John Quincy Adams: A Gentleman Would Not Campaign for President by Gregory Hilton

"The Adams Chronicles" was a 1976 Emmy award winning series which covered 150 years of family history. This episode portrayed the future first family at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. Back row, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams II, First Lady Abigail Adams. Front row, Thomas Adams, President John Adams and Charles Adams.


John Quincy Adams was intent on being President of the United States in 1822. At work he focused on what would become known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” It would be named after President James Monroe, but it was Adams idea. The election was two years away but Adams fretted because few people were coming forward in support of his candidacy.
Adams felt he was the best qualified candidate. He was an attorney and would serve eight years at the State Department. He was a former U.S. Senator, State Senator and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Prussia, Russia and the Netherlands. No one else came close to matching his resume.
He was well known to the founding generation and was an eyewitness to the Battle of Bunker Hill when the American Revolution began. His father was an ex-President and every occupant of the White House since that time held his present post, Secretary of State. The problem was that other prominent candidates were emerging and few people were offering to support Adams. Adams was distraught and every night he complained to his wife about being ignored. He was the logical choice but newspapers were filled with articles about other contenders. Several state legislatures were backing other candidates.
Tennessee had already endorsed General Andrew Jackson and they elected him to the Senate that year. Kentucky was backing House Speaker Henry Clay and Rep. William Lowndes (SC), the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, had the support of his home state. The other southern states were in the camp of either Treasury Secretary William Crawford or Secretary of War John C. Calhoun. As for Adams, he wrote “I have not . . . one member of any one State Legislature disposed to caucus for me.”
Adams met his future wife, Louisa Catherine, when she was just 4 years old. She was born in London and set foot in the United States for the first time at 24. Louisa was now 47 and had an idea. It had never been tried before but her female friends thought it was an excellent suggestion.
Instead of letting them upset him, she wanted her husband to approach the newspapers. They could publish his articles and ask him questions. He was well versed on all key issues and would do an outstanding job in such a format. He could forget about the South, but she also wanted him to visit Philadelphia, New York City and Boston to give speeches and meet with important opinion makers. She was recommending an active campaign for the Presidency.
Her recommendations were immediately dismissed as being both silly and ridiculous. The Presidency was an office “not to be solicited or declined.” He said no gentleman would campaign in public for the presidency. While she was visiting her sick brother in Philadelphia, Louisa wrote to her husband, “show yourself if only for a week. . . Do for once gratify me, and if harm comes of it I promise never to advise you again.” Louisa was told she did not understand politics and what she was suggesting was not proper. The people must approach a statesmen regarding the presidency, not the other way around, her husband said.
Louisa Adams would become First Lady of the United States but her ideas on democracy, the presidency, slavery and equal rights for women were far ahead of their time. If you want to read more see: Louisa Catherine Adams: The Price of Ambition, American University, 1982, 178 pages

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