(Below from the John Adams HBO Miniseries: VP John Adams insists that JQA should begin to practice law - this conversation occurred before the year 1794, when President Washington sent JQA to Holland)
In 1802, JQA won election to the Massachusetts state senate, and immediately went on the attack against corruption, both in the chamber, and in the state, which rankled his colleagues to no end. His fellow Federalists decided to send JQA to the U.S. Senate, which was designed to be a de facto political exile without upsetting his father, John Adams (for many decades in our early history, serving in a state legislature was more prestigious and important than being a U.S. Senator - that changed with the ratification of the
In 1803, Northern and Western Europe experienced a once-in-a 500 year Arctic blast; the French harbors on the Atlantic actually froze; it was this arctic blast that started Napoleon down the path of selling the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. JQA was alone among the Federalists in the Senate that was in favor of what became known as the Louisiana Purchase. JQA made a motion to include the phrase "with the assent of the French Government" added to the document of purchase, which then, in effect, made the document a treaty. JQA's maneuver provided Jefferson a "political out", since he was able to then argue that the President's power to negotiate a treaty made the purchase Constitutional. More immediately, JQA's ploy meant that Jefferson was able to line up the Democratic-Republican vote to purchase Louisiana.
JQA was attacked by the Federalists in both houses, and became persona non grata within the ranks; JQA even started to attend (via invitation) President Jefferson's dinner parties. Then, in an abrupt turnabout, JQA opposed the Jeffersonians over their program of taxation in the Louisiana Territory - JQA believed it violated self-determination. The taxation program easily passed in the Senate, but JQA showed that he was by no means Jefferson's lackey. In his time as a U.S. Senator, JQA consistently outraged Federalists and Democratic-Republicans alike, and was labeled a malcontent for his efforts. Even his close friend James Madison became upset when JQA blocked his proposed border treaty between the U.S. and Canada; JQA wanted the border to be at the 49th Parallel towards the west. Despite irritating and challenging members of both parties, JQA remained essential in committees, due to his legal background and his almost unmatched expertise on foreign affairs. Also, JQA remained popular with President Jefferson, since they had known each other since JQA was a teen, and his worldliness also appealed to the third President, but TJ always appreciated JQA's efforts at providing him the Constitutional justification to purchase Louisiana from France.
The Federalist "Shunning" of JQA became even more intense in 1807, when JQA sided with Jefferson and Madison in their support of an embargo against Great Britain after their attack on the U.S. frigate Chesapeake. JQA saw the embargo as middle-ground between going to war and doing nothing - he was the only Federalist to support the embargo. JQA, Jefferson, and Madison believed that the U.S. was a self-sufficient economy, but they found out otherwise very quickly. In the ensuing economic collapse due to the Embargo Act of 1807, Massachusetts blamed JQA for their misery, and JQA was removed as U.S. Senator by the state legislature. John Adams thought his son's dream of upward trajectory towards the Presidency was shattered forever.
(Below: a short segment from a documentary tracing the Embargo Act and its
impact from Jefferson's Presidency to that of Madison
In the Election in 1808, another Democratic-Republican, James Madison, was sent to the White House. Madison asked JQA to be the American Minister to Russia, and JQA quickly agreed (he didn't even consult his wife). JQA viewed the appointment as the only way to re-enter national level politics (his own party, the Federalists, had made it their mission to make life miserable for JQA); he saw going to Russia as a "Honorable Diplomatic Exile", and he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1810. Madison's motive in appointing JQA was to improve relations with Russia by appointing a former President's son, and it worked out wonderfully for America in the years ahead.
By the time JQA arrived in St. Petersburg, the European landscape had changed - Napoleon dominated the continent, even Western Russia. JQA worked hard to develop a personal relationship with Czar Alexander I (the Czar was captivated by the "Cultured Commoner"), and in addition, JQA sent more intelligence back to President Madison than any other foreign minister in Europe, by far. John Quincy Adams convinced Czar Alexander I that it would benefit both nations if he eliminated the existing trade barriers. JQA's stock was again on the rise, and President Madison actually nominated him for an associate justice opening in the Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed that nomination . . . JQA was a Supreme Court justice! But, JQA turned down the appointment/confirmation (he didn't want his pregnant wife to travel a great distance), and yet again his father thought it was the end of the line for his son.
Joining JQA in Ghent were Henry Clay from Kentucky (the current Speaker of the House), Albert Gallatin (Senator from Pennsylvania, and eventually Alexander Hamilton's equal as SecTreas), as well as James Bayard (Senator from Delaware) and Jonathan Russell (Minister to Sweden). This group, with JQA in charge, was a "Diplomatic Dream Team", and proved to be a very cohesive unit, despite Clay's predilection to play cards late into the evening. Negotiations at Ghent ebbed and flowed based on the pattern of the war in the U.S., and impasse was the result. JQA and his British counterpart decided, in late-1814, to negotiate an end to the war, and let others sort out the mess. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war, and it was a stinging result for both sides, in that the treaty was an agreement to return to the status quo before the war began. True to his word, Madison sent JQA to Great Britain - JQA had reached the pinnacle in the World of Diplomacy.
Not long after the War of 1812 ended, Napoleon returned to power, and JQA was on one of the last ships that was allowed to leave France. Once back in Britain, JQA was joined by Clay and Gallatin to negotiate a treaty of commerce and maritime law (part of the "sorting out" after Ghent). Stephen Decatur's victory over the Barbary Pirates at Tripoli surprised the British, and JQA was able to negotiate better terms from America's victory in the Mediterranean. Once the treaty was drafted and ready to sign, JQA refused to sign it! JQA insisted that the U.S. appear as "first signatory" in one of the documents (which was the protocol, and the British were trying to minimize America's global stature), and on 3 July, 1815, the treaty was completed to JQA's satisfaction.
JQA developed an effective working relationship with his British counterpart, Robert Stewart, a.k.a. the Viscount Castlereagh. Castlereagh valued JQA's education, and they connected; JQA never equivocated, and was always up-front with what the U.S. Government wanted from Britain. Both JQA and Castlereagh viewed disarmament on the Great Lakes as a key component towards reconciliation between their nations. While Great Britain would not become an ally of America until Grant's Presidency, JQA's talents and efforts did lead to a "detente" between two nations that had recently fought two major wars with each other.
In addition to JQA as SecState, President Monroe's Cabinet featured William Crawford of Georgia as SecTreas, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina as SecWar (Henry Clay wanted SecState, and turned down the offer of SecWar, and returned to the House as Speaker). JQA thought the Cabinet might be another "Dream Team", a la Ghent, but his optimism was soon dashed. JQA's fellow Cabinet members promoted themselves and attacked others in their pursuit of the Presidency; they especially attacked JQA, who had become Monroe's most trusted advisor, similar to the relationship that Lincoln and Seward forged. JQA focused on advising Monroe, then supporting whatever decision the President made, unlike most of his predecessors (e.g. Thomas Jefferson).
(Below: A Mini-Biography of JQA, reviewing his diplomatic accomplishments, and
previewing his years as SecState, President, and Congressman)