John Quincy Adams



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John Quincy Adams


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John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams


John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth president of the United States (1825-1829), who devoted his life and his great ability to serving the people of the United States.
Of the 81 years he lived, 50 were spent in public office. His service ended only with his death at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Adams's career of public service was one of the most varied and distinguished in American history. He served his nation as a diplomat, senator, secretary of state,
president, and, for the last 17 years of his life, member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The measures he took in these high offices profoundly assisted the
growth and development of the United States. The expansion of U.S. borders westward and southward, the acquisition of Florida, and the formulation of the Monroe
Doctrine all were due, at least in part, to the efforts of John Quincy Adams.



John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, on July 11, 1767. He was the second child and eldest son of John Adams, who became second
president of the United States in 1797, and Abigail Smith Adams. In 1778, at the age of ten, John Quincy accompanied his father to France when the elder Adams went
to seek aid for the American Revolutionists. Young Adams spent the next eight years in Europe. He studied with tutors and attended school in France and the
Netherlands. He had few friends his own age and preferred the company of diplomats.
His mastery of French, the language of European diplomacy, brought young Adams his first official appointment. Although only 14, Adams became interpreter and
secretary to Francis Dana, U.S. envoy to Russia. After almost two years in Saint Petersburg (then the capital of Russia), Adams returned to The Hague in the
Netherlands and resumed his studies.
Soon afterward, his father summoned Adams to Paris. There, in 1783, he witnessed the signing of the treaty that ended the American Revolution. At this time he began
keeping a diary, which he continued throughout his life. The diary, published many years later by his son Charles Francis Adams, is an important historical document.
In 1785 Adams visited his parents in Great Britain, where his father was serving as U.S. diplomatic representative. Young Adams then returned to the United States,
entered Harvard College, and graduated two years later. After studying law, he began his own practice in 1790. Adams found the practice of law dry and tedious, and
he soon became involved in important public issues.

A U.S. Diplomat
A1 Publicola
When war broke out between France and Great Britain in 1793, loyalties were deeply divided in the United States. Some Americans followed Thomas Jefferson and
urged support of France. Many members of the anti-Jefferson or Federalist Party, wanted an alliance between the United States and Great Britain. President George
Washington, although he sympathized with Federalist principles, insisted that the United States remain neutral. Washington's policy of neutrality was supported by Vice
President John Adams but was bitterly attacked by many. In this crisis the president received unexpected support.
An anonymous author, using the pen name Publicola, published a series of articles in a Boston newspaper that were reprinted and read throughout the nation. The
articles offered a closely reasoned and brilliant defense of Washington's policy and concluded with these words: "It is our duty to remain, the peaceable and silent,
though sorrowful spectators of the sanguinary scene." The president soon discovered that John Quincy Adams had written the articles.


The Netherlands

Welcoming the support of the young lawyer and son of his vice president, Washington appointed Adams diplomatic representative to the Netherlands. Adams was
especially qualified for the post. He spoke both Dutch and French, he had studied international law, and he understood the intricate workings of European politics.
From his post in the Netherlands, Adams observed and reported on the wars that enveloped most of Europe as a result of the French Revolution (1789-1799). He was
convinced, more strongly than ever, that neutrality was the wisest policy for the United States. His diplomatic dispatches repeated this conviction again and again.
Washington incorporated many of Adams's thoughts and phrases into his Farewell Address of 1797, which urged the United States to avoid involvement in European
While serving in the Netherlands, Adams married Louisa Catherine Johnson, daughter of the U.S. consul in London, England. The couple had three sons.



In 1796 John Adams was elected president of the United States. Washington advised the new president that he should not "withhold merited promotion from Mr. Jn.
[Quincy] Adams because he is your son. ... Mr. Adams is the most valuable public character we have abroad ... the ablest of all our diplomatic corps." In 1797 John
Adams followed Washington's advice and sent his son as U.S. diplomatic representative to Prussia (now part of Germany), where he negotiated a treaty of friendship
and commerce. During his three years there, Adams had little to do. He read, and he toured Germany. His Letters on Silesia (1804) are an account of some of his


United States Senator

The year after his father was defeated for reelection in 1800, Adams returned to Boston and resumed the practice of law. He was still interested in politics. He wrote in
his diary: "I feel strong temptation and have great provocation to plunge into political controversy."
In 1802 the Federalist Party leaders in Massachusetts, impressed by Adams's record as a diplomat and by the fact that he was the son of John Adams, helped him win
election to the state senate. Shortly afterward, in 1803, the Federalists in the state legislature elected him U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
Adams was a most active and conscientious senator. He served on numerous committees and sponsored measures to encourage and develop commerce and industry.
His supporters, however, demanded much more. As senator, Adams was expected to further the interests of New England and of the Federalist Party. Adams regarded
these as secondary interests. He would not support any measure unless he believed the entire United States would benefit from it, and he wrote: "I would fain be the

man of my whole country."
When President Thomas Jefferson requested Senate approval of his treaty for the purchase of the French colony of Louisiana, Adams was the only New England
Federalist to vote in favor of it. He realized that the power and influence of his own New England would be reduced if the vast territory were added to the nation, but he
was convinced that the national interest would best be served by the purchase of Louisiana (see Louisiana Purchase).
Adams again broke with his New England supporters in 1807, when he voted for the Embargo Act. The act banned all American trade with Europe and was intended to
force Britain and France to respect U.S. rights on the high seas. The embargo not only failed to win British and French compliance but dealt a severe blow to U.S.
commerce. Massachusetts shipowners, especially, suffered heavy financial losses. Adams was denounced as a traitor to his state and to the Federalist Party. In 1808,
several months before his term was up, the Massachusetts legislature elected a senator to replace him. Adams resigned.

C Later Diplomatic Career
C1 Russia
Adams resumed his diplomatic career in 1809, when President James Madison appointed him U.S. diplomatic representative to Russia. The post was an important one,
for at that time Russia was the only European outlet for American trade. French and British blockades had closed other ports in Europe to U.S. ships. For the next four
years, Adams skillfully advanced American interests at Saint Petersburg, and he won the lasting friendship of the Russian leader, Tsar Alexander I.
In 1812 French Emperor Napoleon I invaded Russia, citing the tsar's defiance of the French embargo as provocation. Adams was a...

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