The sixth president of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams was a diplomat, lawyer and diarist as well as an illustrious politician of his time. He had been Secretary of State for 8 years before he became president, and had an international background, having lived in Europe growing up.
Let’s have a look at 10 interesting facts about John Quincy Adams!
John Quincy Adams Facts
1. He had a diverse and multi-cultural education
Having lived in Europe during his youth, where his father was also a diplomat, John Quincy Adams was very well educated. He studied in Paris, Amsterdam, Leyden and The Hague, and eventually completed his university education in the United States with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, awarded in 1787.
Adams House at Harvard is named after him and his father, both having been alumni of the University, an interesting fact about John Quincy Adams.
2. He was a fitness devotee
Perhaps unusual for the 18th century, John Quincy Adams was very dedicated to exercise. In fact, he is known for waking up very early in the morning to do a morning routine. When he was working as a diplomat in Russia, he is known to have woken up at 5 am to have a cold bath, read the Bible, and then go on a six-mile walk. All before having breakfast!
3. He was a fan of pool
Another one of his well-documented interests was the game of pool. John Quincy Adams installed a table in the White House, for which he paid himself but accidentally added the bill to his expenses, for $61. So, his interest in the game became a controversial subject as his political enemies made a huge deal of this bill as well as the fact that, in their view, he was exhibiting overly aristocratic tastes and promoted gambling.
4. Adams had unusual pets
The Marquis de Lafayette gave Adams a pet alligator, which the President decided to keep close by, an interesting John Quincy Adams fact. Unusually even for the era, the alligator was installed in bathtub at the White House for several months, until a place could be found for it. Apparently, Adams thought this was a spectacular prank and is quoted to say that he enjoyed watching “the spectacle of guests fleeing from the room in terror.”
5. He loved skinny dipping
We’ve already mentioned John Quincy Adams’ like of cold baths early in the morning. However, that was during his stay in Russia. Back in the US, he would take a walk to the Potomac River, also at 5 am, and strip naked and jump in. That morning swim would be part of his daily routine.
There is an anecdote related to the swimming, claiming that the reporter Anne Royall was struggling to interview the President so she followed him, took his clothes and sat on them until he agreed to speak to her. However, it is believed this never actually happened, despite the fact that Adams did mention Royall as “noxious to many persons” and definitely didn’t like her.
6. Adams’ election lost the popular and electoral votes
When Adams ran for President, he ran against Andrew Jackson. An interesting fact about John Quincy Adams is that it was the only presidential election in the US which had to be decided by the House of Representatives rather than by the votes, because neither had won the majority of the electoral votes, which is most unusual. This mostly happened because more than two front-runners would be competing, unlike the current system which favors a more obvious choice.
In the end, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams despite him losing the popular vote and the electoral vote.
7. He was a lawyer, but didn’t go to law school
Adams had his legal education as an apprentice to Theophilus Parsons, who became the Chief Justice of the Massachussetts Supreme Court. Alongside this legal training, he also completed a master’s degree at Harvard, but never the formal training in law school which earns alumni the title of Juris Doctor (JD).
Other historical figures were lawyers without going to law school, such as Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln, so he is in good company there.
8. His politics was brutal – but he lost re-election
After the debacle of 1824’s undecided election, the one in 1828 was extremely brutal as neither candidate took any chances. Adams was up against Andrew Jackson again and the campaign is considered to be one of the meanest, dirtiest campaigns in US history. Jackon’s supporters focused on the fact that Adams was elitist and made up a rumor that he offered an American girl to the Russian czar for sexual favors as part of his ambassadorship to Russia.
From Adams’ side, there were attacks on Andrew Jackson’s wife calling her a convicted adulteress because she had been married previously, while Jackson was “her paramour husband” and the two were meant to be an unfit couple for the White House.
Despite all this, Jackson did triumph over Adams.
9. He was not good in social situations
An interesting fact about John Quincy Adams is that he was a great public speaker but even he accepted the fact that he was bad at small talk. His nickname was actually “Old Man Eloquent” – but in his diary, Adams speaks of conversation as “an art of which I never had an adequate idea.” He said he never knew how to control or change it either.
10. Florida joined the US thanks to him
It was during Adams’ mandate as Secretary of State that he negotiated a treaty which allowed the US to acquire Florida, setting a new border with “New Spain.” This is known as the Adams-Onis Treaty.
John Quincy Adams was a somewhat controversial President of the United States, who never quite enjoyed his time in the White House and even referred to that period as the “four most miserable years of my life.” His interesting background and quirks make him an intriguing presidential figure with his share of anecdotes.
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