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Josiah Quincy III

Josiah Quincy III American politician

American politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American politician
Countries United States of America
Occupations Politician Lawyer Judge Educator
Type Academia Law Politics
Gender male
Birth 4 February 1772 (Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
Death 1 July 1864 (Quincy, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
Politics Federalist Party
Education Harvard University, Phillips Academy
Josiah Quincy III
The details

Josiah Quincy III (/ˈkwɪnzi/; February 4, 1772 – July 1, 1864) was a U.S. educator and political figure. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1805–1813), Mayor of Boston (1823–1828), and President of Harvard University (1829–1845). The historic Quincy Market in downtown Boston is named in his honor.

Life and politics

Five Harvard University Presidents sitting in order of when they served. L-R: Josiah Quincy III, Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, James Walker and Cornelius Conway Felton.

Early life and education

Quincy, the son of Josiah Quincy II and Abigail Phillips, was born in Boston, on that part of Washington Street that was then known as Marlborough Street. His father had traveled to England in 1774, partly for his health but mainly as an agent of the patriot cause to with the friends of the colonists in London. Josiah Quincy II died off the coast of Gloucester on April 26, 1775. His son, young Josiah, was not yet three years old.

He entered Phillips Academy, Andover, when it opened in 1778, and graduated from Harvard in 1790. After his graduation from Harvard he studied law for three years under the tutorship of William Tudor. Quincy was admitted to the bar in 1793, but was never a prominent advocate.

In 1797 Quincy married Eliza Susan Morton of New York, younger sister of Jacob Morton. They had seven children: Eliza Susan Quincy, Josiah Quincy, Jr., Abigail Phillips Quincy, Maria Sophia Quincy, Margaret Morton Quincy, Edmund Quincy, and Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy.


In 1798 Quincy was appointed Boston Town Orator by the Board of Selectmen, and in 1800 he was elected to the School Committee. Quincy became a leader of the Federalist party in Massachusetts, was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives in 1800, and served in the Massachusetts Senate in 1804–5. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1803.

From 1805 to 1813, he was a member of the United States House of Representatives where he was one of the small Federalist minority. He attempted to secure the exemption of fishing vessels from the Embargo Act, urged the strengthening of the United States Navy, and vigorously opposed the admittance of Louisiana as a state in 1811. In this last matter he stated as his "deliberate opinion, that if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the States that compose it are free from their moral obligations; and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare definitely for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must." This was probably the first assertion of the right of secession on the floor of Congress. Quincy left Congress because he saw that the Federalist opposition was useless.

In 1812, Quincy was a founding member of the American Antiquarian Society.

Josiah Quincy, oil on canvas, Gilbert Stuart, 1824–1825. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

After leaving Congress, Quincy was a member of the Massachusetts Senate until 1820. In 1821–22 he was a member and speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Quincy resigned from the legislature to become judge of the municipal court of Boston. On April 8, 1822 Quincy was a candidate for Mayor in Boston's first election under a city charter. After the first ballot the votes of this first election were split between Quincy and Harrison Gray Otis. Because neither had a majority of the electorate neither was elected. After the first vote resulted in neither man receiving a majority of the votes they both withdrew their candidacies and John Phillips was elected Boston's first mayor. In 1823 Quincy was elected as the second mayor of Boston, he would serve six one year terms from 1823 to 1828. During his terms as mayor Quincy Market was built, the fire and police departments were reorganized, and the city's care of the poor was systematized.

From 1829 to 1845, he was President of Harvard University, of which he had been an overseer since 1810, when the board was reorganized. He has been called "the great organizer of the university." He gave an elective (or "voluntary") system an elaborate trial; introduced a system of marking (on the scale of 8) on which college rank and honors, formerly rather carelessly assigned, were based; first used courts of law to punish students who destroyed or damaged college property; and helped to reform the finances of the university. During his term Dane Hall (for law) was dedicated, Gore Hall was built, and the Astronomical Observatory was equipped. Quincy House, one of the university's twelve upperclass residential houses, is named for him.

In 1856 Quincy gave an address concerning the then upcoming American presidential election; Quincy endorsed the Republican candidate, John C. Fremont, and excoriated how “for more than fifty years, the Slave States have subjugated the Free States.” This speech is cited in Northwestern University Garry Wills’ “‘Negro President’: Jefferson and the Slave Power.”

His last years were spent principally on his farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he died on July 1, 1864.


Notes and references


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