John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


  • John Quincy Adams was elected sixth President of the United States in 1824 and occupied that office from 1825 to 1829; in 1830 he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, and served there until his death in 1848. Within this biography of Adams, the author includes a few mentions of James Smithson, the Englishman's bequest to the United States, and the role Adams played in America's acceptance and disposition of the bequest.
  • In December of 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed the U. S. House of Representatives of James Smithson's $500,000 gift to the United States, to be used to establish a learned institution. Adams had long championed public support of scholarship, and by offering a motion that the gift be referred to a House committee, became chairman of the committee charged with recommending direction of Smithson's bequest. He successfully diverted use of bequest monies being "wasted upon hungry and worthless political jackals," but Adams was not able to direct funding toward his early desire for a national astronomical observatory. Adams labored to avoid misuse of the bequest; lectures he delivered in the late 1830's to various groups warning against abuse of this public fund received praise and were reprinted many times over the ensuing years.


  • Adams, John Quincy 1767-1848
  • Jackson, Andrew 1767-1845
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • United States President (1825-1829 : Adams)
  • United States Congress House
  • United States Congress
  • United States President (1829-1837 : Jackson)


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Book includes bibliographical references and index.

Contained within

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life (Book)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Trusts and trustees
  • Committees
  • SI, Early History
  • Federal Government
  • Smithson Bequest
  • United States. Congress
  • Observatories
  • Lectures and lecturing
  • Gifts
  • Wills
  • Learned institutions and societies
  • Learning and scholarship
  • Federal funds
  • United States. Congress--Committees
  • Biography
  • Speeches, addresses, etc
  • Wills--Great Britain


Great Britain


1st edition

Physical description

Number of pages : 432 [5 pages of text partially related to the Smithson Bequest]; Page numbers : 356-357, 367, 374-375

Full Record

View Full Record