From Policy Allies to Political Enemies


John Quincy Adams, the sixth United States President, was succeeded in 1828 by

Andrew Jackson, its seventh president. Their rivalry during both the 1824 and 1828 presidential campaigns became both politically intense and personally hateful. Jackson blamed Adams for the death of his beloved wife Rachel who perished in December, 1828. Jackson believed that her fatal heart attack was a direct result of the scurrilous attacks leveled against her by the Adams’ presidential campaign.


Intense rancor between the two wasn’t always present. In 1819, when Adams was the American Secretary of State and Jackson was General of the Army who invaded Spanish Florida, Adams supported the General during contentious debates within President Monroe’s cabinet. The Secretary supported Jackson when other cabinet members insisted that he be fired due to his aggressive actions against the Spanish. “(Adams) admired Andrew Jackson’s martial vigor…he shared Jackson’s view of America as an inexorable force destined to spread across the continent, and like Jackson, he was inclined to favor any course that enhanced American power.” (1)


Indeed, Louisa Catherine Adams, the elegant and socially accomplished wife of the Secretary of State, celebrated the General at a lavish ball at the Adams’ Washington home. The 1824 event commemorated Jackson’s glorious 1815 victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans. Louisa sent out five hundred invitations for the event. (2)


All comity and civility were shattered after the events of the 1828 national election. Adams, embittered by his loss, exulted over the problems of the Jackson administration. He sent letters to his son and daughter-in-law joyfully describing the White House fracas over the troubles of Peggy Eaton. Furthermore, “Adams so loathed Jackson that when Harvard had awarded the president an honorary diploma…he had refused to attend.” Adams previously was a proud graduate of the university. (3)


During his later years as he recalled his life, Adams counted as his friends Washington, Madison and Monroe. But he listed among his “base, malignant, and lying enemies,” Andrew Jackson. (4)


James Traub: John Quincy Adams (New York: Basic Books, 2016)

  1. pp. 221-3
  2. 290
  3. 388, 417
  4. 514


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