the lost love of john quincy adams -- 10/31/14

Today's selection -- from John Quincy Adams by Robert V. Remini. Abigail Adams, wife of America's second president John Adams, has been lauded by historians for her assertive influence in her husband's life and in the young life of her country. However, her son John Quincy Adams, America's sixth president, saw her as an intrusive and hectoring presence, confronting him with an unending stream of directives, criticisms and admonitions. He often simply avoided her, but was unable to when it came to the one passionate love of his life:

"[In 1790, at the age of twenty-three,] John Quincy Adams fell deeply in love with a beautiful young sixteen-year-old by the name of Mary Frazier, the daughter of Moses Frazier, a prominent citizen in Newburyport. After a few months the romance quickly developed into a serious relationship. John and Mary took long walks together and felt boundless joy in one another's company. When possible they attended parties and the theater together, and he wrote poetry about her and to her. Quite obviously the young man's emotions had carried him to the point of asking for Mary's hand in marriage, but reason kept reminding him that he could not support a wife. He was twenty-three years of age and still dependent on his parents' support; and although his apprenticeship in the law was coming to an end, it would take time to establish a practice and earn enough money to afford a wife. Besides, his parents insisted he open his law office in Boston, not Newburyport, which he preferred because of Mary's presence.

John Quincy Adams

"Dutifully he removed to Boston when his law studies ended, and on July 15, 1790, was duly sworn into practice. Three weeks later he opened his law office in a house owned by his father on Court Street. But few clients came. His courtship of Mary continued as best he could manage it and there seemed to be every indication that he planned to marry her. Unfortunately Abigail learned of the romance and immediately intervened. She notified her son that she was stunned and incredulous when she learned 'that you are attached to a young lady.' 'Never form connections until you see a prospect of supporting a wife,' she lectured in a series of letters. An early marriage 'will involve you in troubles that may render you and yours unhappiness for the remainder of your life.'

"The son chose to disregard his mother's warning and advice. He asked his beloved to agree to acknowledge their love and pledge to marry as soon as he could establish himself and support a family. But Mary's family would not accept such an 'indefinite' arrangement and insisted on a formal engagement, something John Quincy could not and would not do. Mary came to Boston to discuss it with him -- and she held her ground. There must be an agreement such as her family demanded, she informed him, or they must end their relationship.

"Totally dependent upon his family, John felt powerless to disobey them and with 'broken heart' he terminated their romance. Shortly thereafter he informed Abigail that she need worry no longer. 'I am perfectly free, and you may rest assured I shall remain so .... I may add I was never in less danger from any entanglement which can give you pain than at present.'

"As far as can be judged, this was the only romantic and passionate love of John Quincy Adams's entire life. It took a long time before he ceased to grieve over his lost love."


Robert V. Remini


John Quincy Adams (The American Presidents Series)


Times Books


Copyright 2002 by Robert V. Remini


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