When John Quincy Adams left the White House in 1829 after a disappointing single term, the 62-year-old former senator, secretary of state and diplomat appeared to be bound for a quiet retirement among his books and plants. But then his Massachusetts neighbors elected him to the House of Representatives, and for the next 17 years, Adams led the attack on slavery in Congress.
From his fierce defense of the right to petition against Congress’s “Gag Rule” suppressing all discussion of slavery, to his advocacy for the Africans of the Armistad, Adams gave voice to the voiceless. His championing of the abolitionist cause transformed him, the public’s perception of him, and his legacy. When he died at the age of 80 in the U.S. Capitol, Adams was revered as the last iconic link to the Revolutionary Age.
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