Son of President John Adams and later president himself, John Quincy Adams studied in Europe as a young man and then had a remarkable diplomatic career in the postrevolution period.  During the presidency of George Washington, he served as minister to the Netherlands in 1794 and his father, as president, appointed him minister to Prussia (Berlin) from 1797 to 1801.  He then returned to the Untied States to serve in Congress, but reentered the diplomatic service in 1809 as Minister to Russia and then chief negotiator of the Treaty of Ghent of 1814, which ended the War of 1812.  After concluding that treaty, Adams became minister to the Court of St. James in London from 1815 until 1817.

Adams’s vast experience abroad made him an ideal candidate to serve as President James Monroe’s Secretary of State, a position he held from 1817 to 1825.  As secretary in 1819, he signed with Spain the Adams-Onis (Transcontinental) Treaty, which ceded Florida to the United States and established a frontier line between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.  In 1823 he was a major force in crafting the Monroe Doctrine (named for the President and not his Secretary of State).  That pronouncement stated that “the American continents…are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers” and pledged the United States to defend the territorial integrity of all of the nascent republics of the two Americas.  While the United States lacked the military power to enforce such a declaration at the time, the Monroe Doctrine set the tone and ground rules for United States–European relations in the Western Hemisphere.  Historian Samuel Flagg Bemis rated John Quincy Adams as one of the true giants of American diplomatic history.

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy. Wesport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1981.
  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. John Quincy Adams and the Union. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980.
  • Gherman, Beverly. First Son and President: A Story about John Quincy Adams. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2006.
  • Lewis, James E. John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union. Wilmington, Del: SR Books, 2001.
  • Nagel, Paul C. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
  • Remini, Robert V. John Qunicy Adams. New York: Times Books, 2002.