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August 8, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Senator John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles In Courage.”  

JFK’s book highlights the stories of eight United States Senators who risked their political careers to pursue justice.

In the introduction to the Memorial Edition, Robert Kennedy writes:

“Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired.  That is why this book so fitted his personality, his beliefs.”


JFK Library Image

The title of Chapter II is John Quincy Adams.*

*John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), the son of John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard, & served in the U.S. Senate as a Federalist from 1803-1808.  While in the Senate, Adams also taught Rhetoric  at Harvard.  He was elected 6th U.S. President in 1824 & served a single term 1825-1829.

Senator Kennedy describes John Quincy Adams as “one of the great representatives of that extraordinary breed who have left a memorable imprint upon our Government & our way of life.”

And yet, when the former Secretary of State & 6th President of the United States reached the age of 70, he wrote that his

“whole life has been a succession of disappointments.”

And while JFK tells us that Adams “held more important offices & participated in more important events than anyone…,” it is his single term in the Senate that gives “clear insight” into  his failures.

After his arrival in the Nation’s Capital, Adams “promptly” disregarded loyalty to his party but also “customary freshman reticence.”

Adams was the only Federalist senator to vote in favor of the funding of Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase & even attended a banquet given in celebration of the purchase.**

**Federalists opposed the Louisiana Purchase for these reasons:  

They believed it was unconstitutional, favored closer ties to Britain rather than France, and were concerned about losing political power in the East to the new settlers of the West.

JFK tells us that Adams had a vision, like Jefferson, “of an America stretched to its continental limits,” & that he believed the exclusion of Napoleon from our boundaries was “far more important than the outraged astonishment of his Federalist colleagues.”

John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary the following passage which not only “summed up his 1st months in the Senate,” but also is applicable to the theme of JFK’s book:

“I have already….experience(d) the danger of adhering to my own principles. The country is so totally given up to the spirit of party that not to follow blindfolded…..is an expiable offence…..I see the impossibility of pursuing the dictates of my own conscience without sacrificing every prospect….of advancement.”


John Quincy Adams, 1843, by Philip Haas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


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