John Quincy Adams - Legacy


Adams was the first president to have his photograph taken. He is probably best known as a diplomat who shaped America's foreign policy in accordance with his ardently nationalist views, and is widely considered by historians to have been one of the greatest diplomats in American history. He was key to the negotiation of several important treaties, such as the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812, and the Florida Treaty which resulted in the annexation of Florida. He also formulated the Monroe Doctrine, which is still evoked to the present day. He is viewed by many as the exemplar and moral leader in an era of modernization. During this era, new technologies and networks of infrastructure and communication brought to the people messages of religious revival, social reform, and party politics, as well as moving goods, money, and people ever more rapidly and efficiently.

Though he was always quite hostile to slavery, nearly to be point of being an abolitionist (although he doubted the abolitionists could successfully end slavery), he grew even more hostile to it later in life. Adams became a leading opponent of slave power and articulated a theory whereby the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers, a correct prediction of Abraham Lincoln's use of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Adams predicted the likelihood of the Union's dissolution over the slavery issue, and was a key opponent of the Mexican–American War for this reason. Though he later described his presidency as the unhappiest time of his life, scholars rate John Quincy Adams in the second quartile in the majority of historical presidential rankings.

One of Adams' most important legacies is his massive diary, which he began at age 11 with the simple entry "A journal, by me, J.Q.A." It covers, in extraordinary detail, his life and experiences up to his death in 1848. The massive fifty volumes are one of the most extensive collections of first-hand information from the period of the early republic, and are cited by historians in a wide range of matters from that period.

Historians have often included Adams among the leading conservatives of his day. Russell Kirk, however, sees Adams as a flawed conservative who was imprudent in opposing slavery.

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