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The Legacy of John Quincy Adams

Benjamin Brown French, who had often disagreed with Adams on matters of policy, and had made many caustic comments about him personally in his diary, waxed more sentimentally upon Adams’s passing. Three months after Adams had passed, French remembered that Adams had once called upon him at his office while French was out. French visited Adams, when he learned why Adams had stopped by his house. “The main object of Mr. Adams’s desire to see me was, that I would aid him in getting a poor orphan boy appointed a page in the House.” This was the softer side of what many saw as a very hard man. But the most interesting entry took place the day after Adams died, when French was in the Capitol and he was alone with the remains of Adams:

No one was in the room save myself & the form . . . who but a short time since was well entitled the greatest & most learned Statesman of his country. I could hardly realize that what I saw before me but yesterday contained the brilliant intellect, the almost unbounded information, the almost Godlike mind of John Quincy Adams—and that now it was but a clod of the valley[,] as unconscious & inanimate as the bier upon which it was well extended!! A great man has gone to the tomb, but his works & deeds of usefulness shall continue as long as his Country shall be known among the nations of the earth.

“John Quincy Adams, ‘the old man eloquent,’ who, as a scholar and statesman, surpassed any man this country has ever produced.”


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