John Quincy Adams Essay, Research Paper
Adams, John Quincy
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, was a child of American independence, the primary architect of the first century of the nation’s foreign policy, and an implacable foe of slavery.
Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Mass., on July 11, 1767, the first son of the brilliant, patriotic, and strong-willed Abigail Smith Adams and her husband, John Adams, then a little-known country lawyer. When John Quincy was seven years old, his father, who was in Philadelphia attending the First Continental Congress, wrote to his wife of her duty to “mould the minds and manners of our children. Let us teach them not only to do virtuously, but to excel. To excel they must be taught to be steady, active, and industrious.” A year later, mother and son watched the smoke and heard the cannons from the Battle of Bunker Hill. The letter, and the close, frightening, but also exhilarating event, set the boy’s life on its course.
John Quincy Adams began 70 years of public service when in 1778, at the age of 11, he acted as his father’s secretary during a diplomatic mission to France. In 1780 he again went to Europe with his father, this time as an official secretary, and a year later he served as secretary and interpreter to Francis Dana on the first American mission to the Russian court at St. Petersburg. Returning to western Europe via Sweden, Denmark, and Germany in early 1783, Adams lived for the next two years in The Hague, London, and Paris, where he pursued his formal education. When he came back to America in 1785 to enter Harvard College, he knew five or six modern languages as well as Latin and Greek, had traveled throughout northern and western Europe, had been under the close tutelage of his father for seven years, and had taken part in much of the diplomacy of the American Revolution.
Adams graduated from Harvard in 1787 and two years later finished his legal apprenticeship. Without enthusiasm he began to practice law in Boston in 1790. He was soon easily distracted into writing a notable series of newspaper articles attacking the ideas of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, and in 1794 he eagerly accepted President Washington’s appointment of him as American minister to Holland. He subsequently served as minister to Prussia from 1797 to 1801. His letters to American officials contained by far the most perceptive and influential news coming back across the Atlantic during the crucial years of Napoleon’s rise to dominance. During a mission to London in 1796-97 he married Louisa Catherine Johnson, the daughter of a Maryland merchant serving as U.S. consul in London. Their marriage produced three children and lasted until his death 51 years later.