The circumstances surrounding the death of John Quincy Adams are of particular interest, for death in those days was viewed differently from what it is today. Since the Bible teaches in Hebrews 2:14-15 that one indication of a genuine relationship with Christ was a freedom from the fear of death, observers were interested in how an individual reacted when he faced death. As one political historian in 1854 noted:
[I]t is customary, even among Christian people, to withhold final judgment of a man’s Christian character till it is seen how he makes his death. The manner of a man’s death often works a change – sometimes a revolution – in public opinion respecting the nature of his life.
What, then, did observers see when John Quincy Adams faced death? That occasion occurred in the Old House Chamber on Monday, February 21, 1848. A local newspaper reporter recorded what transpired on that day:
Just after the yeas and nays were taken on a question, and the Speaker had risen to put another question to the House, a sudden cry was heard on the left of the chair, “Mr. Adams is dying!” Turning our eyes to the spot, we beheld the venerable man in the act of falling over the left arm of his chair, while his right arm was extended, grasping his desk for support. He would have dropped upon the floor had he not been caught in the arms of the member sitting next to him. A great sensation was created in the House; members from all quarters rushing from their seats and gathering round the fallen statesman, who was immediately lifted in to the area in front of the Clerk’s table. The Speaker instantly suggested that some gentlemen move an adjournment, which being promptly done, the House adjourned. A sofa was brought, and Mr. Adams, in a state of perfect helplessness, though not of entire insensibility, was gently laid upon it.