Historical Highlights

Congressman and poet John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts

April 16, 1831
Congressman and poet John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts Marble, Carlo Franzoni, 1819, courtesy of Architect of the Capitol The Greek muse, Clio, stands on top of the “Car of History” overlooking the Old House Chamber (Statuary Hall).
A man of many talents, Congressman John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts was a poet as well as a statesman. On this day, while serving in the 22nd Congress (1831–1833), Adams penned the epic poem, “Dermot MacMorrogh, or The Conquest of Ireland.” Adams once confessed, “Could I have chosen my own genius and condition, I would have made myself a great poet.” His poem, “Fragments From an Unfinished Epistle To the Muse of History,” captured a poignant moment in his House career. While seated at his desk in the old House Chamber (now National Statuary Hall), Adams wrote the poem honoring Clio, the Greek muse of history. He was inspired by a marble clock, located over the north door of the chamber, depicting Clio riding in the “Winged Car of History” and recording the deeds of Congress. In lamenting the bitter slavery debate, Adams beckoned Clio to join the debate on the House Floor: “Muse, quit thy Car! come down upon the floor,/ And with thee bring that volume, in thy hand:/ Tap with thy marble knuckles at the door,/ And take at a reporter’s desk thy stand;/ Send round thy album and collect a score/ Of autographic Rulers of the land.”

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