Just finished reading the biography of John Quincy Adams. While this book is over 300 pages long, it only has 3 chapters. Chapter 1 – Youth and Diplomacy, Chapter 2 – Secretary of State and President, and Chapter 3 – In the House of Representatives.
I can tell you this, this author loved writing long paragraphs. It was not unusual to see paragraphs that were 3 or 4 pages long. Yes, you read that correct, a simple paragraph would sometimes go 3-4 pages. Rarely did you see a paragraph that was not at least a page and a half long.
This year, I have read several presidential biographies. In almost every biography, the biographer spends well over 1/2 of the book covering the years in the White House. This author did not. In fact, less than 1/6th of the book covered the White House years.
It became very clear as you started the 3rd Chapter that the author really appreciated the work that John Q. Adams did in the 16 years when he was a Congressman after he was president. The author apparently was an abolitionist and as such, wanted to put Adams in the best light possible for the years of service as a Congressman fighting for the rights of the slaves.
It was interesting that the tone and tenor of the book really changed when you started reading the third chapter. The first two chapters, it felt like you were reading the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. Adams did this and then he did that. However, in the third chapter, the biographer really livens up the reading and you all of a sudden feel like you are in the house chamber hearing these positions arguing back and forth.
John Q. Adams really was a unique individual. The upbringing that his parents gave him really set him on a collision course to being a great leader. His parents who were both voracious writers made sure that he wrote in his diary every day. The biographer mentioned that because of this, we actually know more about the early life of John Q. Adams then almost any other early American leaders.
John and Abigail Adams raised a son to be a leader. From Abigail taking Q. to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill as a young boy, to them sending him on a ship all by himself to be with his father as he was serving the cause of liberty in Europe. Q. grew up early and had great responsibility at a very young age. How many parents would send their 14-year-old to Russia to be a secretary to the minister to Russia?
When Q. was president, he often would go to the Potomac river and swim. He actually loved swimming and enjoyed getting fresh air each day, regardless of the weather.
One of the best stories about John Q. Adams comes from when he was a Congressman. Q. had made it his goal to fight for the abolition of the slaves. The majority of the Congressman were so tired of Q.’s constant bringing of petitions for the abolition of slaves that they enacted gag orders so that these petitions were never presented to the appropriate committee.
Q. was always coming up with new ways to bring petitions and force Congress to think about the issue. One day he told the speaker that he had a petition that he was not sure he should present because he did not know if it was proper. Q. asked the speaker to give him some guidance on the issue. After some questioning, it became clear that the petition was from some slaves.
Immediately there was a huge debate about censure of Mr. Adams for daring to present to the House of Representatives a petition from slaves when he knew that he was not allowed to present any petitions regarding the abolition of slavery.
After a while, Adams got up and told the Congressmen that they could not censure him because he had not presented the resolution, he simply was asking for guidance whether the petition was proper since only citizens were permitted to present petitions for their Congressman to put before the House. There was some silence, and then Adams mentioned that the petition from these slaves was that slavery not be ended in the United States. Everyone who was trying to shut Q. down had egg on their face as they realized that Adams had just outsmarted them again.