Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Louisa Catherine Adams 1775 ~ 1852

 


Louisa Catherine Adams

Louisa Catherine Adams was born in London, February 12, 1775. Her father, Mr. Johnson, of Maryland, then resided in England. Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary War he declared has loyalty to the side of the patriots in America, accepting a commission from the Federal government as a commissioner to audit the accounts of all official functionaries of file United States in Europe, and removed his family to Nantes, France. Still in the service of his country after the independence of the colonies had been recognized, he returned to London, where he continued to reside until 1797, faithfully representing his native land. His daughter, Louisa Catherine, had consequently exceptional educational opportunities in her youth.

She first met Mr. Adams in her father's house, in London in 1794. They were married July 26, 1797, in the church of All Hallows, London. Mr. Adams' father became President soon afterwards, and John Quincy was transferred to Berlin, whither he took his accomplished bride, whom, it may be said, was destined to be a conspicuous figure in the highest social circles for the rest of her life. Her career in Berlin, considering the conditions, was so successful that it might at this distance, through the lapse of time, be called brilliant. Mr. Adams returned, with his family, to the United States, and took up his residence in Boston. Mrs. Adams was soon the admired of all admirers, their popularity putting Mr. Adams in the United States Senate from Massachusetts, and they came to Washington for the sessions of the Senate. She was very happy to be near her own family, the Johnsons, of Maryland, as she had been away from them continuously from the date of her marriage. For eight years, during Mr. Jefferson's two terms as President, she enjoyed her life in Washington.

On the accession of Mr. Madison to the Presidency, Mr. Adams was made our first Minister to Russia. It was a great trial to Mrs. Adams to leave two of her children with their grandparents, as it seemed wise to do, with the many unfavorable conditions then existing. They took a third child, and set sail for Boston in August. After a long and perilous voyage, they reached St. Petersburg in October. The rigorous climate, separation from her children, and the trying position as the wife of our first Minister to that autocratic court, brought into action all her powers of endurance, diplomacy and intuition. She was equal to every emergency.

The six years Mrs. Adams spent in St. Petersburg were probably the most eventful in the history of the New World. Napoleon was at the height of his imperial sway. He had the Old World in turmoil, and was threatening Russia. The War of 1812 between England and the United States broke out meanwhile, cutting off almost completely all communication with her native land, thereby intensifying her anxiety and distress on account of her separation from her children, Mr. Adams was indefatigable in his efforts in behalf of his struggling country, and by his diplomacy, culture, fine talents and loyalty so impressed Emperor Alexander that he offered to be a mediator between England and the United States. Unfortunately, this munificent offer was unsuccessful, but probably opened the way for the Treaty at Ghent, December 24, 1814. Mr. Adams represented the United States at Ghent, and was obliged to leave Mrs. Adams in St. Petersburg while he attended the commission. She had lost a baby born in St. Petersburg, and but for her remarkable courage and admirable character would have been most unhappy and a greater anxiety to her husband, already overburdened with affairs which threatened dire disaster to his country. After the signing of the Treaty she set out for Paris to join Mr. Adams and return to the United States. It was a heroic undertaking to make this long journey with her child and attendants overland through a country recently overrun by contending armies. She often told her experiences, and related incidents which taxed her genius to avoid serious embarrassment and detention. Prudence and tact finally enabled her to reach Paris on the 21st of March, 1815, immediately after the arrival of Napoleon and the flight of the Bourbons. Mrs. Adams appreciated the fact that these events were momentous, but her children were on the sea, and she was impatient to proceed to London to meet them, after being separated from them six long years. On the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Adams in London, May 25, 1815, Mr. Adams learned that he had been appointed Minister to the Court of St. James. Hence, they again took up their residence in Great Britain, Mrs. Adams, as ever before, supplementing her illustrious husband's high character and wise diplomacy with match-less intelligence, culture and gracious dignity.

Mr. Monroe succeeding Mr. Madison as President of the United States March 4, 1817, appointed Mr. Adams Secretary of State. Hence Mr. Adams and his family made haste to return home, arriving in New York August 6, 1817. Soon afterwards they established themselves in Washington, when, as wife of the Secretary of State, Mrs. Adams exerted a marvelous influence in harmonizing the various personal animosities, political rivalries, jealousies and sectional strife. They commanded the highest respect and confidence from the diplomatic corps, who depend upon the Secretary of State and his family in all matters of an official and social character.

One source of intellectual development of which Mrs. Adams availed herself was the regular correspondence with her father-in-law, the illustrious, brainy ex-President, John Adams. Their letters to each other were very long and interesting, and in them they discussed all subjects, religion, philosophy, politics, national, foreign and domestic affairs, with masterful ability on both sides. Their letters continued until the death of ex-President John Adams, July 4, 1826.

From Secretary of State to the Presidency was a short step for John Quincy Adams. Mrs. Adams' health began to fail soon after their occupancy of the White House. She, however, as far as her strength would admit, continued her matchless hospitality and powerful influence in politics and society. It was Mrs. Adams' great pleasure to have the honor of entertaining General La Fayette in the White House. Lack of space forbids the description this important event deserves, especially the tender leave taking of the illustrious foreign soldier and friend of America in the darkest hour of her history. No greater honors have ever been paid a distinguished visitor than were heaped upon La Fayette by the grateful American people.

John Quincy Adams was the ablest and most learned man who had ever occupied the Presidential chair up to that time. Mrs. Adams was equally endowed with superior natural talents, nobility of character and rare accomplishments. And while they had appreciated the honors conferred upon them by the people of their beloved country, on account of personal bereavements and the onerous duties of public life they gladly retired to private life on the expiration of Mr. Adams' Presidential term. But they were not destined to enjoy private life long. The people of the Plymouth District insisted upon Mr. Adams representing them in Congress. He took his seat December 31. On account of advancing age they took little part in the gayeties of Washington, living quietly in their own house, on I street. In November, 1846, Mr. Adams suffered a stroke of paralysis, from which he never fully recovered. He, however, continued to discharge his duties, with intervals of protracted illness until the 21st of February, 1848. While in his seat in the House he had a relapse, and after being removed to the Speaker's room he lingered until the 23rd, when he passed away. Mrs. Adams, though very weak and ill, stayed beside her husband, soothing him until the last.

Mr. and Mrs. Adams had four children, three sons and one daughter: George Washington Adams, their eldest, born in Berlin, April 12, 1801; John Adams, born in Boston, July 4, 1803; Charles Francis Adams, born in Boston in 1807; Louisa Catherine Adams, born in St. Petersburg, August 12, 1811, and died there the following year.

After Mr. Adams' death Mrs. Adams returned to Quincy, Massachusetts, where she lived in retirement, surrounded by her children and relatives, until her death, on the 14th of May, 1852. She was buried beside her husband in the family burying place. She is remembered as one of the most remarkable women who has ever graced the White House and other exalted positions as a fine representative American woman.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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