John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman who served as a diplomat, United States Senator, member of the House of Representatives, and the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later the Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. He was the son of President John Adams and Abigail Adams and thus contributed to the formation of the Adams political family.
Adams shaped U.S. foreign policy using his ardently nationalist commitment to U.S. republican values. As a diplomat, Adams played an important role in negotiating key treaties, most notably the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. As Secretary of State, he negotiated with Britain over the United States’ northern border with Canada, negotiated with Spain the annexation of Florida, and drafted the Monroe Doctrine. Historians generally concur that he was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history. In his biography, Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that Adams was able to “gather together, formulate, and practice the fundamentals of American foreign-policy – self-determination, independence, noncolonization, nonintervention, nonentanglement in European politics, Freedom of the Seas, freedom of commerce.”
Adams was elected president in a close and controversial four-way contest in 1824. As president he sought to modernize the American economy and promote education. Adams enacted a part of his agenda and paid off much of the national debt. However, he was stymied time and again by a Congress controlled by opponents, and his lack of patronage networks helped politicians sabotage him. He lost his 1828 bid for re-election to Andrew Jackson. He has been portrayed by recent historians as an exemplar and moral leader during an era of modernization, when new modes of communication spread messages of religious revival, social reform, and party politics, and improved transportation moved goods, money, and people more rapidly. Historians have in the aggregate of surveys from 1948 to 2017, ranked Adams as the 21st most successful president.
After leaving office, he was elected as U.S. Representative from Massachusetts in 1830, serving for the last 17 years of his life with greater acclaim than he had achieved as president. Animated by his growing revulsion against slavery, Adams became a leading opponent of the Slave Power. Adams predicted the Union’s dissolution over slavery, and in such a case, felt the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers. Adams also became a critic of the annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American War, which he saw as an aggressive war for territory.
1824 presidential election
Immediately upon becoming Secretary of State, Adams emerged as one of Monroe’s most likely successors, as the last three presidents had all served in the role (although Jefferson also served as vice president) before taking office. As the 1824 election approached, Adams, Clay, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford positioned themselves to succeed Monroe. Adams felt that his own election as president would vindicate his father, while also allowing him to pursue an ambitious domestic policy. Though he lacked the charisma of his competitors, Adams was widely respected and benefited from the lack of other prominent Northerners.
The Federalist Party had nearly collapsed in the aftermath of the War of 1812, and all of the major presidential candidates were members of Monroe’s Democratic-Republican Party. As 1824 approached, Jackson jumped into the race, motivated in large part by his anger over Clay and Crawford’s denunciations of his actions in Florida. The congressional nominating caucus had decided upon previous presidential nominees, but it had become largely discredited. Candidates were instead nominated by state legislatures or nominating conventions, and Adams received the endorsement of several New England legislatures. Seeing Jackson’s strength, Calhoun dropped out of the presidential race and instead sought the vice presidency. The remaining candidates relied heavily on regional strength. Adams was popular in New England, Clay and Jackson were strong in the West, and Jackson and Crawford competed for the South, despite the latter’s health problems. In the 1824 presidential election, no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, necessitating a contingent election under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment. The House decided among the top three electoral vote winners, with each state’s delegation having one vote. The top three electoral vote winners were Jackson, Adams, and Crawford; though Clay had also received electoral votes, he was not eligible to be selected by the House.
Adams knew that his own victory in the contingent election would require the support of Clay, who besides being a presidential contender also had accumulated immense influence in the House and had thrice served as the body’s speaker. In contrast with Clay, Crawford believed in a weak, limited federal government. Jackson’s policy views were unclear, but Clay had been outraged by Jackson’s actions in Florida, and he feared what Jackson would do in office. Clay’s American System called for high tariffs, federally-funded internal improvements, and a national bank, all of which were supported by Adams. Adams and Clay met prior to the contingent election, and Clay agreed to support Adams. In February 1825 Adams won the contingent election, taking thirteen of the twenty-four state delegations. After the election, many of Jackson’s supporters claimed that Adams and Clay had reached a “Corrupt Bargain” in which Adams promised Clay the position of Secretary of State in return for Clay’s support.
Adams was inaugurated on March 4, 1825. He took the oath of office on a book of constitutional law, instead of the more traditional Bible. In his inaugural address, adopted a post-partisan tone, promising that he would avoid party-building and politically-motivated appointments. He also proposed an elaborate program of “internal improvements”: roads, ports, and canals. Though some worried about the constitutionality of such federal projects, Adams argued that the General Welfare Clause provided for broad constitutional authority. While his predecessors had engaged in projects like the building of the National Road, Adams promised that he would ask Congress to authorize many more such projects.
Administration and cabinet
|The Adams Cabinet|
|Vice President||John C. Calhoun||1825–1829|
|Secretary of State||Henry Clay||1825–1829|
|Secretary of Treasury||Richard Rush||1825–1829|
|Secretary of War||James Barbour||1825–1828|
|Peter B. Porter||1828–1829|
|Attorney General||William Wirt||1825–1829|
|Secretary of the Navy||Samuel L. Southard||1825–1829|
Adams appointed one Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States and eleven judges to the United States district courts. The lone Supreme Court Justice, Robert Trimble, served from May 1826 to his death in August 1828. Adams nominated John J. Crittenden to replace Trimble, but the Senate never voted on Crittenden’s nomination.
In his 1825 annual message to Congress, Adams presented a comprehensive and ambitious agenda. He called for major investments in internal improvements as well as the creation of a national university, a naval academy, and a national astronomical observatory. Noting the healthy status of the treasury and the possibility for more revenue via land sales, Adams argued for the completion of several projects that were in various stages of construction or planning, including a road from Washington to New Orleans. However, Adams’s programs faced opposition from various quarters. Many disagreed with his broad interpretation of the constitution, and favored stronger state governments at the expense of the federal government. Others disliked any government interference and were opposed to central planning. Some in the South feared that Adams was secretly an abolitionist and that he sought to suborn the states to the federal government.
Some of his proposals were adopted, specifically the extension of the Cumberland Road into Ohio with surveys for its continuation west to St. Louis; the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and the Louisville and Portland Canal around the falls of the Ohio; the connection of the Great Lakes to the Ohio River system in Ohio and Indiana; and the enlargement and rebuilding of the Dismal Swamp Canal in North Carolina. One of the issues which divided the administration was protective tariffs, of which Henry Clay was a leading advocate.
Allies of Adams lost control of Congress after the 1826 mid-term elections, and pro-Adams Speaker of the House John Taylor was replaced by Andrew Stevenson, a Jackson supporter. Jacksonian Congressmen lobbied numerous attacks against Adams, including attacks on Adams’s actions at Ghent and criticism of White House expenditures such as the purchase of a pool table. Jacksonians devised the Tariff of 1828, which raised tariffs considerably. After signing the tariff, Adams was denounced in the South, but received little credit for the tariff in the North.
Adams sought the gradual assimilation of Native Americans via consensual agreements, a priority shared by few whites in the 1820s. Yet Adams was also deeply committed to the westward expansion of the United States. Settlers on the frontier, who were constantly seeking to move westward, cried for a more expansionist policy that disregarded the concerns of a supposedly inferior civilization. Early in his term, Adams suspended the Treaty of Indian Springs after learning that the Governor of Georgia, George Troup, had forced the treaty on the Muscogee. Adams signed a new treaty with the Muskogee in January 1826 that allowed the Muskogee to stay but ceded most of their land to Georgia. Troup refused to accept its terms, and authorized all Georgian citizens to evict the Muskogee. A third treaty was signed in 1828, giving all of the Muskogee land to Georgia.
According to Charles Edel, Adams believed that, “Intervention would accomplish little, retard the cause of republicanism, and distract the country from its primary goal of continental expansion.” Moreover, fearful that U.S. intentions would outstrip its capabilities, Adams thought that projecting U.S. power abroad would weaken its gravitational force on the North American continent.
During his term as president, Adams achieved little of long-term consequence in foreign affairs. A reason for this was the opposition he faced in Congress, where his rivals prevented him from succeeding. Among his diplomatic achievements were treaties of reciprocity with a number of nations, including Denmark, Mexico, the Hanseatic League, the Scandinavian countries, Prussia, and Austria. However, thanks to the successes of Adams’ diplomacy during his previous eight years as secretary of state, most of the foreign policy issues he would have faced had been resolved by the time he became president.
As president, Adams continued to pursue the peaceful settlement of potential disputes with Britain, including the unsettled border between Maine and Canada. However, in 1825, Britain banned U.S. trade from the British West Indies, damaging Adams’s prestige in foreign affairs. After Congress retaliated by increasing tariffs on British products, the British forbid U.S. trade with any British colony aside from Canada, further damaging U.S. businesses.
Adams favored sending a U.S. delegation to the Congress of Panama, an 1826 conference of New World republics organized by Simón Bolívar. Adams sought closer ties with the new Latin American states, believing that stability among the new states would benefit the U.S. and be conducive for the purchase of Texas from Mexico. However, the funding for a delegation and the confirmation of delegation nominees became entangled in a political battle over Adams’s domestic policies, with opponents such as Senator Martin Van Buren impeding the process of confirming a delegation. Though the delegation finally won confirmation from the Senate, it never reached the Congress of Panama due to congressional resistance and delay.
1828 presidential election
During his presidency, Adams’s opponents coalesced around Jackson. Opponents accused Adams of favoring big government, the Northeast, manufacturing, and abolition. Followers of Jackson, Van Buren, and Calhoun formed a proto-party apparatus, raising large sums of money and sponsoring newspapers and local clubs. Adams, meanwhile, refused to adapt to the new reality of political campaigns, and he avoided public functions and refused to invest in pro-administration tools such as newspapers. As the presidential election of 1828 approached, Jackson was viewed as the favorite by many, as Van Buren and others had established a strong base of support. In the spring of 1827, Jackson was publicly accused of having encouraged his wife to desert her first husband. In response, followers of Jackson attacked Adams’s personal life, and the campaign turned increasingly nasty. Though few doubted Adams’s intelligence, the Jacksonian press portrayed him as an out-of-touch elitist.
Vice President Calhoun joined Jackson’s ticket, while Adams turned to Secretary of the Treasury Richard Rush as his running mate. This represented the first time in U.S. history that a ticket of two Northerners faced at ticket of two Southerners. Neither side publicly campaigned on the issue of slavery, but Adams’s status as a New Englander may have hurt him, as many outside of New England held negative cultural stereotypes about the region.
The key states in the election were New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, which accounted for nearly a third of the country’s electoral votes. Jackson won Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Clay’s home state of Kentucky. He also won a majority of the electoral votes in New York, and denied Adams a sweep of New England by winning an electoral vote in Maine. In the South, aside from Adams’s win in Maryland, only Louisiana was remotely competitive, and even there Jackson won 53% of the vote. In total, Jackson won 178 of the 261 electoral votes and just under 56 percent of the popular vote. No future presidential candidate would match Jackson’s proportion of the popular vote until Theodore Roosevelt exceeded it in 1904. Adams’s loss made him the second one-term president, after his own father. The election marked the permanent end of the Era of Good Feelings and the start of the Second Party System.
John Quincy Adams left office on March 4, 1829. Adams did not attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, who had openly snubbed him by refusing to pay the traditional “courtesy call” to the outgoing president during the weeks before his own inauguration. Jackson’s wife had died shortly after the election, and Jackson blamed Adams and his followers for her death. Adams was one of only four presidents who chose not to attend their respective successor’s inauguration; the others were his father, Andrew Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
Later congressional career (1830–1848)”]
Adams considered permanently retiring from public life after his 1828 defeat, and he was deeply hurt by the suicide of his son, George Washington Adams, in 1829. He was appalled by many of the Jackson administration’s actions, including its embrace of the spoils system. Adams grew bored of his retirement and still felt that his career was unfinished, so he ran for and won a seat in the United States House of Representatives in the 1830 elections. His election went against the generally held opinion, shared by his own wife and youngest son, that former presidents should not run for public office. He was the first president to serve in Congress after his term of office, and one of only two former presidents to do so (Andrew Johnson later served in the Senate). He was elected to nine terms, serving as a Representative for 17 years, from 1831 until his death.
Returning to Washington at the age of sixty-four, Adams expected a light workload, but Speaker Andrew Stevenson selected Adams chairman of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures. During his time in Congress he also served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Stevenson, an ally of Jackson, expected that the chairmanship would keep Adams busy defending the tariff, but that the presence of a Jacksonian majority on the committee would prevent Adams from accruing any real power.
Adams ran for Governor of Massachusetts in 1833 on the Anti-Masonic ticket. Incumbent National Republican Governor Levi Lincoln, Jr. was retiring so Adams faced that party’s John Davis, Democrat Marcus Morton and Samuel L. Allen of the Working Men’s Party. Davis won a plurality with 40%; Adams took 29%, with Morton taking 25% and Allen 6%. Because no candidate had won a majority, the election was decided by the state legislature. Adams withdrew and endorsed Davis, preferring him over Morton, and Davis was chosen in January 1834.
When James Smithson died and left his estate to the U.S. government to build an institution of learning, many in Congress wanted to use the money for other purposes. Adams played a key role ensuring that the money was instead used to build the Smithsonian Institution. In 1839, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.
Adams opposed the annexation of Texas, viewing as unconstitutional the imposition of U.S. citizenship on foreign nationals when those nationals did not hold a referendum. Adams called for the annexation of the entirety of Oregon Country, a disputed region occupied by both the United States and Britain, and was disappointed when President James K. Polk signed the Oregon Treaty, which divided the land between the two claimants at the 49th parallel. Adams became a strong critic of the Mexican-American War, which he saw as a war of aggression against Mexico that was designed to take Mexican territory. Although the war was popular at first, many Whigs eventually opposed it.
Although there is no indication that the two were close, Adams met Abraham Lincoln during the latter’s sole term as a member of the House of Representatives, from 1847 until Adams’ death. Thus, it has been suggested that Adams is the only major figure in American history who knew both the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln; however, this is not so, as Martin Van Buren met Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, knew Founder Aaron Burr (Van Buren’s mentor), and met the young Lincoln while on a campaign trip through Illinois.
A longtime opponent of slavery, Adams used his new role in Congress to fight it, and he became the most prominent national leader opposing slavery. In 1836, Southern Representatives voted in a “gag rule” that immediately tabled any petitions about slavery, thus preventing any discussion or debate of the slavery issue. He became a forceful opponent of this rule and conceived a way around it, attacking slavery in the House for two weeks. The gag rule prevented him from bringing slavery petitions to the floor, but he brought one anyway. It was a petition from a Georgia citizen urging disunion due to the continuation of slavery in the South. Though he certainly did not support it and made that clear at the time, his intent was to antagonize the pro-slavery faction of Congress into an open fight on the matter. The plan worked.
The petition infuriated his Congressional enemies, many of whom were agitating for disunion themselves. They moved for his censure over the matter, enabling Adams to discuss slavery openly during his subsequent defense. Taking advantage of his right to defend himself, Adams delivered prepared and impromptu remarks against slavery and in favor of abolition. Knowing that he would probably be acquitted, he changed the focus from his own actions to those of the slaveholders, speaking against the slave trade and the ownership of slaves. He decided that if he were censured, he would merely resign, run for the office again, and probably win easily. When his opponents realized that they played into his political strategy, they tried to bury the censure. Adams made sure this did not happen, and the debate continued. He attacked slavery and slaveholders as immoral, and condemned the institution while calling for it to end. After two weeks, a vote was held, and he was not censured. He delighted in the misery he was inflicting on the slaveholders he so hated, and prided himself on being “obnoxious to the slave faction.”
Although the censure of Adams over the slavery petition was ultimately abandoned, the House did address the issue of petitions from enslaved persons at a later time. Adams again argued that the right to petition was a universal right, granted by God, so that those in the weakest positions might always have recourse to those in the most powerful. Adams also called into question the actions of a House that would limit its own ability to debate and resolve questions internally. After this debate, the gag rule was ultimately retained. The discussion ignited by his actions and the attempts of others to quiet him raised questions of the right to petition, the right to legislative debate, and the morality of slavery. During the censure debate, Adams said that he took delight in the thought that southerners would forever remember him as “the acutest, the astutest, the archest enemy of southern slavery that ever existed.”
In 1844, he chaired a committee for reform of the rules of Congress, and he used this opportunity to try once again to repeal the gag rule. He spent two months building support for this move, but due to northern opposition, the rule narrowly survived. He fiercely criticized northern Representatives and Senators, in particular Stephen A. Douglas, who seemed to cater to the slave faction in exchange for southern support. His opposition to slavery made him, along with Henry Clay, one of the leading opponents of Texas annexation and the Mexican–American War. He correctly predicted that both would contribute to civil war. After one of his reelection victories, he said that he must “bring about a day prophesied when slavery and war shall be banished from the face of the earth.” He wrote in his private journal in 1820:
The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim it, and cast it all upon the shoulder of…Great Britain. But when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom. They look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee’s manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?
In 1841, at the request of Lewis Tappan and Ellis Gray Loring, Adams joined the case of United States v. The Amistad. Adams went before the Supreme Court on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. Adams appeared on 24 February 1841, and spoke for four hours. His argument succeeded; the Court ruled in favor of the Africans, who were declared free and returned to their homes. Among his opponents was President Martin Van Buren. In the following years, the Spanish government continued to press the US for compensation for the ship and its cargo, including the slaves. Several southern lawmakers introduced Congressional resolutions to appropriate money for such payment, but none passed, despite support from Democratic presidents James K. Polk and James Buchanan.
Adams continued to speak out against what he called the “Slave Power“, that is the organized political power of the slave owners who dominated all the southern states and their representation in Congress. He vehemently attacked the annexation of Texas (1845) and the Mexican War (1846–48) as part of a “conspiracy” to extend slavery.
Sources contend that in 1843 Adams sat for the earliest confirmed photograph still in existence of a U.S. president, although others maintain that William Henry Harrison had posed even earlier for his portrait, in 1841. The original daguerreotype is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.
Shortly after Adams entered Congress, the Nullification Crisis threatened civil war over the Tariff of 1828. Clay and Adams offered an amendment moderating the tariff, and defused the crisis. Congress also passed the Force Bill which authorized President Andrew Jackson to use military force if Adams’ compromise bill did not force the belligerent states to capitulate. There was no need, however, because Adams’ compromise remedied the matter. The compromise actually did not alter the tariff as much as the southern states had hoped, though they agreed not to continue pursuing the issue for fear of civil war.
Advancement of science
Adams also became a leading force for the promotion of science. As president, he had proposed a national observatory, which did not win much support. In 1829 British scientist James Smithson died, and left his fortune for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” In Smithson’s will, he stated that should his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, die without heirs, the Smithson estate would go to the government of the United States to create an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men.” After the nephew died without heirs in 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress of the bequest, which amounted to about US$500,000 ($75,000,000 in 2008 U.S. dollars after inflation). Adams realized that this might allow the United States to realize his dream of building a national institution of science and learning. Adams thus became Congress’ primary supporter of the future Smithsonian Institution.
The money was invested in shaky state bonds, which quickly defaulted. After heated debate in Congress, Adams successfully argued to restore the lost funds with interest. Though Congress wanted to use the money for other purposes, Adams successfully persuaded Congress to preserve the money for an institution of science and learning. Congress also debated whether the federal government had the authority to accept the gift, though with Adams leading the initiative, Congress decided to accept the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust on July 1, 1836.
He also relentlessly pursued support for astronomical efforts and observatories, seeking a national observatory for the United States. In 1825 Adams signed a bill for the creation of a national observatory just before leaving presidential office. His efforts led to the founding in 1830 of what is now the oldest, still-operational scientific institution of the United States, the United States Naval Observatory. Adams in fact spent many nights at the Observatory, with celebrated national astronomer and oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, watching and charting the stars, which had always been one of Adams’ avocations.
In 1846, the 78-year-old former president suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. After a few months of rest, he made a full recovery and resumed his duties in Congress. When Adams entered the House chamber, everyone “stood up and applauded.” On February 21, 1848, the House of Representatives was discussing the matter of honoring U.S. Army officers who served in the Mexican–American War. Adams had been a vehement critic of the war, and as Congressmen rose up to say, “Aye!” in favor of the measure, he instead yelled, “No!” He rose to answer a question put forth by Speaker of the House Robert Charles Winthrop. Immediately thereafter, Adams collapsed, having suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Two days later, on February 23, he died with his wife at his side in the Speaker’s Room inside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.; his only living child, Charles Francis, did not arrive in time to see his father alive. His last words were “This is the last of earth. I am content.” He died at 7:20 p.m. He was the last surviving child of John Adams. First term Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was assigned to the committee making the funeral arrangements.
His original interment was temporary, in the public vault at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Later, he was interred in the family burial ground in Quincy, Massachusetts, across from the First Parish Church, called Hancock Cemetery. After Louisa’s death in 1852, his son Charles Francis Adams had his parents reinterred in the expanded family crypt in the United First Parish Church across the street, next to John and Abigail. Both tombs are viewable by the public. Adams’ original tomb at Hancock Cemetery is still there and marked simply “J.Q. Adams”.
Adams and Louisa had three sons and a daughter. Their daughter, Louisa, was born in 1811 but died in 1812 while the family was in Russia. They named their first son George Washington Adams (1801–1829) after the first president. This decision upset Adams’s mother, and, by her account, his father as well. Both George and their second son, John (1803–1834), led troubled lives and died in early adulthood. George committed suicide and John was expelled from Harvard before his 1823 graduation.
Adams’ youngest son, Charles Francis Adams (who named his own son John Quincy), pursued a career in diplomacy and politics. In 1870 Charles Francis built the first presidential library in the United States, to honor his father. The Stone Library includes over 14,000 books written in twelve languages. The library is located in the “Old House” at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts.
It has been suggested that John Quincy Adams had the highest I.Q. of any U.S. president.
Adams’ personality was much like that of his father, as were his political beliefs. He always preferred secluded reading to social engagements, and several times had to be pressured by others to remain in public service. Historian Paul Nagel states that, like Abraham Lincoln after him, Adams often suffered from depression, for which he sought some form of treatment in early years. Adams thought his depression was due to the high expectations demanded of him by his father and mother. Throughout his life he felt inadequate and socially awkward because of his depression, and was constantly bothered by his physical appearance. He was closer to his father, whom he spent much of his early life with abroad, than he was to his mother. When he was younger and the American Revolution was going on, his mother told her children what their father was doing, and what he was risking, and because of this Adams grew to greatly respect his father. His relationship with his mother was rocky; she had high expectations of him and was afraid her children might end up dead alcoholics like her brother. His biographer, Nagel, concludes that his mother’s disapproval of Louisa Johnson motivated him to marry Johnson in 1797, despite Adams’ reservations that Johnson, like his mother, had a strong personality.
Though he later described his presidency as the unhappiest time of his life, scholars rate John Quincy Adams in the second quartile in the majority of historical presidential rankings. Historians have often included Adams among the leading conservatives of his day. Russell Kirk, however, sees Adams as a flawed conservative who was imprudent in opposing slavery. Adams’ foreign policy legacy, and its focus on noninterventionism, led to his name being adopted by the John Quincy Adams Society, a network of student groups that is “committed to identifying, educating, and equipping the next generation of scholars and policy leaders to encourage a new era of realism and restraint in American foreign policy.”
John Quincy Adams Birthplace is now part of Adams National Historical Park and open to the public. Adams House, one of twelve undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University, is named in honor of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and other members of the Adams family who were associated with Harvard. The name Quincy has been used by several locations in the United States, including the town of Quincy, Illinois. Adams County, Illinois and Adams County, Indiana are also named after Adams.
Film and television
Adams occasionally is featured in the mass media. In the PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles (1976), he was portrayed by David Birney, William Daniels, Marcel Trenchard, Steven Grover and Mark Winkworth. He was also portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the 1997 film Amistad, and again by Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Steven Hinkle in the 2008 HBO television miniseries John Adams; the HBO series received criticism for needless historical and temporal distortions in its portrayal.