John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

16
Adams, a New-World Diplomat

There is, no doubt, great delicacy, and sometimes danger, in bestowing diplomatic confidences; but, crafty and fraudulent as the trade has the reputation of being, I give it as the result of my experience that confidence judiciously and cautiously bestowed is one of the most powerful and eflicacious instruments of negotiation. MEMOIRS, May 28, 1819


THE PRACTITIONER OF DIPLOMACY

His own experience, as we have seen, began as early as 1782 when he went to Russia with Judge Dana. In particular, his journey from St. Petersburg to The Hague afforded him an extraordinary opportunity, important in the training of the diplomat, to observe political and economic conditions. Surprisingly, he was able to develop a calm view of exotic habits and customs in foreign courts, as indicated, for example, by the matter-of-factness of his observation without criticism that the Emperor Alexander allowed no influence to the women by whom he had children1 The stern puritan moralist could with sufficient ease compartmentalize his view of the world. Adams was acutely conscious of the significance and implication of diplomatic maneuver, and his first contacts with the British government provided him with early experience in the art. Taking care to assess the diplomatic capacities and assets of those with whom he had to deal, he recorded his conclusions in the Memoirs: Bagot, for example, was the most successful British minister he had known. This fact surprised him because success was perhaps based

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1
Memoirs, January 9, 1810, II, 94.

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