PROLOGUE TO WHIGGERY
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams ( 1767-1848) was probably America's greatest diplomat and one of our greatest defenders of civil liberties. His career in foreign affairs reached its climax when as secretary of state under President Monroe he was primarily responsible for formulating the policy known as the Monroe Doctrine. In later years "Old Man Eloquent" served long and honorably in the House of Representatives as a champion of free expression and a leader among the antislavery members. Adams' term as sixth president of the United States proved a bitter and frustrating interlude between these two careers. As his first "state of the union" message makes clear, Adams espoused a vigorous role for the federal government. But the objectives outlined here were not palatable to his political enemies who controlled Congress. They succeeded in blocking most of his initiatives and defeated him for reelection, installing Andrew Jackson in his place.
The vision of a strong central government promoting technology, education, and economic development persisted. The new Whig party that would come into being after Adams left the White House reaffirmed it. But because of the strong military and naval posture here advocated, the message may be read as foreshadowing the aggressive foreign policy of the Jacksonian Democrats as well as the domestic program of the Whigs.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
In taking a general survey of the concerns of our beloved country with reference to subjects interesting to the common welfare, the first sentiment which impresses itself upon the mind is of gratitude to the