John Quincy Adams: The Hell Hound of Slavery

The Hell Hound of SlaveryIt’s one thing to be a “career politician.” It’s quite another to be so influential that your very presence commands respect, honor and adoration.

But John Quincy Adams was a “cut above the rest” type of man.

In fact, few American leaders have exceeded the contributions of John Quincy Adams, the lawyer son of Founding Father John and Abigail Adams. He served seven decades as a diplomat, senator (state and U.S.), representative, Secretary of State and sixth president of the United States.

Born July 11, 1767, Adams grew up in Massachusetts. Educated by his parents and private tutors, the young Adams read and translated the works of Plutarch, Thucydides, and Aristotle. But John Q. also read his Bible annually, in different languages and translations, spending an hour daily in Scripture study and meditation.

The Word of God, he once penned, was “his counsel and monitor through life.”

Adams authored a letter to his son in 1811, commending the habit of daily Bible reading, stating that “so great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy—that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more…confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents.”

John Quincy Adams was still a child when his intellect and political talent was pressed into service for a young nation.

At 11 years of age, John Q., in 1778, accompanied his ambassador father to France, and later the Netherlands to learn the finer points of international relations. Three years later, living on his own, Adams served as a secretary for the American diplomat in Russia. Between 1785 and 1789, the teenaged Adams studied law at Harvard, eventually launching a legal career in Boston. Adams also became a prolific writer, publishing books, essays, articles, and letters.

In 1794, George Washington appointed Adams the Netherlands ambassador, followed by Portugal (1796) and Prussia (1797-1801).

He returned to the States in 1801 and was elected a Massachusetts’s senator. During this time he also served as a professor of logic, rhetoric and oratory for Brown and Harvard universities. In 1817, James Monroe drafted Adams as his Secretary of State.

John Quincy Adams was eventually elected America’s sixth president (1825-1829).

After office, he became a U.S. House of Representative for Massachusetts for nine terms (1831-1848). It was the first and last time (to date) a U.S. President retired to a lower national office.

But that’s because John Quincy Adams still had a fight to finish. And he literally died on the job attacking the evil of his age: slavery.

An ardent and outspoken abolitionist, Adams was nicknamed “The Hell-Hound of Slavery.”

His primary political adversary proved the Democratic Party, who did all it could to silence his barking. As the ruling party, pro-slavery Democrats shut down all discussions regarding the practice. Adams relentlessly battled their procedural “gag rules.” At one point Democrats tried to censure him, but nothing stopped Adams from arguing, with persuasive eloquence, against the slavery institution in America. In fact, he was the first to pitch a constitutional amendment to abolish it.

In 1841, Adams and Francis Scott Key helped liberate 53 enslaved Africans charged with mutiny on the La Amistad, a Spanish slave ship.

Adams gave a nine-hour defense for these slaves before the U.S. Supreme Court (at 73 years of age). In his rants against human bondage, he often pointed to the true root cause of the slave trade: Islam. For over a thousand years, Muslim slave markets captured, transported, and sold 180 million African slaves, shipping them all over the world.

Adam argued that Islam fundamentally hated the Christian religion (which preached liberty, equality, and justice). Consequently, it used terrorism, fear, and human slavery to keep Christian nations disrupted and divided. In his 1827 “Essay on Turks” Adams opined: “Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion.”

In November 1846, John Quincy suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.

But it’s hard to keep a good man down. Adams fully recovered and returned to the House floor within a few months. A year later, on February 21, 1848, during a House vote, Adams (also known as “The Old Man Eloquent”) collapsed at his seat. Forty eight hours later he was dead. His reported final words: “This is the last of Earth. I am content.”

Word of Adam’s death spread quickly, thanks to the newly invented telegraph.

This created a national mourning unlike anything known before in America (death notices traveled much slower in those days). Adam’s funeral featured a processional of military units, senators and representatives, Supreme Court justices, President James Polk and his cabinet. Surprisingly, among his pallbearers were political opponents and senators John Calhoun (D-SC) and Thomas Hart Benton (D-MO). Calhoun was a slave owner, while Benton was a notorious political adversary.

And also among his pallbearers was a new congressman from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln.

A dozen years later Lincoln would become president over a divided nation and fulfill the “Hellhound of Slavery’s” lifelong dream to eradicate slavery in America.

To his dying day, Adams proclaimed his Christianity and affection for the Bible. He concluded: “In what light soever we regard it, whether with reference to revelation, to literature, to history, or to morality—[the Bible] is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.”


Ambassador. Congressman. Senator. President. Abolitionist. Christian.

Now you know the rest of HIStory.





  • Life of John Quincy Adams, W. H. Seward, editor (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller & Company, 1856), p. 249.
  • Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller & Company, 1848), 7,  9-10, 20.


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