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John Quincy Adams: Post-Presidential Career

As had his father, John Quincy Adams refused to attend the inauguration of his successor. Unlike his father, he chose to stay in Washington for a few months before returning to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts.


A few months shy of sixty-three years old when he left the White House, Adams initially planned to retire from public life, but his Quincy neighbors wanted him to run for the U. S. House of Representatives. He agreed, with two conditions: that he would never be asked to campaign for votes, and that he would be allowed to follow his conscience at all times. Initially elected as a Republican, he became a Whig in 1834, and ultimately served from March 4, 1831, to his death.

During his tenure in Congress, Adams frequently voted with the minority. He supported the rechartering of the Bank of the Unites States, opposed the annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico, supported President Andrew Jackson's fight against nullification, and championed the bequest of James Smithson..

As one of the House's most articulate and forceful spokesmen against slavery, Adams earned the nickname of "Old Man Eloquent." He struggled for eight years to end the House's "gag rules," which tabled without debate any petition critical of slavery, by attempting to read into the record at every opportunity the hundreds of antislavery petitions that abolitionists around the country sent him on a regular basis. The House finally relented and repealed the rule in 1844. In 1841, Adams argued successfully before the U. S. Supreme Court to win freedom for slave mutineers aboard the Spanish ship Amistad. He was also the first Congressman to assert the right of the government to free slaves during time of war, and Abraham Lincoln based the Emancipation Proclamation on his arguments.

John Quincy Adams in Congress
John Quincy Adams in Congress


Adams suffered a paralytic stroke in 1846, but recovered and was able to return to Congress. On February 21, 1848, just minutes after casting a loud vote in opposition to a motion to decorate certain Army officers serving in the Mexican War, he suffered another stroke at his House desk. Too ill to be moved from the Capitol, he was carried to the Speaker's room, where he died two days later.

the death of John Quincy Adams
the death of John Quincy Adams

Adams lay in state in a House committee room for two days, during which thousands of mourners (many of whom had undoubtedly not been supporters of President Adams) paid their respects. A state funeral was held in the House Chamber on February 26, after which he was temporarily laid to rest in Congressional Cemetery. Subsequently taken to Quincy, his body rested in the Hancock Cemetery until being moved into a crypt beneath the United First Parish Church, alongside his parents and his wife, where it remains today.

epitaph of John Quincy Adams in the United First Parish Church
epitaph of John Quincy Adams in the United First Parish Church


Miller Center of Public Affairs
United States House of Representatives

See Also

Mexican War
Abraham Lincoln
Emancipation Proclamation
James Smithson

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The Robinson Library >> John Quincy Adams

This page was last updated on December 03, 2018.