History, Culture and Faith – John Quincy Adams: Slavery’s Hell-Hound

rick-Chromey

By Rick Chromey 

The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the Divine inspiration 

of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth.1 

America has enjoyed many accomplished political leaders, but few have exceeded the contributions of John Quincy Adams, the lawyer son of Founding Father John Adams. He served nearly seven decades as a diplomat, senator (state and U.S.), representative, Secretary of State and sixth president of the United States. 

Born July 11, 1767, Adams grew up in Massachusetts. Educated by his parents and private tutors, the young Adams read and translated the works of Plutarch, Thucydides, and Aristotle. But young John also read the Bible annually, in different languages and translations, spending an hour daily in Scripture study and meditation. The Word of God, he once penned, was “his counsel and monitor through life.” 2 

Adams authored a letter to his son in 1811, commending the habit of daily Bible reading, stating that “so great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy—that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more…confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents.” 3 

John Quincy Adams was still a child when his intellect and political talent were pressed into service for a young nation. At 11, he accompanied his ambassador father to France, and later the Netherlands (1778), to learn the finer points of international relations. Three years later, living on his own, Adams served as a secretary for the American diplomat in Russia. Between 1785 and 1789, a teenaged Adams studied law at Harvard, eventually launching a legal career in Boston. Adams also became a prolific writer, publishing books, essays, articles, and letters. 

In 1794, George Washington appointed Adams ambassador of the Netherlands, followed by Portugal (1796) and Prussia (1797-1801). He returned to the States in 1801 and was elected Massachusetts’s senator. During this time he also served as a professor of logic, rhetoric, and oratory for Brown and Harvard universities. In 1817, James Monroe drafted Adams as his Secretary of State. 

John Quincy Adams was eventually elected America’s sixth president (1825-1829). After office, he became a U.S. House of Representative for Massachusetts for nine terms (1831-1848). It was the first and last time (to date) a U.S. President retired to a lower national office. 

But that’s because John Quincy Adams still had a fight to finish. And he literally died on the job attacking the evil of his age: slavery. An ardent and outspoken abolitionist, Adams was nicknamed “The Hell-Hound of Slavery.” His political adversaries did all they could to silence his barking. But nothing stopped him from arguing, with persuasive eloquence, against the slavery institution in America. He was the first to pitch a constitutional amendment to abolish it. 

In 1841, Adams and Francis Scott Key helped liberate 53 enslaved Africans charged with mutiny on the La Amistad, a Spanish slave ship. Adams gave a nine-hour defense for these slaves before the U.S. Supreme Court (at 73 years of age). In his rants against human bondage, he often pointed to the true root cause of the slave trade: Islam. For over a thousand years, Muslim slave markets captured, transported, and sold 180 million African slaves, shipping them all over the world. 

Adam argued that Islam fundamentally hated the Christian religion (which preached liberty, equality, and justice). Consequently, it used terrorism, fear, and human slavery to keep Christian nations disrupted and divided. In his 1827 “Essay on Turks” Adams opined: “Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion.” 

In November 1846, John Quincy suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. But it’s hard to keep a good man down. Adams fully recovered and returned to the House floor within a few months. A year later, on February 21, 1848, during a House vote, Adams (also known as “The Old Man Eloquent”) collapsed at his seat. Forty eight hours later he was dead. His reported final words: “This is the last of Earth. I am content.” 

Word of Adams’s death spread quickly, thanks to the newly invented telegraph. This created a national mourning unknown before in America (death notices traveled much slower in those days). Adams’s funeral featured a processional of military units, senators and representatives, Supreme Court justices, President James Polk and his cabinet. Surprisingly, among his pallbearers were political opponents and senators John Calhoun (D-SC) and Thomas Hart Benton (D-MO). Calhoun was a slave owner, while Benton was a notorious political adversary. 

Yet also among his pallbearers was a new congressman from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln. 

A dozen years later, Lincoln would become president over our divided nation and fulfill the “Hell-hound of Slavery’s” lifelong dream to eradicate slavery in America. 

To his dying day, Adams proclaimed his Christianity and affection for the Bible. He concluded: “In what light soever we regard it, whether with reference to revelation, to literature, to history, or to morality—[the Bible] is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.” 4 

John Quincy Adams. 

Ambassador. Congressman. Senator. President. Abolitionist. Christian. 

Now you know the rest of HIStory. 

 

Sources: 

1Life of John Quincy Adams, W. H. Seward, editor (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller & Company, 1856), p. 249. 

2Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller & Company, 1848), 7. 

3Ibid., 9-10. 

4Ibid., 20 

 

Dr. Rick Chromey helps people interpret history, navigate culture, and explore faith. He’s an author, historian, professor, and founder/president of MANNA! Educational Services International. Rick and his wife Linda live in Star, ID. Rick is currently booking speaking dates to inspire and equip leaders, teachers, parents, and pastoral staff. Readers are also invited to subscribe to the inspirational and educational Morning MANNA! (M-F) email. For more information, please visit: www.mannasolutions.org. 

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