Manus Hand

Visiting John Quincy Adams' Grave

Recognize where I am? Since you've already read about my visit to the Adams gravesite, here you get treated to some hackneyed stories about the younger of the two Presidents.

John Quincy Adams was the first President to be elected without a popular mandate. The majority choice of the people was Andrew Jackson, but the electoral college did not vote a majority. Accordingly, the election of 1824 was decided in the House of Representatives, and Adams became President (some say he did so by means of a "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay, a rival for the office who became Adams' Secretary of State).

Adams, already unpopular, didn't endear himself any more to the nation with his ardent support for internal works. Federal funding for road improvements, canal construction, astronomical observatories, libraries, and other such projects was not what the country was ready for. In that respect, Adams was perhaps ahead of his time.

Adams is the only President to serve in the House of Representatives after his term as President had expired. (Andrew Johnson is the only ex-President to serve in the Senate.) Adams considered the office of Congressman the most honorable of the federal elective posts, since at that time it was the only office to which a person was directly elected by the people. He served as Congressman for decades after his Presidency, and his most notable of many achievements was his tenacious and eventually successful fight against the "Gag Rule," which forbade the presentation to Congress of any petitions from the people that involved the slavery issue. Adams, no fan of slavery himself, thought the "Gag Rule" a blatant usurpation of the Constitutionally guaranteed right to petition for redress, and he considered the lifting of the "Gag Rule" not only as his own greatest achievement, but an accomplishment on moral par with his father's work to declare the independence of the nation.

The most told tale of the younger Adams, perhaps, is the story of his unique political abilities while serving in Congress. Adams was considered a political magician as a member of the House. No matter what tactic the opposition had in store, Adams always seemed to be ready for it. This amazing trait led his party to a great many legislative victories. After Adams died (fittingly, he collapsed at his desk and died in the Capitol), an interesting fact about the Capitol building became known. Adams' desk in the old House Chamber (now Statuary Hall) was -- by a quirk of architecture and a stroke of good fortune for Mr. Adams -- positioned at the one point in the chamber where most any sound in the room, no matter how quietly uttered, could be heard clearly and distinctly. When you go to Washington and tour the Capitol, you can stand in that spot and share the experience of our sixth President -- it is truly uncanny.

...White House Biography of President Adams...
...Adams' "Letters on the Masonic Institution"...