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QDon’t you feel bad for some letters of the alphabet, the Q being chief among them? Q is a co-dependent letter—how often do you see a q–word without the letter U? Q is a tough subject for the A–to–Z blog challenge.

So, it seems appropriate for the subject of Q to be oft-forgotten U.S. President, John Qunicy Adams. We’ve had two sons of presidents become president, George W. Bush and our subject today.

John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States. For most men (or women), being president  would be the pinnacle of achievement—and it was for Qunicy Adams, but he was also a diplomat, a Senator and member of the House of Representatives. In fact, he’s one of only two presidents who, after his term, went back to Congress in the House of Representatives (if you know the other, who served in the Senate, make a comment with the answer). He served in the House until his death in 1848 at the age of 80.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams

As a diplomat, Adams played an important role in negotiating key treaties, most notably the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. As Secretary of State in the James Monroe administration, he negotiated with the Britain over the United States’ northern border with Canada, negotiated with Spain the annexation of Florida, and drafted the Monroe Doctrine. Historians agree he was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history.1

At the age of 26 in 1793, George Washington appointed him minister to the Netherlands. In 1848, when he died, while serving in the House of Representatives, James K. Polk was the eleventh president—that’s a remarkable (for that time) 55 years of service to his country. As an adult he witnessed the first presidency, the XYZ Affair, the Louisiana Purchase, War of 1812, and the Mexican–American War. What an exciting time to be alive, witnessing the birth of a nation and rising to it’s chief executive position, just like his father.

Life his father, he was a one–term president. I think sometimes we think of one–term presidents as failures. However, consider this list of one term presidents and their ranking (based on the book The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn’t): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game by Alvin S. Felzenberg2:

    • John Adams – 14
    • John Qunicy Adams – 14
    • Benjamin Harrison – 13
    • James Polk – 20
    • Martin Van Buren – 32
    • John Tyler – 34
    • Franklin Pierce – 37
    • James Buchanan – 39
    • Andrew Johnson – 37
    • Rutherford B. Hayes – 29
    • Chester Author – 24
    • William Howard Taft – 22
    • Warren Harding – 26
    • Herbert Hoover – 34
    • John F. Kennedy – 7
    • Gerald Ford – 20
    • Jimmy Carter – 29
    • George H.W. Bush – 14
      • average – 24.44

Yes, in this list of one term presidents are some real “stinkers” like James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover, and Martin Van Buren. Most (given that are current president is number 44) are around average. Some, like Kennedy, the first Bush, both Adamses and Benjamin Harrison are in the top third. Consider that these men, with two terms, ranked worse that some of the men listed above:

    • Richard Nixon – 34
    • James Madison – 29
    • Andrew Jackson – 27
    • Grover Cleveland – 24
    • Bill Clinton – 22
      • average – 27.2

My point is that we can’t use number of terms as a determining factor in presidential performance.

So, today, for the letter Q, we have John Quincy Adams, a man who wasn’t a great president, but was a pretty good, if oft–forgotten, president of these United States.

In case you’re curious, here are Felzenberg’s top ten presidents, according to his ranking [included at the end of the name(s)]:

  1. Abraham Lincoln – 1
  2. George Washington – 2
  3. Ronald Reagan – 3
  4. Theodore Roosevelt – 3
  5. Dwight Eisenhower – 5
  6. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 6
  7. John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, William McKinley, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor – 7
  8. Calvin Coolidge – 12
  9. Benjamin Harrison – 13
  10. George H.W. Bush, Woodrow Wilson, John Qunicy Adams, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams – 14

You may disagree with his rankings (US Grant #7?!)—but, if you pick up the book, I think you’ll come away convinced that his rankings are more objective than others.

1from Wikipedia
2As the author explains, his rating is based on objective criteria, while surveys of historians by the Wall Street Journal, CSPAN, etc. are over overly subjective.