A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


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.