John Quincy Adams


Public life

Occupation 1


Occupation 2

Secretary of State Identifier Massachusetts


NA/New England region


Maritime Republic (1751-1815)








Secretary of state, sixth president of the United States, and U.S. congressman...

[When negotiating for the end of the War of 1812,] Adams argued strongly to obtain renewal of fishing privileges for Americans in the waters between Newfoundland and Labrador. When he proposed as an equivalent extending British navigation rights on the Mississippi River, quarreling within the American delegation between Adams and the Kentuckian Henry Clay nearly disrupted the negotiations. The decision to set aside both issues, as well as most of the precipitating causes of the war, satisfied neither one, but when Clay proposed rejecting the treaty, Adams subordinated his sectional interests to the more immediate national need for peace...

[Appointed Secretary of State under Monroe]... In a convention with Great Britain in 1818 he obtained the much desired privileges of fishing off Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands and of drying and curing the catch on designated coastal areas of Newfoundland and Labrador...

In 1822, under pressure from island planters, Britain authorized direct traffic of designated produce to certain ports while retaining protective duties. Although the concessions opened a market for agricultural produce from the American middle states and back country during a depression, they did not permit the importation of fish and salted provisions or the indirect shipping that primarily concerned New England. Adams's response retained discriminatory duties on British vessels unless American ships and goods were admitted to the colonial ports with no higher charges than those on British vessels and the same goods imported "from elsewhere," that is, indirectly. There the negotiations were suspended...

Following a generalized invitation opening trade on a reciprocal basis under legislation of 1824, the Adams administration negotiated more commercial treaties than any other prior to the Civil War. Direct trade under the new arrangement had already been opened with several nations before Adams assumed the presidency. It was now extended to others, and Adams gave particular emphasis to expanding the provisions to encompass indirect commerce... But while the treaties with Scandinavian countries had opened their West Indies islands reciprocally to both direct and indirect trade by American vessels, the problem of establishing indirect or even generalized direct trade with the British West Indies continued...
Much as the administration sought to expand foreign commerce, its contribution was most notable in stimulating domestic trade. Public funding, financed by tariff revenues and public land sales, was directed to a vast program of road and canal construction, harbor improvement, and removal of river snags...

[Adams] also won acclaim in March 1841 when, nearly a quarter century after he had given up active legal practice, he... participated in the successful Supreme Court defense for a group of slaves taken into custody after a shipboard revolt and the seizure of the Spanish vessel Amistad. For yet another six years he struggled, again successfully, to block enactment of legislation counteracting the decision by compensating owners of the vessel...

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