Headnotes

John Quincy Adams (JQA) lived the early part of these years in Newburyport, reading law under Theophilus Parsons. When not studying, he enjoyed an active social circle and it was during this period that JQA experienced his first heartbreak after a failed relationship with Newburyport native Mary Frazier. JQA frequently berated himself for his inability to sustain his diary during these years, while also lamenting that his day-to-day life provided little interesting content with which to fill its pages. Completing his legal studies in July 1790, JQA relocated to Boston to establish his law practice. While his legal career was slow to take off, JQA eventually achieved modest success in what he believed would be his life-long profession. However, it was JQA’s skill as a writer on contemporary issues that brought him public acclaim by 1793. JQA penned articles for Boston newspapers that were republished both nationally and internationally. These writings elevated his status in the United States and led to his first diplomatic post in 1794, when President George Washington nominated him as U.S. minister resident to the Netherlands.

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John Quincy Adams (JQA) left the United States in September 1794 to begin his diplomatic career. During his first international posting to the Netherlands, JQA became a keen observer of European affairs and sent detailed reports to America regarding events abroad. However, JQA found that his reserved personality was ill-suited for the obligatory attendance of foreign diplomats at the whirl of balls, parties, and court functions held at The Hague. In 1797 JQA moved to his next international posting at Berlin. While there he achieved his major diplomatic charge when he signed a new Prussian-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce in July 1799. As JQA found success as a young diplomat, his private life flourished during these years as well. In July 1797, after a fourteen-month engagement, he married Louisa Catherine Johnson (LCA) in London. While this relationship brought much joy to JQA’s life, LCA’s poor health, coupled with a series of miscarriages during the early years of their marriage, weighed heavily on him. Shortly before learning of his recall to the United States in April 1801, JQA and LCA welcomed the birth of their first child, George Washington Adams (GWA).

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John Quincy Adams (JQA) returned from Europe to the United States in September 1801 to begin the next phase of his career in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Adams was elected to the Massachusetts state senate in 1802 and the U.S. Senate in 1803, where he had a contentious relationship with his fellow Federalist Party members because he often supported the policies of the opposition party, the Democratic-Republicans. After he voted for President Thomas Jefferson’s unpopular embargo in December 1807, the Federalist-controlled Massachusetts legislature decided in June 1808 to replace him for the final year of his senatorial term. From 1806 to 1809 he also served as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University, writing and delivering a series of thirty-six lectures, which were eventually published. During these years he and his wife, Louisa Catherine Adams (LCA), welcomed two additional sons into their family; John Adams (JA2) was born in July 1803 and Charles Francis Adams (CFA) in August 1807. His personal finances suffered a change after the 1803 failure of the London banking firm of Bird, Savage, and Bird, with whom both JQA and his father John Adams (JA) had heavily invested. It took JQA years of practicing extreme economy to repair his pecuniary losses.

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John Quincy Adams (JQA), along with his wife Louisa Catherine Adams (LCA) and their youngest son Charles Francis Adams (CFA), set sail in August 1809 to begin the next phase of his diplomatic career. JQA made the painful decision to leave their two oldest sons, George Washington Adams (GWA) and John Adams (JA2), in the United States to continue their education. During his posting in St. Petersburg as the United States’ first minister plenipotentiary to Russia, JQA, who was well-liked by Emperor Alexander I, closely followed the battles of the Napoleonic Wars raging throughout Europe. When the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812, Adams watched from afar as the conflict dragged on for two years. In April 1814, JQA traveled to Ghent, Belgium, as part of the American delegation to negotiate an end to the war with England; the Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve. In May 1815 JQA moved to London to serve as the U.S. minister at the Court of St. James. His two years in the British capital were among the happiest of his adult life as the Adamses were finally reunited with GWA and JA2, whom they had not seen for almost six years.

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John Quincy Adams (JQA) was nominated as James Monroe’s secretary of state on 5 March 1817 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate that same day. Serving as the U.S. minister to Britain at the time, JQA did not assume his duties until 22 September 1817. His first term as secretary of state lasted until 3 March 1821. During these years JQA sought to organize and respond to all State Department correspondence, a slow undertaking owing to the constant stream of visitors that called at his office requesting assistance or seeking employment. JQA worked closely with European diplomats on formulating American foreign policy; his most notable diplomatic successes during this period include the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 that established the northern U.S. border with Canada along the 49th parallel and the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 (Transcontinental Treaty) that resulted in the U.S. acquisition of Florida. In addition to diplomacy, JQA’s duties included overseeing the 1820 census, researching and writing a report on weights and measures, and appointing candidates for diplomatic, consular, and administrative posts. In his private life, JQA socialized in Washington, D.C., with political leaders and his wife Louisa Catherine’s (LCA) extended family. For exercise, he swam in the Potomac River and took long walks. He also mourned the loss of his mother, Abigail Adams (AA), who died in 1818.

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John Quincy Adams (JQA) continued serving as secretary of state during James Monroe’s second presidential term (4 March 1821 – 3 March 1825). During these years JQA formulated the policy that became known as the Monroe Doctrine, in which the United States called for European non-intervention in the western hemisphere and specifically in the affairs of the newly independent Latin American nations. JQA also kept a close eye on the American political landscape as the Era of Good Feelings (1817–1825) ended during the 1824 presidential campaign, in which JQA was one of the top contenders. When no candidate obtained the majority of votes necessary for election, the vote fell to the House of Representatives. JQA finally won the contest in February 1825. Throughout 1821–1825, JQA’s family remained a significant private concern. His three sons struggled academically at Harvard, and his wife Louisa Catherine (LCA) continued to suffer from bouts of poor health. JQA maintained his exercise regimen of swimming in the spring and summer and walking in the fall and winter and tried to sustain his diary entries—a difficult task due to his busy work schedule and growing number of daily office visitors.

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John Quincy Adams (JQA) served as the sixth president of the United States from 4 March 1825 until 3 March 1829. JQA began his presidency with an ambitious agenda of improvements for American society throughout the four years. However, supporters of Andrew Jackson, who believed their candidate had unfairly lost the 1824 election, worked ceaselessly to foil JQA’s plans. Domestically, JQA refused to replace civil servants with partisan supporters, and his administration became involved in disputes between the Creek nation and the state of Georgia. Nor did JQA have success in foreign policy, as partisan bickering in Congress failed to provide timely funding for American delegates to attend the 1826 Pan-American conference in Panama. The political mudslinging during the campaign for the 1828 presidential election was particularly fierce, and by May 1827, JQA realized he would not be reelected. In his private life, JQA sought escape from the pressures of the presidency by his continued exercise regimen, and he developed a love of botany from time spent in the White House gardens. He continued to worry over the poor health of his wife, Louisa Catherine Adams (LCA), and mourned the deaths of his father, John Adams (JA), who died in 1826, and his eldest son, George Washington Adams (GWA), who died in 1829.

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