Josiah Quincy

Quincy, Josiah, 1772–1864, American political leader and college president, b. Braintree, Mass.; son of Josiah Quincy (1744–75). After studying law, Quincy became interested in politics and entered (1804) the state senate as a Federalist. He subsequently proceeded (1805–13) to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he became minority leader. Speaking against admission of Louisiana as a state, he declared, in an extreme states' rights view, that passage of the bill without the specific consent of the original 13 states would be cause for dissolution of the Union. An opponent of the Embargo and Nonintercourse Acts prior to the War of 1812, he nevertheless advocated preparedness for political reasons, although he later violently opposed the war. On leaving Congress he returned to Boston, where he reentered (1813) the state senate and continued to oppose the war. The Federalists dropped him for insurgency in 1820 but Quincy was elected (1821) to the Massachusetts house of representatives, where he became speaker; he resigned to become a municipal court judge. In 1823 he was elected mayor of Boston and energetically labored for reforms. In 1829 he became president of Harvard, serving until 1845. While there he gave impetus to the law school, and wrote The History of Harvard University (1840) to silence traditionalist critics. His son, Edmund Quincy, edited his Speeches Delivered in the Congress of the United States (1874) and also wrote a biography (1867; 6th ed. 1874).

See his memoirs (1825, repr. 1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies