It is a well-known fact that United States presidents use their position of power to do some strange things, but John Quincy Adams just may win the award for the weirdest appropriation of tax dollars. Believe it or not, John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, authorized an expedition to the center of the earth to search for the mole people who he believed inhabited the bowels of the planet.
John Quincy, the son of our second president, John Adams, was interested in science and nature and had a passion for exploration. During his lifetime, scientific exploration would reach new heights. Lewis and Clark had been commissioned to explore the western frontier and, around the world, adventurers were setting out for uncharted territories in search of the unknown.
Although it has been suggested by many historians that John Quincy had the highest I.Q. of any president, he had some deeply-held beliefs that most would scoff at; one of them was his support of the Hollow Earth Theory. During the 1810s and 1820s, many academics and scientists thought that the Earth was a hollow sphere. Actually, it was theorized that the Earth was made up of a series of concentric layers, each containing its own subterranean world. This world was illuminated by a sun-like heat and light source at the very center of the Earth.
Scientists in the 1820s believed in the worlds beneath the Earth’s surface. They believed in vast natural resources to be found there, as well as subterranean people. Darwin’s theories on evolution were still decades away, but believers of the Hollow Earth Theory, like Adams, assumed that some sort of human-like beings had adapted to the underground lifestyle and that there were communities of mole people.
During this period, a self-educated scientist and former soldier named John Cleves Symmes, Jr. was making the rounds across the United States speaking to crowds about his Hollow Earth Theory. The purpose of his lectures was not just to educate his audience. He was trying to recruit one hundred brave companions. Since Symmes believed, as other Hollow Earth theorists did, that there were chasms in the ground at the North and South Poles that served as gateways to the center of the Earth, he planned to launch an expedition in Siberia.
Not everyone took Symmes’ theory seriously. In fact, most people laughed at him. It looked as though he wouldn’t be able to raise the support he needed for his expedition to the center of the Earth. But he found a supporter in Adams. Adams was a brainy introvert who was more academic than presidential. In his campaign of 1824, Adams was viewed as indecisive and cautious while his opponent, Andrew Jackson was seen as bold, decisive, and authoritative. During the campaign, Adams promised to back Symmes’ expedition. Even though plenty of people scoffed at the idea, they saw the move as proof that Adams did have a backbone. They had a newfound respect for Adams that helped him win the election.