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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1998

John Quincy Adams
The son of former President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, John Quincy Adams was groomed from a young age for a political career. His education was overseen by his parents, who also instilled in young Adams a Puritan morality that would inform his political decisions in adulthood. Despite the privileges of his upbringing, feelings of inadequacy and a fear of failure plagued Adams. These qualities did not impede his progress as a statesman and he served as a U.S. senator, as president, as a member of the House of Representatives, and as an ambassador abroad.

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Until his father’s death, Adams maintained a close relationship with the elder Adams, whose approval he constantly sought. When, while serving in the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts, Adams found himself alone because of his ideals, he took comfort in the fact that his parents never abandoned him. Their support seemed to validate Adams’ determination to pursue what he believed was best for the country, regardless of party and constituent pressures.

After creating controversy in the Senate, Adams resigned before he could be ousted. Later, however, he served as president from 1825 to 1829. He had earned the respect of the people of Massachusetts, who asked that he run for a seat in the House of Representatives. He agreed to do so only under the conditions that he do no campaigning and that he serve according to his own conscience, not as an extension of a party or of his constituents. He won overwhelmingly, and served in the House until his death.

Thomas Hart Benton
A ‘‘rough and tumble fighter off and on the Senate floor,’’ Thomas Hart Benton had a reputation as a man who would not shrink from a fight and who usually won. As Missouri’s first senator, Benton served from 1821 to 1844. He was extremely popular with his constituents and never had any worries about being re-elected. When Missouri, a slaveholding state, started to lean toward joining the southern states in the plan to secede, Benton would not hear of it. Above all, he valued the Union, a stance he would hold so firmly that it would ultimately cost him his Senate seat. His position was also weakened by his refusal to debate slavery on the Senate floor because he assumed that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which brought Missouri into the Union) had taken care of that issue for his state.

After being replaced in the Senate, Benton returned to Congress as St. Louis’ representative in the House. Even though he knew it would cost him re-election, he delivered an impassioned speech against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill (which permitted slavery in the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska as a concession to the South) that his party supported. He was not re-elected, and his future attempts to win senatorial and gubernatorial elections failed. Despite his failed political career, he managed to accomplish the one thing that meant the most to him: Missouri did not join the secessionist states.

Benton had been a strong proponent of opening the West, playing a pivotal role in the development of the Pony Express, the telegraph line, and highways into major cities. He had only completed one year of college but prided himself on his ability to remember most of the books he read. When a fellow senator got confused about a name or date, Benton took great pleasure in locating the fact in a book and sending the information to his colleague. Benton also thrived on learning from people from diverse backgrounds.

Sam Houston
Sam Houston’s background was colorful and adventure-filled. As a boy, he ran away from his Tennessee home and joined the Cherokee Indians, who adopted him. He later re-entered white society in Tennessee, becoming governor. He served until his sudden resignation after discovering that his new bride was in love with another man....

(The entire section contains 1998 words.)

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