Adams, John Quincy (1767–1848)

AuthorGeorge Forsyth

Page 30

John Quincy Adams served the nation in its earliest days, contributing as diplomat, secretary of state, President, and congressman to the development of constitutional government in America. Throughout his career he sought to be a "man of the whole nation," an ambition that earned him enemies in his native New England and in the South during a period of political sectionalism. As congressman from Massachusetts between 1831 and 1848, he played a decisive role in the development of the WHIG theory of the United States Constitution. His speeches in this period inspired a whole generation of Americans to resist the expansion of SLAVERY and to defend the Union.

Adams's political career began at the age of fifteen, when he went as private secretary to his father, JOHN ADAMS, on the diplomatic mission that negotiated the Treaty of Paris (1783). In 1801 he was elected United States senator. He angered Federalists by his support of THOMAS JEFFERSON'S acquisition of Louisiana and by his cooperation with the administration's policy of countering English and French attacks on American shipping by economic means. This policy resulted in the Embargo (1807) and gave rise to a SECESSION movement in New England (culminating in the HARTFORD CONVENTION of 1814?1815). Eighteen months before his term ended, the legislature elected a replacement and Adams resigned his Senate seat. He returned to private practice of the law, supporting the Yazoo claimants before the Supreme Court in FLETCHER V. PECK (1809). In the same year, President JAMES MADISON appointed him minister to Russia. As secretary of state under JAMES MONROE (1816?1824), Adams secured American territorial claims to the Pacific Northwest and defended ANDREW JACKSON'S conduct in Florida during the Seminole Wars. Adams was the principal author of the MONROE DOCTRINE, defending the Latin American republics from fresh incursions by European imperialism.

In 1824 Adams was elected President by the House of Representatives, none of the major candidates (Adams, Jackson, William Crawford, and HENRY CLAY) having achieved a majority in the ELECTORAL COLLEGE. The 1824 election created a political enmity between Adams and Jackson that seriously undermined Adams's presidency. Jackson had received a large plurality of popular votes, and the general's supporters portrayed Adams's election as an antidemocratic "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay, whom Adams appointed as secretary of...

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