A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

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.

Read in-depth about JQA during these years.

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.

Read in-depth about JQA during these years.