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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 9

While waiting for the decision by the States General on his status, John Quincy received a letter from the Amsterdam Bankers. It was bad news: The Bankers had done nothing on the loan of 800,000 dollars, lacking the notice of commission that David Humphreys, the American minister in Lisbon, was supposed to send them. They added that under the present circumstances the loan would be altogether impracticable, and they could not foresee a time when it might again be feasible. John Quincy sent this information to the US Secretary of State, assuming that he and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton had already been made aware of this. 

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 8

The process of receiving diplomatic recognition in Europe, even in the best of circumstances, was often complex and convoluted. Each country had its own traditions and procedures. It was easy for an envoy, especially a novice, to commit some indiscretion that would offend or at least delay the proceedings. John Quincy was determined to tread carefully.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 7

John Quincy undoubtedly realized that Jay’s treaty would receive a difficult reception from his countrymen. Before he had left America, he sensed the general expectation that the talks would be highly favorable to the United States. The final results were bound to be disappointing to friends of the administration and inflammatory to its opponents. John Quincy thought it imperative to provide his father with a first-hand assessment as soon as possible, even if he could not go into details for reasons of propriety and security. The vice president would not have a vote in the Senate when the agreement was submitted for that body’s consent, but John Adams’ views would surely be solicited.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 6

Jay and Pinckney admitted to John Quincy they thought the proposed treaty was “far from being satisfactory,” even with improvements they still had in mind to propose. All that said, they told John Quincy they believed it was still preferable to war. Jay asked John Quincy for his opinion. John Quincy said he “suggested such ideas as occurred to me upon the subject. My observations were made with the diffidence which naturally arose from my situation; and were treated with all the attention, that I could expect or desire.”

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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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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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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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