The sixth President was John Quincy Adams, son of Washington’s successor. He was a good and learned man, but his election had to be decided by the House of Representatives, as neither he nor any of his three rivals received a majority of the electoral votes.
During his term, in 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of independence, while joyful bells proclaimed the nation’s “Jubilee,” two old men quietly passed away. They had been friends, then rivals and foes, but were now at peace. In spite of suffering, both were conscious of the day, of which one of them, John Adams of Massachusetts, had said, in 1776, that it “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”
Ever since then he had always helped to celebrate the glorious anniversary, and, thinking of his old friend, he now murmured: “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” But Adams was mistaken. A few moments before, Thomas Jefferson had passed away at Monticello, in Virginia, his last words being: “This is the fourth day of July.”
It was during John Quincy Adams’s rule that the Erie Canal was opened, and work was begun on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. A great crowd assembled to witness the ceremony of breaking ground for it, and when John Carroll of Carrollton took up the first sod, he solemnly said: “I consider this among the most important acts of my life, second only to that of signing the Declaration of Independence.”
Every state now wanted roads, railroads, and canals, and there was much discussion as to whether the states or the national government should pay for all these improvements. Besides questions of roads and canals, new political questions also arose, and people began to say that those who helped a man to become President ought to receive some reward for their efforts. The reward they wanted was some government position, and this forced each new President to turn out officeholders appointed by the President before him, or else displease his friends.