NAME: John Quincy Adams. He was named after his great-grandfather Colonel John Quincy, Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly, member of the Governor’s Council, and militia officer. John Quincy died soon after the birth of his namesake. His daughter, John Quincy Adams’s maternal grandmother, suggested naming the infant in his memory.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Adams was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 175 pounds. He had penetrating black eyes. By the time he became president he was almost completely bald. He dressed plainly and without great care. He spoke in a high, shrill voice. His health was generally poor. He frequently complained of various aches and pains. Insomnia, indigestion, nervous anxiety, and eye discomfort chronically plagued him. Intermittently throughout his life he wrestled with bouts of mental depression, what he called “uncontrollable dejection of spirits” and “a sluggish carelessness of life.” He admitted having at times “an imaginary wish that [life] were terminated.”
PERSONALITY: Because he was both introspective and uncommonly candid in admitting his own shortcomings, Adams remained the best source for a description of his personality. “I am a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners,” he confided to his diary, “my political adversaries say, a gloomy misanthropist, and my personal enemies, an unsocial savage. With a knowledge of the actual defect in my character, I have not the pliability to reform it.” In a letter to his wife he admitted, “I never was and never shall be what is commonly termed a popular man, being as little qualified by nature, education, or habit for the arts of a courtier as I am desirous of being courted by others…I am certainly not intentionally repulsive in my manners and deportment, and in my public station I never made myself inaccessible to any human being. But I have no powers of fascination; none of the honey which the profligate proverb says is the true fly-catcher.” Ironically, a man famous for his cold demeanor was the most successful American diplomat of his time. In the ticklish art of negotiation, Adams assiduously checked his temper and performed the diplomatic amenities.
SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.
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