John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire / Edition 1

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This is the story of a man, a treaty, and a nation. The man was John Quincy Adams, regarded by most historians as America's greatest secretary of state. The treaty was the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, of which Adams was the architect. It acquired Florida for the young United States, secured a western boundary extending to the Pacific, and bolstered the nation's position internationally. As William Weeks persuasively argues, the document also represented the first determined step in the creation of an American global empire.

Weeks follows the course of the often labyrinthine negotiations by which Adams wrested the treaty from a recalcitrant Spain. The task required all of Adams's skill in diplomacy, for he faced a tangled skein of domestic and international controversies when he became secretary of state in 1817. The final document provided the United States commercial access to the Orient—a major objective of the Monroe administration that paved the way for the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

Adams, the son of a president and later himself president, saw himself as destined to play a crucial role in the growth and development of the United States. In this he succeeded. Yet his legendary statecraft proved bittersweet. Adams came to repudiate the slave society whose interests he had served by acquiring Florida, he was disgusted by the rapacity of the Jacksonians, and he experienced profound guilt over his own moral transgressions while secretary of state. In the end, Adams understood that great virtue cannot coexist with great power.

Weeks's book, drawn in part from articles that won the Stuart Bernath Prize, makes a lasting contribution to our understanding of American foreign policy and adds significantly to our picture of one of the nation's most important statesmen.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An impressive synthesis of interpretations, personal information about Adams, his wife, and his family, and the details of the negotiations through which Florida was acquired and a borderline to the Pacific for the US and Spain was drawn." — Choice

"Uses the story of a single event to reveal a great deal about the era in which it took place — and something about our own times as well." — Library Journal

"An intelligently argued and tightly written study that ably explores both Spanish-American relations and the complex and contradictory mind of John Quincy Adams." — Journal of the Early Republic

"An excellent acquisition in a period of American diplomatic history that has had too little recent scholarly attention." — Choice

Library Journal
Weeks (American history, San Diego State Univ.) paints a detailed and ultimately unflattering portrait of John Quincy Adams in his role as U.S. secretary of state (1817-25). While touching on Adams's life and personality, the book focuses on his successful negotiations with Spain to acquire Florida and a U.S. claim to the Pacific. His able diplomacy made possible Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine, but Adams came to regret the machinations he used to get a better deal. The ironies of the affair haunted him, and he decided later that he had paid too high a price to satisfy the ambition he denied having. Like much good history, this book uses the story of a single event to reveal a great deal about the era in which it took place--and something about our own times as well. For all large history collections.-- Gary Williams, Southeastern Ohio Regional Lib., Caldwell
Details how Adams, as Secretary of State, negotiated and won the 1819 Transcontinental Treaty, wresting from Spain Florida and a western border that extended to the Pacific, providing access to the Orient. A precursor to the Monroe Doctrine (1823), it was the first step towards US imperialism. Also documents how Adams later regretted his accomplishment. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813190587
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 10/22/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

William Earl Weeks is professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Building the Continental Empire: American Expansion from the Revolution to the Civil War.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Introduction 1
1 Destiny 6
2 Developing a Strategy 37
3 First Moves 59
4 "The South American Question" 85
5 Jackson's Invasion of Florida 105
6 Onis Brought to a Point 127
7 The Origins of Empire 147
Epilogue: The American Cicero 176
Notes 200
Selected Bibliography 216
Index 226
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted February 19, 2009

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    An amazing study of American diplomatic history!

    An amazing study of John Quincy Adams, U.S. diplomatic history during the Monroe presidency, and the origins of Manifest Destiny. Weeks makes a great case for Adams being our nation's greatest secretary of state. Focusing on the negotiations for the Adams-Onis/Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, Weeks shows how statesmen truly negotiate and the negative consequences it may entail, as Adams would both glory in extending his nations borders and be disgusted by the expansion of slavery he unwittingly aided. In some ways, it is also a morality tale as Weeks calls into question Adams's character, accusing "Old Man Eloquent" of tremendous hypocrisy in his dealings with Congress, Spain, and Pres. Monroe. Weeks also makes an undeniable case for seeing Adams's statesmanship as the true beginning of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny. This should be read by all students of U.S. history and U.S. foreign policy as it offers great insights to both our country's heritage and politics.

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