The Amazing JQA

So who was the US President who witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill, visited Finland, met Catherine the Great of Russia and owned a pet alligator?

More important than that, when the crew of the liberated slave ship Amistad sailed to the State of Connecticut, in what was supposed to be the Land of Liberty, and were then clapped in irons and were about to be sold back into slavery, which former US president showed up to represent them and ultimately won them their freedom?

This could only be one of the most remarkable presidents in US history: John Quincy Adams.

JQA opposed slavery right at the beginning of the American Republic.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s son points out in her biography that Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin (of course!) and nearly all the founding fathers opposed slavery, although they had to put up with it, and condoned it with the approval of the Constitution (which contains the “three-fifths” provision, condoning slavery).

John Quincy Adams was a devotee of Ben Franklin and throughout his political career he did everything he could to oppose the expansion of slavery. He was an abolitionist sixty years ahead of his time.

His presidency was not a smashing success, but he went on to a remarkable 18-year career in the House of Representatives that is unequaled in history.

As an elder statesman, he protected the fledgling republic from sectionalism and partisanship. Then he died, as perhaps he might have wished, on the floor of the House.

The House of Representatives lost the mentor it had relied upon for 18 years, who had for forty years told everyone who cared to hear that slavery was evil.

As the chairman of the committee to make arrangements for the funeral of John Quincy Adams, the House of Representatives appointed a newly-elected congressman from Illinois.

You’d recognize him; he’s on the money — tall and lanky, stovepipe hat.

Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams fit my model for true patriots. They saw something terribly wrong with their country and they did something about it. There’s something very moving about the way one passed the torch to the other.

When the Amistad sails into your town, will you stand up with JQA?