1938 6¢ John Q. Adams
US #811 – from the 1938 Prexies

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, in the town of Braintree (present-day Quincy), Massachusetts. The son of America’s second president, John Adams, and his politically active wife, Abigail, John Quincy Adams had a privileged childhood of top-notch education and travel.

1975 10¢ Battle of Bunker Hill
US #1564 depicts American Major General Joseph Warren’s mortal wounding at Bunker Hill.

When he was just seven years old, Adams watched the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charleston with his mother. He learned about the Declaration of Independence from his father’s letters to his mother while the document was still being written in Philadelphia. Between 1778 and 1782, Adams traveled with his father, who was serving as an American envoy to France and the Netherlands. During this time, he studied at the Netherlands’ oldest university, the University of Leiden.

At the age of 14, Adams began a three-year journey to Europe, where he served as secretary to lawyer and statesman Francis Dana. The trip included visits to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, about which Adams published a travel report in 1804. During this time, Adams became fluent in French and Dutch, and learned some German and other European languages, all of which would eventually help him in his post as foreign ambassador.

1986 22¢ Pres. J.Q. Adams Fleetwood First Day Cover
US #2216f – Fleetwood First Day Cover

In 1788, Adams enrolled in Harvard College, while apprenticing as a lawyer in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Admitted to the bar in 1791, Adams began a brief career as a lawyer in Boston.

In 1794, George Washington appointed Adams to the position of US minister to the Netherlands. His service lasted until 1796, when he was sent to Portugal. During his father’s presidency, at Washington’s request, Adams was made minister to Prussia from 1797 to 1801, where he negotiated a treaty of friendship and business with the Prussians.

1939 6¢ John Quincy Adams, red orange
US #846 was issued in 1939 as a rotary coil stamp.

Adams began his political career in 1802, while running unsuccessfully as a Federalist candidate for the US House of Representatives. The following year, he was elected as a Federalist representative of Massachusetts in the US Senate. He soon realized that his views differed from those of his party, and quickly found himself disliked by the majority for frequently voting on the Republican side. Adams held this position until 1808, when he left the Federalist Party and joined the Republicans.

After three years of teaching at Harvard, John Quincy Adams was once again called upon to serve as US minister, this time to Russia. He arrived in Russia in 1809 to meet Tsar Alexander I who was eager to help the US. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, the tsar offered to serve as a mediator between the US and England, which President Madison accepted.

1965 5c Florida Settlement
US #1271 – In 1565, Spain started the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States, at St. Augustine, Florida.

In 1814, Adams met with British diplomats for negotiations, along with James A. Bayard, Sr., Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, and Jonathan Russell. The treaty took months to complete because the British diplomats could not make direct negotiations and had to wait for orders from London.

Adams began his service as US secretary of State in 1817. Two years later, after lengthy negotiations with the Spanish minister, Adams successfully completed the Transcontinental Treaty, in which the Spanish retracted their claim on territory east of the Mississippi. This is considered one of Adams’s greatest accomplishments, as numerous administrations before him had failed to gain the Florida territory.

Although instituted by President James Monroe, Adams primarily wrote the Monroe Doctrine while he served as secretary of State. The Doctrine called for an immediate end to European colonization in America. Completed in 1823, the Monroe Doctrine is the foundation on which current American foreign policy is based.

1985 PRS JQ Adams Deluxe Commemorative Cover
Item #81460 – Commemorative Cover marking Adams’s 218th birthday

In the election of 1824, none of the candidates received a majority of votes, leaving the decision to the House of Representatives. The choice was between the top three candidates who had received the most votes (Jackson, who had received the most electoral votes, Adams, and William H. Crawford). As speaker of the House, Henry Clay, who did not like Jackson, voted for Adams, who won on the first ballot. Shortly after, Adams appointed Clay as secretary of State, which Jackson alleged was part of a corrupt bargain between the pair to keep him out of office. Jackson’s hostility over this incident would prove troublesome for Adams’s entire term of office.

Adams began his presidency on March 4, 1825, taking his Oath of Office not on the Bible, but rather on a book of laws. His ambitious plans for his term focused on modernization, including new roads, canals, a national university, and an astronomical observatory. Despite his high hopes for modernizing America, he was met with great opposition. Many critics believed he was arrogant because of his close defeat over Jackson in the 1824 election. Jackson’s supporters in Congress, still outraged over the previous election, opposed the majority of Adams’s proposals.

Despite the tremendous opposition he faced, some of Adams’s proposals were adopted. A number of roads and canals were constructed, including the canal connecting the Great Lakes with the Ohio River System in Ohio and Indiana.

1987 John Quincy Adams/Shapers of Am. Liberty
Item #81864 – Commemorative Cover marking Adams’s 220th birthday

Another significant issue of Adams’s presidency was protective tariffs. The Tariff of 1828 (also known as the Tariff of Abominations) increased the prices on European goods, resulting in fewer sales to America. In turn, the British drastically decreased purchases of American goods, especially cotton, which hurt the South. The consequences of this bill continued to mount until the passage of another tariff bill in 1832.

While still plagued by Jackson’s supporters in Congress, Adams’s foreign policy was one of his greatest strengths as president. During his term, a number of treaties were established with countries such as Denmark, Mexico, the Hanseatic League, multiple Scandinavian countries, Prussia, and Austria.

Special Event Cover Commemorating John Quincy Adams' Birthday (#2216f)
Item #AC535 – Commemorative Cover marking Adams’s 219th birthday

The election of 1828 was a scandalous one, filled with mudslinging and accusations from both Adams and Jackson. Jackson was still outraged over the election of 1824. In the end, Jackson won by a landslide. Adams’s last day in office was March 4, 1829.

After a brief retirement, Adams was voted as a National Republican and Whig to the House of Representatives. Some critics suggested that accepting this position would degrade the former president, but Adams replied that no person could be degraded in serving the people as a representative of Congress.

1977 John Quincy Adams Commemorative Cover
Item #96119 – Commemorative Cover marking Adams’s 210th birthday

Adams’s time in Congress, revered by some as the most significant part of his career, centered largely on the abolition of slavery and the repeal of “Gag Laws.” Adams argued that the Gag Rules, which aimed to keep all petitions relating to slavery from being referred to a committee or printed, were in violation of the First Amendment. Finally, in 1844, his motion to repeal such gags was passed by a vote of 108 to 80.

On February 21, 1848, while waiting to address the House of Representatives, Adams suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He died two days later, at the age of 80, in the company of his family while in the Speaker’s Room at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

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  1. An often overlooked president due to his only serving one term, but this was a man who spent his life in the service of his country, wherever that happened to be. Although I think a mention of his involvement in the Amistad case would’ve been merited.

  2. One of two sons of Presidents that became Presidents. Benjamin Harrison was
    the Grandson of a President, William Henry Harrison.

  3. The Battle of Bunker Hill was in 1775. That would have made Adams about 8 when he watched it.
    A great article about one of our early Presidents and American Patriots.

  4. First, let’s start with a little fuzzy math. If John Q was born in 1767 and viewed the Battle of Bunker Hill, which my ancestor fought in, the event would have to had occurred in 1773, two year before the first shot “heard round the world”. Since the event occurred on Jun 17, 1775, John Q was one month short of eight, small point. I graduated from Braintree HS but never visited the Adams home, in now Quincy, until after I brought my wife and two year old home. The tour guide was cautious with us with child. My daughter let go her plastic bottle which rolled across the rug and bumped an expensive vase on the floor. The guide asked me to take the child outside so I exited via the closest stairwell, which happened to be a private, not used staircase. Needless to say the tour guide was not happy with us and we never returned. Still love John Q and his dedication to this country.

  5. I went to John Adams House and John Quincy Adams House with my mother and my brother to tour inside the house in the summer of 1972 or 1973 also some tour historic houses in Quincy, MA and Wollaston, MA too.

  6. John Quincy Adams was one of the greatest presidents in the early 19th century, and he served the people and country well whether he was president or representative in Congress. His involvement in the Amistad case should have been mentioned; due to his intervention as their lawyer, the kidnapped and enslaved Africans were set free and returned to their loved ones in present day Sierra Leone.

  7. Thoroughly appreciate extensive mention of his accomplishments. His contributions are rarely applauded as completely as you have done here. Thank you Mystic Stamp‼️

  8. Most of these comments are a year or 2 old? 😵‍💫 Yes, this President has his niche and even a coin with his likeness. I just don’t know how so many commenters are experts on the heroics of every individual, everything else out there? They all had skeletons in their closets! For those that haven’t figured it out yet… you know about only what the influences of the time wanted you to know, duh!

    However, this stamp and the cover sheets/envelopes are excellent. No better a subject/topic out there and sure, he fits in as perfect piece of this jigsaw puzzle…

    Regards, r

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