Headnotes

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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