A few years ago, I checked out from the library the book “Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams’s Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress” by Joseph Wheelan. I had just watched Steven Spielberg’s movie “Amistad” and I wanted to get to know more about Adams.
In 1828, John Quincy Adams had just been voted out of office after a rather unsuccessful one term as President of the U.S. John Quincy was the son of extraordinary parents, John and Abigail Adams, and he had already accomplished much in his life. He had hoped to retire but the people in his home town pressured him to run for Congress and he won a seat in 1830.
Adams was a far better Congressman than he was a President. During his 17 years in the House of Representatives, Adams became one of the leading opponents of slavery in Congress. He led a long fight against the “Gag” rule, a rule set up by Southern representatives to table any petitions about the abolition of slavery and prevented any discussion of the slavery issue within Congress. Adams was against the annexation of Texas and the Mexican American War because of how they would extended slavery into new territories. In one speech, Adams said that in case of civil war, the President could emancipate the slaves as a military necessity. Abraham Lincoln eventually used this rationale to free the slaves through his Emancipation Proclamation.
Because of his fame as an opponent of slavery, John Quincy Adams was asked to speak in the Supreme Court for the case of United States v. The Amistad. Adams went before the Supreme Court on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. His argument succeeded; the Court ruled in favor of the Africans, who were declared free and returned to their homes.
During his time in Congress, John Quincy Adams served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, where he spoke out against the removal of Eastern Indian tribes by the Jackson administration. He also spoke out for the right of women to petition for political causes.
John Quincy Adams became one of the best representatives we ever had in Congress due to his fight for human rights.