His political career began at the age of 26 when he was appointed Minister to the Netherlands. In 1802 he was elected to the United States Senate. Six years later President Madison appointed him Minister to Russia. As secretary to his father in Europe, he became an accomplished diarist. The fifty volumes he wrote documenting nineteenth-century American politics are often used by historians today.
In the political tradition of the early 19th century, Adams, as Secretary of State, was considered the heir to the Presidency. However, the old ways of choosing a President were giving way to electing someone popular. Nevertheless, Adams narrowly beat Andrew Jackson to become America's sixth President in 1825. Many of his proposals to modernize America were rejected in Congress by his enemies.
After leaving office as President in 1829, Adams was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives – the only president ever to do this. He continued to shape America's foreign policy. Historians say he is one of America's greatest ever diplomats. He also devoted himself to attacking the power slave owners had in Congress. On February 21, 1848 Adams collapsed in the House and died two days later.