American Presidents





James Quincy Adams American Presidents Teacher Guide

Biographical Vignette on John Quincy Adams
April 18 on C-SPAN (approximate length: five minutes)
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level


Before Viewing American Presidents

Part 1
Present students with some of the words of John Quincy Adams:

a. "I never was and never shall be what is commonly termed a popular manÖIím certainly not intentionally repulsive in my manners and deportmentÖBut I have no powers of fascination; none of the honey which the profligate proverb says is the true fly-catcher."

b. "I am a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners. My political adversaries say a gloomy misanthrope, my personal enemies, an unsocial savage."

c. [On the presidency] "I can scarcely conceive a more harassing, wearying, teasing, condition of existence."

d. [on his death bed] "This is the end of earth; I am content."

What does the quote reveal about John Quincy Adams, the person? Tell students they are to view a biographical vignette in which the above quotes are used to illuminate the life of John Quincy Adams. In what ways are a personís own words useful in constructing his or her biography?

Part 2
Tell students they will each identify a distinct time period in John Quincy Adamsí life from which to "create" a diary entry from Adamsí point of view. Review the diary "fact sheet" below and share with students ways to gather the information they will need to write a facsimile diary entry.

Consider especially ways to use the portraits and other artwork shown in the vignette as sources of information. Students can also view other C-SPAN programs related to John Quincy Adams or visit the web site to find appropriate quotes and background information to include in the diary entries.

Note to teachers: In addition to showing students the biographical vignette on John Quincy Adams, consider sharing portions of the John Quincy Adams program in which Celeste Walker, Associate Editor, Adams Papers, shows the actual diaries and reads aloud from them will offer valuable information for this activity.


While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Use the following fact sheet to gather information to create your own entry to John Quincy Adamsí diary.

1. Subject of my diary entry:

2. Date:

3. Biography of John Quincy Adams during that time period (i.e. Was he married? What job did he have? Who were his friends? ):

4. Other relevant information about that time period (i.e. current events, mood of the country):

5. Relevant information about the diary topic

6. A quote that I can include in my diary entry:

7. Typical words or language used by Adams in his diary:


After Viewing American Presidents
Have students read their diary entries aloud. Show portions of C-SPANís live program featuring John Quincy Adamsí actual diaries from the Massachusetts Historical Society. How is the student's work similar or different to that of Adams?

Ask students: What can you learn about a historical figure about writing from his or her point of view? What did Adams gain by writing down his observations? How did his habits as a writer correspond with other aspects of his life and work?


Additional Activity
Undertake the same procedure, but research and create a diary entry for one of Adamsí contemporaries, such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, or his wife, Louisa.


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