself, he was acquainted with several slave owners, including other members of the US Senate (where he served for a time), members of presidential cabinets (in which he served) and other American presidents of that era who owned slaves.(6 votes)
- What does Tariff of Abominations mean?(4 votes)
- The "Tariff of Abominations" was a protective tariff passed by the Congress of the United States on May 19, 1828, designed to protect industry in the northern United States.(3 votes)
- I'm a bit confused as to how he could have helped with the Treaty of Ghent as secretary of state considering that Monroe was the secretary of state when the Treaty of Ghent was written and approved, is this a typo or am I missing something in the timeline? ("As Secretary of State, Adams helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812.")(2 votes)
- I believe that is either a typo or a misunderstanding. You are correct that James Monroe was Secretary of State at the time of the Treaty of Ghent. John Quincy Adams was Secretary of State during Monroe's presidency. However, JQA was a peace commissioner who helped negotiate and sign the treaty. So that's probably just a minor error.(3 votes)
- In one of the paragraphs, you said "Andrew Jackson had won more electoral votes than any other single candidate", but before that, you said, "no candidate received a majority of electoral votes". I'm kinda confused: did Jackson win more electoral votes or popular votes?(2 votes)
- "Jackson alleged that Henry Clay, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, had convinced the House to elect Adams—a charge made more believable by the fact that Adams, once in office, appointed Clay as Secretary of State". What role does the Speaker of the House of Representatives play in the election of a president?(1 vote)
- Formally speaking, the Speaker plays no role. Per the 12th Amendment, if no candidate for president receives an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College, then the House of Representatives must decide the election. There were four candidates in 1824 (Andrew Jackson with 99 electoral votes, JQA with 84, William Crawford with 41, and Speaker of the House Henry Clay with 37). However, per the 12th Amendment, the House only chooses from among the top three candidates and since Speaker Clay came in fourth place in the Electoral College, he was disqualified but, as Speaker of the House and having commanded the electoral votes of several western states, he retained significant influence. Thus, when Speaker Clay, no longer being a candidate when the election reached the House, announced his support of John Quincy Adams for president, JQA won the House election (done by House delegation rather than by the votes of every member individually, again per the 12th Amendment) with the votes of 13 out of 24 state delegations.(2 votes)