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John Quincy Adams: One-Term Wonder


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• Part 2: The White House and Beyond

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Part 1: John Quincy Adams

George W. Bush is not the first president who is also the son of a former president. That honor belongs to John Quincy Adams, who was elected in 1824. And like the election of 2000, the election of 1824 didn't produce a new president right away.

John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States. This John Adams had been a leader in the Revolutionary War and had served as vice-president under George Washington. When Washington retired after two terms, Adams ran for the top job. He defeated Thomas Jefferson, who became his vice-president. (The law in those days was that the top two vote-getters got the top two jobs. Now, we vote for president AND vice-president, who run as a team.)

Adams served one term as president and was defeated in 1800 by Jefferson. Jefferson was succeeded by James Madison and James Monroe. All three served two terms.

John Quincy Adams, meanwhile, was making his name as a statesman overseas. He was appointed Minister to the Netherlands in 1793 and then Minister to Russia in 1802. He spent time in nearly every European country and came to know how to run a government quite well. When James Monroe was elected president in 1816, he named John Quincy Adams as his secretary of state. This position was largely regarded as the second most powerful position in the government. Adams had some great successes. He arranged for Spain to hand over Florida to the United States. He also helped the president form the Monroe Doctrine. This was a particularly important announcement that let the countries in Europe know that the United States would protect its interests in Cuba and South America. European countries at the time were trying to establish colonies in South America. The Monroe Doctrine let the leaders of Europe know that the United States meant business.

When President Monroe agreed to step down in 1824, John Quincy Adams decided to run for president. Other people did, too, including the popular Andrew Jackson and the important Henry Clay. Another man named William Crawford ran, too.

But on Election Day, nobody won.

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