Friday, February 23, 2007

February 23, 1848:

John Quincy Adams Dies

Only two former presidents have served in the US Congress after their presidencies. John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, was the first to do so. He was a Whig Congressman from 1831 until his death in 1848, representing a Massachusetts district centered on Plymouth. (Andrew Johnson returned to the US Senate shortly before his death in 1875.)

He was also the first president to have a middle name. Before the Civil War, only two other presidents did: William Henry Harrison and James Knox Polk.

There are no photographic images of any of the five presidents before John Quincy Adams. Late in his life, he posed for the daguerreotype reproduced above, becoming the earliest president to leave behind a photographic image of himself.

An entry in The Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography by Charles A. Howe describes President and Rep. Adams final days: "Near the end of his life he summed up his personal credo in these few words: 'I reverence God as my creator. As creator of the world. I reverence him with holy fear. I venerate Jesus Christ as my redeemer; and, as far as I can understand, the redeemer of the world. But this belief is dark and dubious.'

"On the afternoon of February 21, 1848 John Quincy Adams was, as usual, at his desk in the House of Representatives. He had voted 'No' on a bill that would have commended veterans of recent battles in the war with Mexico and was trying to rise to speak, when he suddenly collapsed. Carried to the Speaker's private chamber in the Capitol, he lingered on for two days. By the time Louisa [his wife] got to his bedside, he was unable to recognize her. It was reported that the last words he uttered were either, 'This is the end of earth, but I am content,' or, 'This is the last of earth-- I am composed.'

"Adams would have been amazed at the national outpouring of mourning that followed his death; thousand filed through the Capitol to view his bier. Funeral ceremonies were held in the House, after which the body was carried by train to Boston, where a memorial service was held in Faneuil Hall. At the service in Quincy, the Rev. William Lunt, Adam's pastor and friend, preached on the text, 'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' "

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