Profile - John Quincy Adams
The son of Founding Father and second president John Adams, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) grew up to politics and war; at eight he was an eyewitness to the Battle of Bunker Hill. When he was 11 he accompanied his father to France in the frigate USS Boston, which took the British merchantman Martha in a short action on March 10, 1778. Because he was fluent in French, in 1781, when he was 14, John Quincy served as secretary to Francis Dana, the American ambassador to Russia, and later served as his father’s secretary when the elder Adams was ambassador to The Netherlands.
Like his father, the younger Adams attended Harvard. Also like his father, there is no evidence that he ever performed any military service. After graduating from Harvard, John Quincy practiced law, entered the diplomatic service, served in the Senate, helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent with Britain in 1814, held several ambassadorships, served as Secretary of State, and was elected president in 1824.
There wasn’t much military action during John Quincy’s term in office. General peace reigned with the Indians, and the Navy saw only limited action against pirates in the Caribbean and in the Aegean. There was, however, considerable administrative, organizational, and doctrinal interest in the Armed Forces. Efforts were made to professionalize the army, which met with considerable success, and to reform the militia, which proved intractable, while the nation began to develop an elaborate system of coast defenses.
Failing of reelection, after leaving the presidency in 1829, Adams served nearly 20 years in the House of Representatives, the only former president to have done so, and actually died in the Capitol building.
John Quincy Adams’ eldest son, George Washington Adams, served for a time as an officer in the militia. Another son, Charles Francis Adams, saw no military service, but like his grandfather and father before him, served as ambassador to Britain, and played an important diplomatic role during the Civil War. His son, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., served as an officer in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry during the Civil War, and saw heavy fighting in the Carolinas and Virginia. After a tour as a staff officer at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, in early 1864 the young man became colonel of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, a black regiment. At the end of the Civil War he was promoted to brevet brigadier general. Charles Francis Jr.’s brother, John Quincy Adams II, served as a colonel in the Massachusetts militia during the Civil War. Another presidential grandson, A. G. Adams, served in the Navy during World War I. The president’s great-grandson Charles Francis Adams III, a famous yachtsman who won the “America’s Cup” in 1920, served as Secretary of the Navy, 1929-1933. Another great-grandson, Henry L. Abbott commanded the submarine L-1 during World War I, earning the Silver Star, and during World War II was an intelligence officer on the staff of the Joint Chiefs, ending his military career as a captain in the Navy. A great-great-grandson, Charles Francis Adams IV, also served as an officer in the Navy during World War II. Henry Sturgiss Morgan, Jr, the president’s great-great-great-grandson (also a grandson of financier J. Pierpont Morgan), was another famous yachtsman and chairman of the “America’s Cup” committee, and also served in the Navy during World War II.