John Quincy Adams
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Quotes for
John Quincy Adams (Character)
from Amistad (1997)

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Amistad (1997)
John Quincy Adams: Now, you understand you're going to the Supreme Court. Do you know why?
Ens. Covey: [translating for Cinque] It is the place where they finally kill us.

John Quincy Adams: [to the Court] This man is black. We can all see that. But can we also see as easily that which is equally true: that he is the only true hero in this room? Now, if he were white, he wouldn't be standing before this court fighting for his life. If he were white and his enslavers were British, he wouldn't be standing, so heavy the weight of the medals and honors we would bestow upon him. Songs would be written about him. The great authors of our times would fill books about him. His story would be told and retold, in our classrooms. Our children, because we would make sure of it, would know his name as well as they know Patrick Henry's. Yet, if the South is right, what are we to do with that embarrassing, annoying document, The Declaration of Independence? What of its conceits? "All men created equal," "inalienable rights," "life, liberty," and so on and so forth? What on Earth are we to do with this? I have a modest suggestion.
[tears papers in half]

John Quincy Adams: [to the court] James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington... John Adams. We've long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps we have feared in doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps we've feared an... an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. But, we've come to understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, we've been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding... that who we are *is* who we were. We desperately need your strength and wisdom to triumph over our fears, our prejudices, ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right. And if it means civil war? Then let it come. And when it does, may it be, finally, the last battle of the American Revolution.

John Quincy Adams: Well, when I was an attorney, a long time ago, young man, I err... I realized, after much trial and error, that in the courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins. In un-lawyerlike fashion, I give you that scrap of wisdom free of charge.

John Quincy Adams: [to the court] Well, gentlemen, I must say I differ with the keen minds of the South and with our President, who apparently shares their views, offering that the natural state of mankind is instead - and I know this is a controversial idea - is freedom. Is freedom. And the proof is the length to which a man, woman or child will go to regain it once taken. He will break loose his chains. He will decimate his enemies. He will try and try and try, against all odds, against all prejudices, to get home.

Theodore Joadson: There remains one task undone. One vital task the Founding Father's left to their sons...
John Quincy Adams: Yeah?
Theodore Joadson: ...before their thirteen colonies could precisely be called United States. And that task, Sir, as you well know, is crushing slavery.

John Quincy Adams: [to the court] Your Honor, I derive much consolation from the fact that my colleague, Mr. Baldwin here, has argued the case in so able, and so complete a manner, as to leave me scarcely anything to say. However... why are we here? How is it that a simple, plain property issue has should now find itself so ennobled as to be argued before the Supreme Court of the United States of America?

John Quincy Adams: [to the court] This is the most important case ever to come before this court. Because what it in fact concerns is the very nature of man.

John Quincy Adams: What is their story, by the way?
Theodore Joadson: Sir?
John Quincy Adams: What is their story?
Theodore Joadson: Why, they're um... they're from west Africa.
John Quincy Adams: No. What is their story?
Theodore Joadson: [exhales and looks confused]
John Quincy Adams: Mr. Joadson, you're from where originally?
Theodore Joadson: Why, Georgia, sir.
John Quincy Adams: Georgia.
Theodore Joadson: Yes, sir.
John Quincy Adams: Does that pretty much sum up what you are? A Georgian? Is that your story? No you're an ex-slave whose devoted his life to the abolition of slavery, and overcoming the obstacles and hardships along the way, I should imagine. That's your story, isn't it?
Theodore Joadson: [smiles and nods]
John Quincy Adams: [laughs] You and this young so-called lawyer have proven you know what they are. They're Africans. Congratulations. What you don't know, and as far as I can tell haven't bothered in the least to discover, is who they are. Right?

Ens. Covey: [Translating for Cinque after he has been set free] What did you say to them?
John Quincy Adams: Huh?
Ens. Covey: [translates again] What words did you use to persuade them?
John Quincy Adams: [looks at Cinque] Yours.

Theodore Joadson: I am embarrassed to admit that I was under the misconception that our Executive and Judicial Branches were separate.
John Quincy Adams: [holding up a nursery plant with tender branches] No more so than these, Mr. Joadson. No more so than these. Now you know.

John Quincy Adams: How is it that a simple plain property issue should now find itself so ignobled as to be argued before the Supreme Court of the United States of America? I mean, do we fear that all courts which found for as easily somehow missed the truth, is that it? Or is it rather our great and consuming fear of Civil War that has allowed us to heap symbolism upon a simple case than ever has been? And now it would have us disregard truth, even as it stands before us tall and proud as a man. The truth... the truth, has been driven from this case like a slave from court to court, wretched and destitute.


"John Adams: Don't Tread on Me (#1.3)" (2008)
Young John Quincy Adams: [John Quincy is preparing to travel to Russia as Francis Dana's secretary] Will it be very cold there, Father?
John Adams: Good heavens, no. Not for a Massachusetts man.


"Profiles in Courage: John Quincy Adams (#1.22)" (1965)
Louisa Adams: You look like a ruffian.
John Quincy Adams: I have rough work to do, madam.