JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 5

The passage to England was fast but precarious “considering the flimsy, crazy conditions of the old ship, her uncommon dullness of sailing, and the mistakes of our Captain.” On September 24, there was an extremely violent squall in the night and the Alfred was nearly run down by another ship. John Quincy was convinced that another heavy gale would have sent the ship straight to the bottom. He vowed never to sail on such an “eggshell” again.

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Mahan, Choke Points, and the Panama Canal

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Given is a reminder of the importance of maritime choke points as they concern international commerce and national security. Choke points are primarily the effect of natural geography, which is one of the critical dimensions of strategy. In some cases, however, human agency, especially technology, can affect the strategic importance of natural geographic features and relationships. The shift from sail to steam, then from coal to oil-fired ships. From roads to railways. From horses to internal combustion engines. From the ground to the skies — aircraft to ballistic missiles, to drones, and hypersonic vehicles. Another human agency is the construction of canals in a way that significantly alters the geopolitical terrain.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 4

John Quincy Adams made last minute preparations to sail, and said goodbye to family and friends. “I once more wish you a prosperous Voyage and honourable Conduct and a happy Life,” John Adams wrote to his sons. “Remember your Characters as Men of Business as well as Men of Virtue, and always depend on the Affection and Friendship of your Father.” Abigail, for her part, undoubtedly warned her sons, especially the easily smitten Thomas, to avoid the charms of Dutch girls. She made it clear that she did not want either of them to drag a European wife back to America.

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Clausewitz’s Library

Ensconced within CSD's resource bank of Reading Lists we have an entry highlighting Clausewitz’s personal library, as recorded in his wife Marie's will. It may not be inclusive; and of course, he would have had access to the professional library at the Prussian Kriegsakademie. Military publications naturally constitute a significant number among the volumes, including Vauban’s treatises on fortifications and sieges; Johan von Ewald’s book on light infantry tactics; Henry Lloyd’s history of the Seven Years’ War; Montecucili’s memoirs; a study of Maurice de Saxe; Lazare Carnot’s textbook for engineers; George de Chambray’s account of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign in 1812; several of Georg Wilhelm von Valentini’s military works; Phillippe Henri de Grimoard’s treatise on general staff; and the field manual written by his mentor, Gerhard von Scharnhorst.

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Military Education and Mentorship: Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower

Mentoring future officers in the higher realms of strategy is a topic of much discussion within the military community, especially in terms of the applicability of the Classics, and literature more generally. A recently published collection of essays, Pershing's Lieutenants, catalogues important figures who served under General John J. Pershing in World War I, ranging from Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur to Captain Harry Truman. My initial impression is that the essay authors don’t always demonstrate the way in which the experience of the individuals in World War I affected their particular approach to and during World War II — which would have been of the most interest; however, this judgment is admittedly not based on a full read of the book. One of the figures featured in the volume drew my especial interest — General Fox Conner—because of his well-known role in mentoring younger officers, Dwight Eisenhower in particular.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 3

John Quincy took a break from the necessary round of visits and dinners to write John Adams about his research into his father’s diplomatic dispatches during the Revolutionary War, particularly those of his time in France. John Quincy had been present as well but his impressions were those of a child; he could now consider them as an adult

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 2

John Quincy’s introduction to Washington’s diplomacy came when the president invited him to a reception for a delegation of Chickasaw Indians. This was John Quincy’s first experience with the uneasy relations between the federal government and the various tribes along America’s frontier.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 1

John Quincy Adams was America’s most accomplished diplomat and effective Secretary of State. We know much of him and his times from his voluminous writings, which collectively constitute an American Classic. We offer here a day-to-day chronicle of the opening of his public career from 1794-1801, which will be posted sequentially in segments. This represents the first segment, or "dispatch."

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Chronicles of an American Diplomat: John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was born into politics and war. As a small child in Boston, John Quincy lived in a town under British occupation. From the heights near the family farm in Braintree, he and his mother Abigail witnessed the distant fire and smoke of the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. John Adams, while serving in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, sent home to the family detailed reports of the move towards independence; and of the military resistance and diplomatic steps needed to sustain the revolution. He encouraged John Quincy and his other children to contemplate these profound events and to prepare themselves, as future statesmen, to meet the challenges to the new country.

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Paul Rahe on Spartan Grand Strategy

The grand strategy the Spartans embraced had serious consequences for Lacedaemon’s posture in the international sphere as well. Their perch was precarious.  The Lacedaemonians understood from early on what history would eventually confirm: that it took but a single major defeat in warfare on land to endanger the city’s very survival. Even when their population was at its height, as it was in the late archaic period, there were never more than ten thousand Spartiates, if that; and the territory they ruled was comparatively vast. The underlings they exploited were numerous and apt to be rebellious. In Messenia, if not also in Laconia, the helots saw themselves as a people in bondage, and geography did not favor the haughty men who kept them in that condition.

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