John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), the son of John and Abigail Adams, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts. His diplomatic career began at age 10, when he accompanied his father on a diplomatic mission to France, and then to Holland and London. At age 14, conversant in French, he traveled to Russia as private secretary to the U.S. minister, Francis Dana. Young Adams also served as secretary to his father during the peace negotiations for the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War in 1783. In 1787 Adams graduated from Harvard College and began practicing law in Boston.
Soon Adams became a diplomat in his own right. President George Washington appointed him U.S. minister to the Netherlands in 1794. Three years later, he became U.S. minister to Prussia, appointed this time by his father, President John Adams. The younger Adams returned to the United States to serve as senator from Massachusetts from 1803 to 1808. In 1809 President James Madison appointed John Quincy Adams U.S. minister to Russia, where he served until 1814, when Madison sent him to Belgium, to the neutral city of Ghent, to lead the peace commission negotiating an end to the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. Adams next served as minister to Great Britain, starting the negotiations to disarm the Great Lakes that culminated in the Rush-Bagot Pact of 1817. He also guided the progress of the Convention of 1818, which set the boundary between the United States and British North America (later Canada) from the Lake of the Woods to the crest of Rocky Mountains and stipulated the joint occupation of the Oregon Country. In 1817 President James Monroe called Adams home to be secretary of state.
As secretary, Adams’s brilliant diplomacy led to the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, by which the United States acquired Florida from Spain, which also gave up its claim to the Oregon Country. But Adams is most famous for the Monroe Doctrine, which reflected his views, and was first announced publicly by President Monroe during his annual address in 1823. Monroe warned the imperial powers of Europe not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, where former colonies of Spain had just won independence. In turn, Monroe stated that the United States would not interfere in wars between the nations of Europe. The United States went on to recognize the new Latin American republics and thereafter assumed a protective role over them.
In 1825 Adams became president following a disputed election. Supporters of his opponent, Andrew Jackson, did not make his time in office easy. Defeated in 1828, Adams returned to Massachusetts, which soon sent him back to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington. There he served until his death in 1848, an opponent of the expansion of slavery. In 1839 he successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the Africans who had mutinied aboard the Amistad were free and should not be returned to Spain.