Year
1848

John Quincy Adams suffers a stroke

On this day in 1848, just as he stands up from his desk in the House of Representatives to defend his no vote on a bill, former President John Quincy Adams suddenly collapses from a cerebral hemorrhage. House members carried him to a bed in the Speaker of the House’s private chambers and immediately summoned his wife Louisa. By the time she arrived, he was not able to recognize her. His last words supposedly were, This is the end of earth, but I am content.

Born on July 11, 1767, in Braintree (later renamed Quincy), Massachusetts, Adams was the son of the second U.S. president, John Adams. He inherited his father’s passion for politics, accompanied his father on diplomatic missions from the time he was 14 and, once grown, entered the legal profession. As a young man, he served as minister to a variety of countries including Prussia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and England. In 1803, he began his first term in the Senate and later helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. From 1817 to 1824, he served President James Monroe as secretary of state.

In 1824, Adams ran against Andrew Jackson for the presidency. A tie put the deciding vote in the House of Representatives, and Adams emerged victorious. He served only one fairly uneventful term–his greatest contributions to American politics occurred before and after his term as president. In fact, in his memoirs, he admitted to preferring legislative duties to being president and that he considered his time in the White House the four most miserable years of his life.

Rather than retire from politics after his term ended in 1829, Adams decided to run for a seat in the House of Representatives and he remained a formidable figure in Congress until his death in 1848. He chaired congressional committees on the economy, Indian affairs and foreign relations, and even found time to argue the controversial Amistad slave ship case in the Supreme Court. His eloquent argument for returning the ship’s illegally transported cargo of slaves to Africa cemented his reputation as a dedicated abolitionist.

Adams had suffered and survived a previous stroke in 1846. Two days after collapsing from the second stroke in 1848, he died in a bed in the Capitol building in which he had performed so many years of public service.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Washington Monument dedicated

The Washington Monument, built in honor of America’s revolutionary hero and first president, is dedicated in Washington, D.C. The 555-foot-high marble obelisk was first proposed in 1783, and Pierre L’Enfant left room for it in his designs for the new U.S. capital. After George ...read more

Rockefeller imposter and convicted felon born

On this day in 1961, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a con man who went by the alias Clark Rockefeller and passed himself off as an American blueblood, is born in Germany. Gerhartsreiter gained the public spotlight in 2008, when he kidnapped his young daughter and became the ...read more

Nixon in China

President Richard M. Nixon arrives in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, on the first presidential visit to the world’s most populous nation. Given that the U.S. federal government had formally opposed China’s communist government since it took power in 1949, ...read more

Marx publishes Manifesto

On February 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, is published in London by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet–arguably the most influential in ...read more

Malcolm X assassinated

In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, ...read more

Nixon visits China

President Richard Nixon visits the People’s Republic of China. After arriving in Beijing, the president announced that his breakthrough visit to China is “The week that changed the world.” In meeting with Nixon, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai urged early peace in Vietnam, but did ...read more

Cherokee receive their first printing press

The first printing press designed to use the newly invented Cherokee alphabet arrives at New Echota, Georgia. The General Council of the Cherokee Nation had purchased the press with the goal of producing a Cherokee-language newspaper. The press itself, however, would have been ...read more

Erma Bombeck is born

On this day in 1927, humorist Erma Bombeck is born in Dayton, Ohio. Bombeck studied English at Ohio University and the University of Dayton and worked part time as a reporter at the Dayton Journal Herald, writing obituaries and features. At age 20, she was diagnosed with a kidney ...read more

Garbo’s first U.S. film opens

The glamorous, husky-voiced Swedish actress Greta Garbo, known for her almost unearthly beauty and intense desire for privacy, makes her U.S. screen debut in The Torrent on this day in 1926. Born Greta Louisa Gustaffson in 1905, Garbo grew up in a poor family in Stockholm. At age ...read more

Tornadoes move across Mississippi River Delta

On this day in 1971, the Mississippi River Delta is pounded by powerful tornadoes that kill more than 100 people. The storm that caused the twisters moved up from the bayous of Louisiana through Mississippi to Tennessee. Hundreds of people were injured across the three states. ...read more

Double agent Aldrich Ames is arrested

CIA operative Aldrich Ames is arrested for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Ames had access to the names and identities of all U.S. spies in Russia, and by becoming a double agent he was directly responsible for jeopardizing the lives of CIA agents working in the Eastern ...read more

Battle of Val Verde

On this day in 1862, at the Battle of Valverde, Confederate troops under General Henry Hopkins Sibley attack Union troops commanded by Colonel Edward R. S. Canby near Fort Craig in New Mexico Territory. The first major engagement of the Civil War in the far West, the battle ...read more

Nixon arrives in China for talks

In an amazing turn of events, President Richard Nixon takes a dramatic first step toward normalizing relations with the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) by traveling to Beijing for a week of talks. Nixon’s historic visit began the slow process of the re-establishing ...read more

NASCAR founded

On this day in 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Racing–or NASCAR, as it will come to be widely known–is officially incorporated. NASCAR racing will go on to become one of America’s most popular spectator sports, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry. The driving ...read more