As a child, he spent much of his time abroad with his father, who was the United States envoy to France (1778-79) and later the Netherlands (1780). He acquired his early education in Europe, returning to the States to graduate from Harvard College in 1787, with a degree in law. Later, he was appointed minister to the Netherlands (1794-96), Portugal (1796) and Prussia (1797-1801).
Returning to the United States, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1802, kicking off his political career. That same year, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress. He was elected to the House of Representatives in the following year, serving until 1808. Afterwards, he again served as a diplomat, first to Russia (1809-1814), then to Britain (1815-1817). He was Secretary of State under President James Monroe from 1817 to 1825. He played an important role in the acquisition of Europe, and in keeping the United States apart from European affairs, helping to develop the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected President of the United States, running against Henry Clay, William Crawford and Andrew Jackson. None of the candidates had a majority of the votes, and though Andrew Jackson had the largest share of the votes, John Quincy Adams became president after the remaining two candidates endorsed his ballot, in a move that was criticized as a "corrupt bargain" by Jackson. As a result, Adams inherited an uncooperative Congress, dominated by Jackson's supporters, and most of his initiatives were never allowed to take off. He was defeated by Jackson in the election of 1828.
Instead of retirng, Adams successfully ran for the US House of Representatives, serving from 1831 until his death in 1848. In 1834, he was also an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts. In 1841, he successfully represented the Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court case United States v. The Amistad, in which it was recognized that the African slaves were free people and allowed to return to their homeland.
Adams died in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in 1848 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
See: John Singleton Copley. John