John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, eldest son of President John Adams, born in Braintree, July 11, 1767, died in Washington, Feb. 23, 1848. The origin of his name was thus stated by himself: "My great-grandfather, John Quincy, was dying when I was baptized, and his daughter, my grandmother, requested I might receive his name. This fact, recorded by my father, has connected with my name a charm of mingled sensibility and devotion. It was filial tenderness that gave the name - it was the name of one passing from earth to immortality. These have been through life perpetual admonitions to do nothing unworthy of it." John Adams, having been appointed minister to France, took with him as companion his son John Quincy, then in his 11th year. The voyage from Boston to Bordeaux was tempestuous; the travel by land from Bordeaux to Paris was rapid and fatiguing; but the young Adams, as appears from his father's published diary, conducted and sustained himself through both voyage and travels, and also during their residence at Paris, to his father's entire satisfaction. Placed at a school near Paris, he made rapid progress both in the French language and in his general studies.
His health was perfect, and his father wrote to his mother that he attracted general attention wherever he went by his vigor of body, his vivacity of mind, and his constant good humor. After a stay in France of near a year and a half - several months of which were spent at Nantes waiting for a passage home - John Quincy Adams came back with his father in a French frigate. While at sea he taught English to his fellow passengers, the French ambassador to the United States, De la Luzerne, and his secretary, M. Marbois. The following is an extract from his father's diary, under date of June 20, 1779: "The chevalier de la Luzerne and M. Marbois are in raptures with my son. They get him to teach them the language. I found this morning the ambassador seated on the cushion in our stateroom, M. Marbois in his cot, at his left hand, and my son stretched out in his at his right, the ambassador reading out loud in Blackstone's ' Discourse' at his entrance on his professorship of the common law at the university, and my son correcting the pronunciation of every word and syllable and letter. The ambassador said he was astonished at my son's knowledge; that he was a master of his own language like a professor.
M. Marbois said, 'Your son teaches us more than you; he has point de grace, point d'eloges. He shows us no mercy, and makes us no compliments. We must have Mr. John.' " Character is very early developed, and John Q. Adams retained much of this same style of teaching to the end of his life. After remaining at home three months and a half, John Q. Adams, now in his 13th year, sailed again in the same French frigate, as his father's companion on his second diplomatic mission to Europe. Arriving at Paris in February, 1780, he was again placed at school, where he remained till August. He then went with his father to Holland, where, after some months' tuition at a school in Amsterdam, he was sent about the end of the year to the university of Leyden. His father's secretary of legation, Francis Dana (afterward chief justice of Massachusetts), having been appointed minister to Russia, he took with him as his private secretary John Q. Adams, then in his loth year. Having discharged the duties of this position for 14 months to Dana's entire satisfaction, the latter not having succeeded in getting recognized as minister, young Adams left St. Petersburg, and, travelling back alone, returned leisurely through Sweden and Denmark, and by Hamburg and Bremen, to the Hague, where he resumed his studies.
In October, 1783, the treaty of peace having been signed, John Q. Adams attended his father on his first visit to England. Returning with him, he spent the year 1784 in Paris, where the whole family was now collected. His father having been appointed minister to Great Britain, he accompanied the family to London, but soon after, with a view to the completion of his education, returned home to Massachusetts. In 1786 he entered the junior class at Harvard college. He graduated in 1788, and immediately after entered the office of Theophilus Parsons, afterward well known as chief justice of Massachusetts. Here he remained for three years. In 1791 he was admitted to the bar, when he opened a law office in Boston, and in the course of four years he gradually attained practice enough to pay his expenses. He did not, however, confine himself entirely to the law. A series of articles which he published in the "Boston Centinel," with the signature of Publicola - a reply to some portions of Thomas Paine's " Rights of Man " - attracted a good deal of attention not only at home but in England, where these papers were republished and ascribed to his father. In another series of articles in the same journal, signed Marcellus, published in 1793, he defended Washington's policy of neutrality.
In a third series, signed Columbus, published the same year, he reviewed the conduct of Genet, the French ambassador, in relation to the same subject. These writings drew attention toward him, and in May, 1794, Washington appointed him minister to the Hague. Upon his arrival there he found things in such confusion, owing to the French invasion, that after a few months' residence he thought of returning; but, by the remonstrances of Washington, who predicted for him a distinguished diplomatic career, he was induced to remain. In 1795 he had occasion to visit London to transact some business with Thomas Pinckney, who after Mr. Jay's departure had resumed the embassy at that court. The American consul at London was Joshua Johnson of Maryland, brother of Thomas Johnson, one of the signers of the declaration of independence, and a judge of the United States supreme court. Mr. Joshua Johnson had formerly been a merchant at Nantes, where in 1779 the Adamses had made his acquaintance. He had by this time a grownup daughter, with whom young Adams now formed an intimacy, which resulted in marriage on July 27, 1797. Previously to this event, and shortly before the close of Washington's administration, John Q. Adams had been appointed minister to Portugal; but his father, on becoming president, changed his destination to Berlin. In thus promoting his own son, John Adams acted by the written advice of Washington, who expressed his decided opinion that young Adams was the ablest person in the American diplomatic service, and that merited promotion ought not to be withheld from him merely because he was the president's son.