President:John Quincy Adams | 2012-11-02 09:12
John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States and the first son of a former president who himself became president. (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are the only other father-son presidents.)
John Quincy Adams was well known for his diplomatic success and most of all for his role as secretary of state under James Monroe. Adams had previously served as an ambassador to several European countries and as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. He is the only president in history to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives after leaving the presidency. Adams's fierce sense of independent judgment meant that he never completely fit the mold of any political party, and he was surely the only president to have a pet alligator in the White House!
After losing the 1828 election to Andrew Jackson, Adams retired to Quincy, Massachusetts. But not for long. In November 1830, the 12th District (Plymouth) of Massachusetts elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives. Some historians regard this as the best phase of his public-service career. He served from 1831 until his death in the Capitol building on February 23, 1848, after suffering a stroke two days earlier in the House chamber.
Adams had a very independent streak. How did that help him be successful in Congress?
Adams's increasing independence from any particular political party allowed him to champion the rights of the antislavery (abolitionist) movement. Adams said he felt "bonded" by the Constitution to work for universal emancipation (freedom for all).
In 1836, Southern members of Congress got the House to pass a "gag rule" that forbade discussion of slavery in the House of Representatives. Adams fought tirelessly against the gag rule, and in 1844 he finally succeeded in getting it abolished, by a vote of 108 to 80. What event most highlighted Adams's fight against slavery?
Adams's defense of the prisoners from the Spanish slave ship Amistad goes down in history as a pioneering case in the fight against slavery.
It all started when Spanish slave traders kidnapped 53 Africans from Sierra Leone and took them to Cuba to be sold into slavery. On July 2, 1839, the prisoners rose up and took over the ship, killing some of its officers. When the Amistad entered American waters off Long Island, the Africans were taken ashore into custody by the U.S. Navy. President Martin Van Buren, eager for pro-slavery votes in the next election, wanted them returned to Cuba, but a Connecticut judge ruled that they had had a right to escape their captors by any means available.
The government appealed to the Supreme Court, where John Quincy Adams represented the 35 surviving prisoners. He won their freedom on March 9, 1841, and they returned to Sierra Leone in January 1842.
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