John Quincy Adams: His Fight Against Slavery & His Faith in the Bible
On FEBRUARY 21, 1848, "Old Man Eloquent" John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke at his desk in the House chamber.
He had just given an impassioned speech against the Democrat plan to expand slavery into the Western territories acquired after the Mexican-American War.
He died 2 days later without regaining consciousness.
His death was the first to be communicated over the newly invented telegraph.
The pallbearers at his funeral, February 26, 1848, included South Carolina Senator John Calhoun, Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and a freshman Congressman from Illinois - Abraham Lincoln.
A bronze marker on the U.S. House floor indicates where the desk of John Quincy Adams once stood.
The son of the second President, John Adams, John Quincy Adams had one of the longest careers in American politics.
His many positions included:
- At age 11, he accompanied his father as part of diplomatic team to France and the Netherlands, 1778;
- At 14 , he was secretary to the American diplomat to Russia, 1781-1783;
- At 17, he assisted his father's diplomatic role in England, 1784;
- President Washington appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, 1794-1797;
- U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, 1796;
- U.S Ambassador to Prussia, 1797-1801
- U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, 1803;-1808;
- Professor of Logic at Brown University, 1803-1808;
- Professor Rhetoric & Oratory, Harvard University, 1806-1809;
- Argued before Supreme Court, Fletcher v. Peck, 1809;
- President Madison appointed him to be First U.S. Minister to Russia, 1809-1814;
- Published Lectures on Rhetoric & Oratory, 1810;
- President Madison nominated him to the Supreme Court, being confirmed unanimously by the Senate, but declined, 1811;
- He negotiated the Treaty of Ghent, which favorably ended the War of 1812 (Britain intended to retain the territory around the Great Lakes);
- President Madison appointed him U.S. Minister to Great Britain, appointed by Madison, 1815-1817;
- U.S. Secretary of State, under President Monroe, 1817-1825, where he negotiated the Adams-Onis Treaty, obtaining Florida from Spain.
- He was the 6th President of the United States, 1825-1829;
- U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts, 1831-1848.
John Quincy Adams was the only U.S President to serve as a Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives after having been President.
In Congress, he earned the nicknamed "The Hell-Hound of Slavery" for relentlessly speaking out against slavery.
He single-handedly led the fight to lift the Gag Rule which prohibited discussion of slavery on the House floor. As a result, Southern Democrats tried to have him censured in 1837.
In 1839, he introduced a constitutional amendment to ban slavery in all new states entering the Union.
In 1841, at the age of 73, John Quincy Adams spoke for nine hours defending the 53 Africans accused of mutiny aboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad.
With the help of lawyer Francis Scott Key, he argued their case before the U.S. Supreme Court and won, giving them back their freedom.
John Quincy Adams stated:
"The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration."
He was the only major figure in American history to know both the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln.
Prior to 1807, African slaves were purchased from Muslim slave markets and brought to America.
Muslim slave markets had existed for over a thousand years, enslaving an estimated 180 million Africans.
Elikia M'bokolo wrote in "The Impact of the Slave Trade on Africa" (Le Monde diplomatique, April 2, 1998):
"At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth) ...
Four million enslaved people exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean."
The annotated John Quincy Adams-A Bibliography, compiled by Lynn H. Parsons (Westport, CT, 1993, p. 41, entry#194), contains "Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War and on Greece," (The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29, NY: 1830):
"The natural hatred of the Mussulmen towards the infidels is in just accordance with the precepts of the Koran ...
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies ..."
"In the 7th century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab ... spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth ...
He declared undistinguishing and exterminating war as a part of his religion ...
The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust, to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature."
Chapter 8 in the Qur'an is titled "Spoils of War," and chapter 33, verse 50 states:
"Prophet, We have made lawful to you ... the slave girls whom Allah has given you as booty."
John Quincy Adams-A Bibliography reported that during the Barbary Pirate Wars:
"Our gallant Commodore Stephen Decatur had chastised the pirate of Algiers ... The Dey (Omar Bashaw) ... disdained to conceal his intentions;
'My power,' said he, 'has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it;
but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper.'"
Frederick Leiner wrote in The End of the Barbary Terror-America's 1815 War Against the Pirates of North Africa (Oxford University Press):
"Commodore Stephen Decatur and diplomat William Shaler withdrew to consult in private ... The Algerians were believed to be masters of duplicity, willing to make agreements and break them as they found convenient."
The Annotated John Quincy Adams-A Bibliography (NY: 1830) continued with the statement:
"The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace ...
The faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but t he command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective.
The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."
John Quincy Adams described Muslim behavior in "Essay on Turks" (The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29):
"Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion."
Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote the Prophet of Islam in Of the Standard of Taste, 1760:
"Let us attend to his narration; and we shall soon find, that the prophet bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civilized society."
Winston Churchill described Muslim behavior in The Story of the Malakand Field Force (Dover Publications, 1898):
"Their system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices, has produced a code of honor so strange and inconsistent, that it is incomprehensible to a logical mind."
After reading the insight of John Quincy Adams, Winston Churchill and David Hume, one is faced with a perplexing question -- if someone is capable of cutting your head off, would they be willing to first lie to you about their intentions?
While General Andrew Jackson was fighting the British in area of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Florida, John Quincy Adams was negotiating the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium, which ended the War of 1812.
Afterwards, he traveled to Paris and saw Napoleon being returned to power for his famous 100 last days as Emperor.
One of the major influences that shaped the views and actions of John Quincy Adams was the Bible, as he wrote in his diary, September 26, 1810:
"I have made it a practice for several years to read the Bible through in the course of every year. I usually devote to this reading the first hour after I rise every morning ...
I have this morning commenced it anew ... this time with Ostervald's French translation."
In September of 1811, John Quincy Adams wrote to his son from St. Petersburg, Russia:
"My dear Son ... You mentioned that you read to your aunt a chapter in the Bible or a section of Doddridge's Annotations every evening.
This information gave me real pleasure; for so great is my veneration for the Bible ...
It is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy ... My custom is, to read four to five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed ...
It is essential, my son ... that you should form and adopt certain rules ... of your own conduct ... It is in the Bible, you must learn them ...
'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thy self.'
On these two commandments, Jesus Christ expressly says, 'hang all the law and the prophets.'"
John Quincy Adams' correspondence to his son is compiled in Letters of John Quincy Adams to his son, on the Bible and its Teachings, which contains his statement:
"No book in the world deserves to be so unceasingly studied, and so profoundly meditated upon as the Bible."
On March 13, 1812, John Quincy Adams noted:
"This morning I finished the perusal of the German Bible."
Adams wrote December 24, 1814:
"You ask me what Bible I take as the standard of my faith -- the Hebrew, the Samaritan, the old English translation, or what?
I answer, the Bible containing the Sermon on the Mount ...
The New Testament I have repeatedly read in the original Greek, in the Latin, in the Geneva Protestant, in Sacy's Catholic French translations, in Luther's German translation, in the common English Protestant, and in the Douay Catholic translations.
I take any one of them for my standard of faith."
On December 31, 1825, John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary:
"I rise usually between five and six ... I walk by the light of the moon or stars, or none, about four miles, usually returning home ... I then make my fire, and read three chapters of the Bible."
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson described John Quincy Adams:
"No man could read the Bible with such powerful effect, even with the cracked and winded voice of old age."
John Quincy Adams wrote:
"I speak as a man of the world to men of the world; and I say to you, Search the Scriptures!
The Bible is the book of all others ... not to be read once or twice or thrice through, and then laid aside, but to be read in small portions of one or two chapters every day."
At the age of 77, John Quincy Adams was vice-president of the American Bible Society, where he stated, February 27, 1844:
"I deem myself fortunate in having the opportunity, at a stage of a long life drawing rapidly to its close, to bear at ... the capital of our National Union ... my solemn testimonial of reverence and gratitude to that book of books, the Holy Bible
The Bible carries with it the history of the creation, the fall and redemption of man, and discloses to him, in the infant born at Bethlehem, the Legislator and Saviour of the world."
John Quincy Adams stated in his Presidential Inaugural Address, March 4, 1825:
"'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain,'
with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country."