John Quincy Adams
Highest Number of Slaves Owned: 0

John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams denounced slavery more strongly than did any other early American president, calling slavery "a sin before the sight of God," an "outrage upon the goodness of God," and "the great and foul stain upon the North American Union."

In an especially eloquent statement, Adams wrote: "It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?"

Unfortunately, most of these statements were confined to Adams' personal diary. Adams was never officially an abolitionist, and he never publicly condemned slavery while serving as Secretary of State, candidate for President, or President.

Indeed, as a U.S. Senator, Adams opposed efforts to bar slavery and the importation of slaves in the Louisiana Territory, arguing that "Slavery in a moral sense is an evil; but as connected with commerce it has important uses." Adams also assisted slaveholders in recovering slaves who had escaped to Canada, and in the 1830s he wrote that the goal of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia was "utterly impractical" (a view he later changed).

Adams' record on slavery was further tarnished by his belief in the cultural and moral superiority of the White race, by his view that the "general treatment of slaves is mild and moderate," and by his perception that there was nothing he could do to end slavery. Explaining his inaction, Adams wrote in 1833: "I believe that the spirit of the age and the course of events is tending to universal emancipation .... But bound as I am by the Constitution of the United States, I am not at liberty to take a part in promoting it. The remedy must arise in the seat of the evil [the South]."

James Monroe
Andrew Jackson