Life after Presidency: 1802-1826

January 3, 1805

After I left the Presidency, I fell into a deep depression. Although my friends believe it to be a sign of my innate vanity (they believe I was depressed because I lost the election), there are reasons far deeper that I must explain.

I have always been a man of ambition. Personal achievement is very important to me, and I work with every ounce of my being to meet the goals I have set for myself. I always try to reach higher than anyone else. So when I was removed from the highest office in the nation, suddenly, my ambition could find no home. I could not reach any higher than the presidency, and having achieved that goal, suddenly there was nowhere to go but down.

At the same time, I am distressed over Nabby’s husband and his mountain of debts. He has made some foolish investments – investments I advised him not to make – and now he comes to Abigail and me, hoping that we will give him money. For the sake of my daughter’s happiness, I give him the money. But his stupidity exhausts me. When will he ever learn?

Another matter that weighs on my mind is Alexander Hamilton’s attack on my character during the Revolution. He died last year in a duel (and I couldn’t help the little twinge of happiness that crept into my heart), but I still want to clear my name of the slanderous, malicious attacks. I have not yet taken any action, but I will someday soon. Hmmm, perhaps I shall write letters to the Boston Patriot (a local newspaper) and systematically refute his false claims.

October 13, 1813

In my ongoing correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, I told him that “I walk every fair day, sometimes 3 or 4 miles. Ride now and then but very rarely more than ten or fifteen Miles.” I am very fond of exercise, as it clears my mind and helps me to focus on the important matters of my life. Sometimes my dear Abigail joins me in my exercise, and what comical discussions we have!

In a more serious vein, Thomas and I have been fondly remembering our roles in beginning this new nation. I wrote to him that “The general Principles, on which the Fathers Atchieved (sic) Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite . . . . And what were these general  Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United…”

He responded with these words: “We must…select, even from [the words of simple evangelists], the very words only of Jesus, paring off the Amphibologisms into which they have been led…” We both share the same simple, uncluttered faith in Jesus and His words – a faith upon which we built the foundation for this new nation.

May 16, 1817

After all these entries about my political career and the events of my life, I have failed to mention my family! I have continued to fall in love with my lovely wife Abigail. If I could change one thing from my past, I would spend more time with her. Even though my work was critical to the future of the United States of America, I wish we could have spent that time together. Ah, well. What is done cannot be changed.

While I was gone on business, we exchanged many letters. Even though I may be arrogant, I must admit that Abigail is more skilled than I when it comes to letter-writing. Her witty remarks helped me to forget my troubles, and her constant love and support has encouraged me to succeed in everything I do. If someone would ever compile our letters one day…I’m sure it would be quite the fascinating read.

Abigail and I had six children together. Our oldest daughter, Abigail (though we’ve always called her “Nabby”) was born in 1765. Next came John Quincy 1767, then Susanna was born in 1768, Charles in 1770, Thomas in 1772, and Elizabeth in 1777.

Great sadness entered our house when Nabby died from breast cancer in 1813. Nabby reminded me so much of her mother – the way she talked, smiled, even laughed, it all reminded me of Abigail. I miss her dreadfully.

Thomas and Charles have brought trouble into our home – they are making such foolish decisions! Their mother gave them such wise instruction during their childhood. I can only hope that memories of her words will inspire them to turn from their ways.

We are very proud of John Quincy, my oldest son. His political career is flourishing and I hold high hopes for his future in politics. (No one but Abigail knows this – I believe that John Quincy has the courage and determination to be president.) We encourage him to pursue his dreams and to contribute in any way possible to this great nation.

March 4, 1825

Today my son, John Quincy Adams, has entered the Presidential office. I was so proud to see his inauguration, and to watch my son take the responsibility for the country upon his shoulders. He has been a successful diplomat, and I hope to see him smoothly handle this new responsibility. Of course, a father always worries about his son – especially when that son leads a nation.

Here is a picture of John Quincy when he entered the Presidential office.

One concern that I have – my son has always been a stubborn man. I hope he will be humble enough to take advantage of my experience and advice. After all, I’ve lived in the presidential mansion too. I will have many opinions on the government, and I can only hope he’ll listen to my wise words.

If only my beloved Abigail could have lived to see this day, when her son entered the highest office in the land! But she died of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818. I was so broken-hearted, I could not bring myself to write the story of her death in this journal. Her last words were: “Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long.”

Just remembering Abigail’s last words makes me long to see her again. I grow old, and I feel that I do not have much time left on this earth. We shall meet again in heaven, and I am ready to see my beautiful wife once again.

Photo Credits:

John Quincy Adams:


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