Last night I finished a book on John Quincy Adams, A Public Life, A Private Life, by Paul C. Nagel. I can’t tell you the last time I read a novel. They just do not hold my attention the way a history or biography does.
John Quincy Adams was a unique individual. I’m not sure I like him. He was far too worried about public opinion of his presidency, his jobs as ministers to countries overseas, and how the public and the next generations would think of him. Of course, I am not president, a representative, or a minister to a foreign government. I suppose I’m very comfortable in my skin. I love where I am in life and what I do. I honestly don’t feel the need to impress anyone. Life with Ritchey, the kids and Julian is fulfillment enough for me – and sharing this great genealogy adventure with you!
Towards the end of his life JQA, as he is styled in the book, discovered an old journal of Samuel Sewall, which mentioned his early Quincy family. The journal was written 1674-1729. He decided to enter the world of genealogy to untangle his family lines. But he soon complained ‘how genealogical inquiries so often led into a labyrinth where much time was lost for more useful purposes.’ I’m sure we’ve all been through that labyrinth at one time or another! For myself, I receive such a renewal of spirit and great satisfaction when I untangle some of those family lines – whether mine or another family.
One of JQA’s goals, or perhaps a goal set by others, was to write a biography of his esteemed father, John Adams. Even his wife, Louisa, exhorted him to begin the project. He decided to set aside an hour a day to work on this project. “He began with an attempt to ‘decypher’ local history and genealogy, a project that , as usual, quickly sidetracked him. He lost himself in tracing how, in the early days, such names as Quincy and Braintree had been spelled ‘Quinsie’ and ‘Brayntry.'” Hm, that sounds familiar!
During the 1682 wedding of his great-great-grandparents, Daniel Quincy and Anna Shepard, an aunt dropped dead during the ceremony. Now that’s a family story to tell – great joy to great sorrow. I am in the process of trying to write at least a paragraph, usually more, about each of my family members – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. This will be my view of my family and the way I remember them. Important for the generations to come.
JQA was a strong believer in ending slavery – and not allowing the new states to permit it within their boundaries. His fiery speeches in the House left no one in doubt of how he felt. And this was after serving as president. He is the only man elected president that went back to Congress afterwards. After a stroke in 1846, he still returned to his duty. On February 21, 1848, at the age of 80, JQA was in the Capitol, voting ‘no’ one more time to oppose the commendation of veterans of the ongoing Mexican War, which he opposed. Attempting to stand and give his opinion, he fell, caught by colleagues. He lingered two days before his death.
JQA was a distinct individual that stood for what he believed. His presidency has gone down as one of the worst in history, but I believe that was more to do with party politics, as he did have good ideas for the country, and always wanted to keep the union strong. As mentioned before I’m not sure I like him (too much drama!), but I do admire him and his dedication to the country he loved and served; from his nomination by President Washington as Minister to the Netherlands in 1794, to his last day in the House in 1848, JQA lived a life of service to his country.