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The Five Worst Inaugural Addresses of the 19th Century


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John Quincy Adams Stumbled With His Inaugural Address
John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, who did not enjoy his presidency

Library of Congress

John Quincy Adams may have been one of the smartest men to be president, and his inaugural address reflects that, probably to a fault. The speech is pedantic and defensive, and, thanks to the circumstances of the election of 1824, it ends on a note that's close to apologetic.

Adams, on March 4, 1825, opened with an interminable sentence: "In compliance with an usage coeval with the existence of our Federal Constitution, and sanctioned by the example of my predecessors in the career upon which I am about to enter, I appear, my fellow-citizens, in your presence and in that of Heaven to bind myself by the solemnities of religious obligation to the faithful performance of the duties allotted to me in the station to which I have been called."

Adams then expressed, at considerable length, his devotion to the Constitution. In fact, John Quincy Adams was the only president who did not place his hand on a Bible while taking the oath of office. He instead placed his hand on a book containing the laws of the United States, including the U.S. Constitution.

Adams became president after an election that had to be settled in the House of Representatives, in what became known as "The Corrupt Bargain." And at the end of his speech he refers to the "peculiar circumstances of the recent election."

He then spoke this sad sentence: "Less possessed of your confidence in advance than any of my predecessors, I am deeply conscious of the prospect that I shall stand more and oftener in need of your indulgence."

Adams did come under withering attack during his time in the White House. He did not enjoy being president, and after his single term he moved back to Massachusetts. He was elected to the House of Representatives, where he became an eloquent opponent of slavery. He later said he was most happy serving in the Congress.

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