Before he was President: John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829 translator, lawyer
On June 17, 1775, Abigail Adams took her 7 year old son John Quincy Adams to the top of a hill to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was going on not far from their Massachusetts home. From the time he was 14 until he was 16 he served as a translator for a member of his father's staff who was serving as an ambassador to Russia, ruled by Catherine the Great. John Quincy was chosen to go since he spoke French, the official language of Catherine's court. When he was 18 years old John Quincy Adams was attending college at Harvard. Harvard would require students who broke the rules or caused trouble to pay a fine. John Quincy stayed out of trouble most of the time, however he was once fined one penny for oversleeping and being late for his morning prayers! John Quincy Adams By Martha S. Hewson

Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837 saddle maker, soldier
By the time he was 15 Andrew Jackson had been a Prisoner Of War and ended up as homeless orphan. His father died just before he was born. He had 2 brothers: Hugh, the eldest died from heatstroke while serving as a soldier in the American Revolution. Both he and his brother Robert were too young to serve as revolutionary soldiers so they volunteered as helpers when the military needed extra laborers. However, in the course their volunteer work they were both captured by the British. While in custody they both caught smallpox and Robert died. Shortly afterward Jackson's mother died from disease while trying to retrieve two of Andrew's nephews held prisoner on a British ship. Jackson's work and education was sporadic in his teens; at one point he ended up in Nashville where he worked for in a saddle-maker's shop. Source Source2

Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841 lawyer, U.S. senator, governor of New York, vice president under Jackson
Van Buren did not attend college - which was not surprising for young men in the early nineteenth century - but in 1796 his father called in a political favor and managed to place his son with a lawyer's office as a law clerk. Martin clerked for Francis Silvester for seven years, sweeping floors or running errands by day and studying law at night. He moved to New York City—at that time inhabited by 60,000—for about a year, and gained admission to the state bar in 1803 at the age of twenty-one. Source Source2

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   Dolly Madison   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

 
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