CHARLOTTE – “Duty is ours’, results are God’s” – with that phrase, America’s sixth President answered a question posed by a reporter: why did John Quincy Adams continue to focus his congressional service on slavery abolition year after year without appearing to make any progress at all? Known as the “Hell hound of abolition”, JQA was the only President to have served as a congressional representative after his Presidency. He labored 17 years for the cause until his death in the midst of his congressional duties.
JQA was well acquainted with duty. At age 11, he served as his father’s secretary while John Adams was the Ambassador to Britain. At 14, he became the Secretary for the Ambassador to Russia. Later, he served as an ambassador himself under George Washington who referred to JQA as “the most valuable public character we have abroad.” He was elected a U.S. Senator, then served as Ambassador under James Madison and Secretary of State under James Monroe following him to become President.
During his 14th year in Congress, he finally was able to get the house to pass a three-step plan (including a Constitutional Amendment) to eradicate slavery in 1843, nearly 20 years prior to the Civil War. However, the effort went nowhere in the Senate.
During his last congressional term, he mentored a freshman congressman focusing specifically on how slavery could be abolished in America. The young congressman was one of the official pallbearers for JQA’s funeral. His name? … Abraham Lincoln.
JQA read through the Bible each year and was convinced that “The Doctrines proclaimed by Jesus and His Apostles include lessons of peace, benevolence, meekness, brotherly love and charity.” Such conviction led him to dutifully champion the abolition cause even though he was not on the earth to see the results, leaving those to God.