Author: Staff writer

John Quincy Adams Facts

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767.

John Quincy Adams birthplace and childhood house is now part of the Adams National Park and it is open to the public.

John was 5′ 7″ tall and athletic.

He was an avid swimmer.

John Quincy was named after Colonel John Quincy, his mother’s maternal grandfather. The city of Quincy, Massachusetts was named after Colonel Quincy.

When John was 8 years old he watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from a hill near his house in Quincy.

His parents had high expectations of him and his siblings.

John Quincy, like his father, kept a diary which he started updating from 1779, age 12, until before his death in 1848.

His diary shows that he suffered from depression most of his life.

The entries in his diary amount to 51 volumes, more than 14,000 pages and are kept in the Adams Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

When John Quincy was 11 he accompanied his father to Europe on a diplomatic assignment. It took them six weeks on board of the Boston to cross the Atlantic.

He earned a Bachelor Degree in Arts and a Master in Arts from Harvard University.

John always wanted to please his parents. He wanted to marry a young lady from Newburyport but his parents opposed as marriage might interfere with his law career.

His brother Charles and his second son John Adams II died from alcoholism.

John Quincy married Louisa Catherine Johnson, the only foreign born first lady.

John Quincy was 30 and Louisa Catherine Johnson 22 when they got married.

John Quincy and his father served as Ministers to Britain, a top post in diplomacy. Before becoming Secretary of State he served as minister to the Netherlands, Prussia and Russia.

Adams served as Secretary of State for 8 consecutive years under President James Monroe. John Quincy is considered one of the most accomplished Secretary of State of all times.

His father died on July 4th, 1826 when John Quincy was president.

John Quincy was an early proponent of Manifest Destiny, an American expansionist policy popular in the 19th century. He changed his position when the expansion of American territory also meant the expansion of slavery. Slavery was abolished in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.

John Adams, 2nd president, and John Quincy Adams, 6th president, are the first father son pair to become U.S. presidents. George H. W. Bush, 41st president, and George W. Bush, 43rd president, are the second.

John Quincy was fluent in French, Dutch and German. He was proficient in Italian, Latin and classical Greek.

John Quincy had a stroke on February 21, 1848 while the House of Representatives was discussing a matter he strongly opposed. When it came to voting he cried “No!” and collapsed. He died two days later on February 23.

John Quincy Adams-Singleton Copley

John Quincy Adams portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1796. Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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Timeline of the life of John Quincy Adams

Chronological events in the life of John Quincy Adams



July 11:  John Quincy Adams was born in Quincy, Massachusetts. His parents were second President of the United States, John Adams and Abigail Smith.

1778 to 1779

Eleven year old John Quincy traveled with John Adams to France where his father served as a diplomatic envoy. It took them six weeks on board of the Boston to cross the Atlantic.

Enrolled in L’Ecole de Mathematiques, a private academy.

Started entry in diary which was kept until 1848 before he died.


Charles and John Quincy accompanied John Adams to the Netherlands to negotiated a loan.

Studied at the University of Leiden, Netherlands.


At age 14 and because of his fluency in French John Quincy traveled to St. Petersburg as secretary and translator for Francis Dana.


Returned to Paris and served as secretary to his father.


Returned to Boston and started his education in Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


John Quincy graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor Degree in Arts.


He studied law with Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, north of Boston.


John Quincy earned his Master of Art degree from Harvard.


He was admitted to the bar and started practicing law in Boston.


President George Washington appointed him Minister to the Netherlands.


July 26: Married Louisa Catherine Johnson. British born, daughter of Joshua Johnson, American merchant and consul in 1790.


President John Adams appointed him Minister to Prussia.


April 12: The couple had their first child, George Washington Adams, who died at age 28 of apparent suicide.

Elected to the Massachusetts Legislature.


July 4: Second son, John Adams II was born. He died at age 31 from alcoholism.


August 18: John Quincy and Louisa Catherine had their third child, Charles Francis Adams.

Appointed to the U.S. Senate

John Quincy switched allegiance from the Federalist Party to Democratic-Republican Party.


President James Madison appointed him as the first U.S Minister to Russia.


While in Russia the couple had their third child, Louisa Catherine, who died in her first year of life.


John Quincy headed the American delegation that signed the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812.


President James Madison appointed him Minister to Great Britain.


John Quincy became Secretary of State to President James Monroe for two consecutive terms. He is considered one of the most accomplished Secretary of State of all times.


After a contested presidential election, John Quincy Adams was elected the sixth President of the United States.


Adams lost the presidential election to Andrew Jackson.


He was elected to nine consecutive terms in Congress as a Massachusetts representative.


February 21: Suffered a stroke.

February 23: Died.

John Quincy Adams Presidential Portrait

John Quincy Adams presidential portrait by George Caleb Bingham, 1844. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.


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Facts about Abigail Adams

  • Abigail Adams, nee Abigail Smith, was born on November 11, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
  • Her father was William Smith, a reverend from the Congregational Church. Her mother was Elizabeth Quincy, from a well known political family in Massachusetts.
  • Abigail was the second born. Her siblings were: Mary, William and Elizabeth.
  • Abigail did not go to school due to chronic illness since childhood. Until she was 11 her mother oversaw her education.
  • When she turned 11 a college professor, Cranch, introduced her to the best literary authors and philosophy. She studied at home using his father’s extensive library.
  • John and Abigail met in 1759 when she was 15 years old.
  • They were reintroduced in 1761 when John became attracted by her intelligence and wit.
  • The courtship between John Adams and Abigail Smith lasted for three years.
  • John and Abigail married on October 25, 1764. Abigail was 19 years old.
  • The couple had six children:

1765: Abigail (Nabby)

1767: John Quincy

1768: Susanna

1770: Charles

1772 Thomas Boylston

1777: Elizabeth, stillborn

  • Abigail became First Lady in March 1801, at 52 years of age.
  • Abigail was the first First Lady to live in the White House in Washington, DC.
  • She assumed an active role as an informal adviser to the president and as the First Lady.
  • Abigail was an advocate for women’s rights and equal public education for women.
  • She supported the emancipation of slaves which she considered a threat to democracy.
  • John and Abigail exchanged over 1,100 letters from 1762 until 1801.
  • Older daughter Nabby died in 1813 from breast cancer.
  • She suffered of poor health during her last years.
  • Abigail Adams died of typhoid fever in her home in Quincy, Massachusetts on October 28, 1818 when she was 73 years old.

Olive Branch Petition

July 8, 1775

To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty.

MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN: We, your Majesty’s faithful subjects of the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these Colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in General Congress, entreat your Majesty’s gracious attention to this our humble petition.

The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produce benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extra-ordinary the world had ever known.

Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connection being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of those settlements from which they were to be derived.

In the prosecution of this attempt, events so unfavourable to the design took place, that every friend to the interests of Great Britain and these Colonies, entertained pleasing and reasonable expectations of seeing an additional force and exertion immediately given to the operations of the union hitherto experienced, by an enlargement of the dominions of the Crown, and the removal of ancient and warlike enemies to a greater distance.

At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war, the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal Colonists having contributed to its success by such repeated and strenuous exertions as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the Empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest.

While these recent and honourable acknowledgements of their merits remained on record in the Journals and acts of that august Legislature, the Parliament, undefaced by the imputation or even the suspicion of any offence, they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestick danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.

Nor were these anxieties alleviated by any tendency in this system to promote the welfare of their Mother Country. For though its effects were more immediately felt by them, yet its influence appeared to be injurious to the commerce and prosperity of Great Britain.

We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices practiced by many of your Majesty’s Ministers, the delusive pretenses, fruitless terrors, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitic plan, or of tracing through a series of years past the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, that have flowed from this fatal source.

Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defense, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress.

Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations to Almighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.

Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty’s royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearance of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.

Attached to your Majesty’s person, family, and Government, with all devotion that principle and affection can inspire; connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty’s name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and by securing the happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.

We beg further leave to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the course of this present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might, in any manner, be inconsistent with her dignity or welfare. These, related as we are to her, honour and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find our faithful subject on this Continent ready and willing at all times, as they have ever been with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother Country.

We therefore beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty’s wise consideration, whether it may not be expedient, for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful Colonists to the Throne, in pursuance of their common counsels, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the mean time, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty’s subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty’s Colonies may be repealed.

For such arrangements as your Majesty’s wisdom can form for collecting the united sense of your American people, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the Colonists towards their Sovereign and Parent State, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate Colonists.

That your Majesty may enjoy long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.


The XYZ Affair

What was the XYZ Affair?

The XYZ Affair was a series of diplomatic events that involved the U.S. and France during the late 1790s and was one of the most pressing issues during John Adams’ presidency. This incident resulted in an undeclared war known as the Quasi-War. Peace was restored with the Convention of 1800 also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine.

In the early 1790’s France and Britain were the world powers trying to control most commerce from and to their far away colonies. George Washington decided that the United States would not take sides and would remain neutral. When the U.S and Britain ratified the Jay Treaty in 1796, a treaty of amity, commerce and navigation, the French government was highly unsatisfied with the agreement as it gave Britain the most favored nation trading status. France reacted by seizing U.S. merchant ships in the West Indies and by refusing to receive Charles C. Pinckney, who replaced Monroe, as U.S. Ambassador to France. Facing arrest Pinckney had to flee to the Netherlands.

John Adams wanted to avoid a full scale war with France opposing his own Federalist Party that under the direction of Alexander Hamilton used these events to turn U.S. citizens against France. Most of the impact of the XYZ affair was in domestic politics, as it was used as a tool for the opposition.

In July 1797, in order to peacefully settle the dispute the newly elected president John Adams sent a committee of three men –Charles Cotesworth Pinkney, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry- to negotiate a peace agreement with France. Upon their arrival the committee was unable to meet with the French Foreign Minister, Charles Maurice de Telleyrand, instead he sent three agents Jean-Conrad Hottinguer (“X”), Pierre Bellamy (“Y”) and Lucien Hauteval (“Z”) to negotiate a bribe of £50,000 and a loan to the French government before negotiations could begin. The Democrat – Republican Party, suspicious of Adam’s dealings, demanded that he release all correspondence with France, and in doing so, he replaced the French agent names with X, Y and Z.

Meanwhile the U.S Navy was battling French ships in the Caribbean; Congress declared all French treaties nul and void, created the Navy Department and invested in the construction of warships, the U.S was getting ready to go to war with France. Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, attempted to restore relations and prevent a full scale war by accepting a new American commission that included William VansMurray, Oliver Ellsworth and William Richardson Davie. The outcome was the Convention of 1800 also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine.

The treaty established a true and sincere Friendship between the French Republic and the United States of America giving each other the “Most Favored Nation” trade status. All the ships captured during the war were to be returned and French rights to fish off Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence were to be reestablished and guaranteed. The Treaty of Mortefontaine was ratified by both countries on December 21, 1801.


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Last years of John Adams

After his defeat in the 1800 presidential elections by Thomas Jefferson Adams returned to Quincy, he was 65 years old. During the first years of his retirement Adams seldom left Peacefield, only to walk or ride in the countryside. He went through a long period of adjustment to a less active lifestyle. Adams did not publish and correspondence was light, he worked on the farm and liked to read alone in his study.

In 1803 after John Quincy’s return to Massachusetts John Adams came out of his two year self imposed isolation. John Quincy played an active role with the Federalist Party and was elected to the State legislature and then to the US Senate. John Quincy managed his father’s finances and properties. That same year Thomas moved back to Peacefield and opened a law office. Charles’ widow, Sally, and her two children also moved to Quincy. Surrounded by his own children and grandchildren Adams was enjoying his retirement. He started going to public functions such as the 4th of July celebrations and the yearly commencement at Harvard.

The death of his political contemporaries started to become a frequent occurrence. While he remained in good health during the 15 years in retirement, other than the deterioration of his vision, Abigail did not have such luck. In 1807 she was affected by influenza which left her in weak health, in 1809 it was dysentery and in 1812 a pulmonary disorder. She also suffered of deteriorating rheumatism.

In 1811 his older daughter Nabby was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in 1813. He also lost a grandson, son of Thomas, to whooping cough. These two family tragedies and the death of close friends seemed to have changed Adams who was no longer bitter from his departure from Washington. He reconnected with Jefferson and continued to communicate until the end of their lives.

A few years later on Wednesday October 28, 1818 Abigail died from typhoid fever; she was laid to rest next to Nabby. John Adams was emotionally distraught and old but remained mentally alert and with full mental faculties. After 1823 his quality of life started to deteriorate and his sight was nearly gone. In 1824 he got to see his son John Quincy being elected the sixth President of the United States.

He wished to live to see the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; his wish was granted as he died at six o’clock on July 4, 1825. Jefferson died on the same day.

Services were conducted at the Congregational Church and his body was laid to rest next to Abigail’s.


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The Boston Massacre Marker

The Boston Massacre marker represents the location of the historical event known as the Boston Massacre when five civilians were killed by British troops. It was the second president of the United States, John Adams, who defended the soldiers who killed the five civilians. The marker is located in the corner of State and Devonshire Streets (see map). It is a ring of cobblestones with the center stone marked with a star and it is surrounded by a bronze ring with the inscription “Site of the Boston Massacre” on the top and on the bottom “March 5, 1770”.


The current Boston Massacre marker in the corner of State and Devonshire Streets.

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Its current location is not, however, its original location. In 1887 the city government and the Massachusetts Historical society decided to commemorate the event by placing a marker where the first victim, Crispus Attucks, fell dead. The location was in the corner of State and Exchange streets. It is worth noting that the marker was placed there for historical accuracy so that there would be no doubt in the future as to where the first victim had died.

In 1904 and then again in 1960 the marker was moved from its original location to allow for the construction of the subway and relocation of streets. First, the marker was moved to site where James Caldwell was shot and then to the traffic island in front of the Old State House.


The previous location of the Boston Massacre marker was on a traffic island in front of the Old State House. Click on image to enlarge

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