Presidential sites: John Quincy Adams enjoyed being a Congressman more

Published 10:23 am Friday, January 14, 2022

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By Betty Etchison West
For the Enterprise

An article about sites connected to the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, seems almost a repetition of the article about the second President of the United States, John Adams.
There are other sites connected to John Quincy Adams, but many of them are overseas because John Quincy Adams spent many years serving in vforeign countries. The places where he lived during foreign assignments probably are not open to the public.
John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president, John Adams and his wife, Abigail, was born in a saltbox style house in Quincy, Mass., just a few feet from his father’s birthplace. John Quincy’s birthplace is a bit bigger and a bit older than that of his father.
The book, “Cabins, Cottages and Mansions” by Nancy and Christopher Benbow, says: “The house at 141 Franklin Street, where John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, was purchased by Deacon John Adams in 1744 and inherited by the Deacon’s son, John Adams, in 1761. Built in 1663, this saltbox structure was the place in which the Deacon’s son, John Adams, began married life with his wife, the former Abigail Smith. Like the birthplace of his father, John Quincy Adams’ birthplace was originally a structure with a central chimney and two upper and two lower rooms to which a lean-to was added for a new kitchen. John Adams came to use the original kitchen of this house as his law office.”
Both of the Adams houses are administered by the National Park Service. Like several historical sites, the Adams houses are closed in the winter. Call 617-770-1175 for information about the houses, the days, and the hours that they are open to the public.
When John Quincy was a boy, he went with his father, John Adams, a foreign minister and a diplomat, to Europe, where he learned much about the countries and languages of that continent. When he was in his 20s, John Quincy Adams became a minister to Holland. That assignment was followed by a numbers of others.
While he lived in Europe, John Quincy met and married a lovely young lady, Louisa Catherine Johnson. She is described in literature as being witty and socially adept. John Quincy was just the opposite. He was a dour, somewhat unbending person who was not particularly likable. Actually, his personality was much like that of his father, who was very intelligent but who had a personality that often “ruffled feathers.”
The likeable Louisa was a great asset to her husband, but all literature seems to point to the fact that her marriage wasn’t a happy one. Louisa Adams was the only foreign-born First Lady until Mr. Donald Trump was elected president. His wife, Melania, was born in Slovenia.
In spite of his somewhat prickly personality, John Quincy Adams was chosen as President of the United States after the election was decided by the House of Representatives. The sixth president was not a successful one.
Congress blocked his every move and John Quincy Adams was not elected for a second term. The one thing that Mr. Adams seemed to be really interested in while living in the White House was the grounds, which seemed to have interested him greatly.
After leaving the presidency, John and Louisa Adams moved back to the old Adams home, “The Old House at Peaceful.” That did not prove to be a good situation for Adams’ wife became the culture of Quincy, Mass. was so different from the life she had known at her home in England.
About two years after losing his bid for a second term as president, John Quincy Adams was elected as the representative from his district in Massachusetts to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was/is the only former President of the United States to serve in the House. It seemed that Mr. Adams had finally found his niche. According to the book, “The American President” by the Kunhardts: “Finally in his post-presidential years John Quincy Adams seemed to find a perfect place to serve his country. As to his service in the House of Representative, he is quoted as saying ‘No election or appointment has given me so much pleasure. My election as president was not half so gratifying.’.”
Adams’ years as a Congressman were more pleasant for Mr. Adams’ wife also because they seemed to be interested in the same issues. He served in the House for 17 years. He was stricken while the House was in session and was carried from the House Chamber to a nearby room in the Capitol. He died there on Feb. 23, 1848. Louisa stayed in Washington until her death four years after the death of her husband.
Both John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa, are buried in the First United Parish Church Cemetery in Quincy, Mass., near the graves of his parents, John and Abagail Adams. For information about visiting the grave sites, call the number listed above.
John Quincy Adams wanted a library built at “The Old House at Peacefield,” which was the home of the Adams Family for many years. He wanted the library to be a separate building, which was fireproof. Such a building was built. It was/is called the “Old Stone Library.”The purpose was to house the books and papers of the second president, John Adams; of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams; and of John Quincy’s son, Charles Francis Adams. That library was constructed of stone and is therefore fireproof. It houses among other treasures 12,000 books owned by Adams family members. Seeing that building and its surrounding gardens is a bonus for those lucky enough to get to visit the Adams’ properties.
“The Old House at Peacefield” was owned by members of the Adams’ Family until 1946 when it was given to the National Park Service by John Adams ancestors.
Tours of the Adams’ properties are interesting. It certainly takes one back in time to walk in a house built in the 1600s as was the birthplaces of Adams men and to visit “The Old House at Peacefield,” which was home to several generations of the family. There you can almost feel the misery that John Adams suffered as he died at the home he loved, believing that his friend, Thomas Jefferson, was still living. Jefferson had died earlier that day but news had not reached Quincy when John Adams drew his last breath on July 4, 1826.
John Quincy Adams lived 22 years after the death of his father.