Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams spent much of his youth in Europe, where his father served as a diplomat. After returning to the United States, Adams established a successful legal practice in Boston. In 1794, President George Washington appointed Adams as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, and Adams would serve in high-ranking diplomatic posts until 1801, when Thomas Jefferson took office as president. Federalist leaders in Massachusetts arranged for Adams's election to the United States Senate in 1802, but Adams broke with the Federalist Party over foreign policy and was denied re-election. In 1809, Adams was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Russia by President James Madison, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. Adams held diplomatic posts for the duration of Madison's presidency, and he served as part of the American delegation that negotiated an end to the War of 1812. In 1817, newly-elected President James Monroe selected Adams as his Secretary of State. In that role, Adams negotiated the Adams–Onís Treaty, which provided for the American acquisition of Florida. He also helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine, which became a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.
Rather than retiring from public service, Adams won election to the House of Representatives, where he would serve from 1831 to his death in 1848. He joined the Anti-Masonic Party in the early 1830s before becoming a member of the Whig Party, which united those opposed to President Jackson. During his time in Congress, Adams became increasingly critical of slavery and of the Southern leaders whom he believed controlled the Democratic Party. He was particularly opposed to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican–American War, which he saw as a war to extend slavery. He also led the repeal of the "gag rule," which had prevented the House of Representatives from debating petitions to abolish slavery. Historians generally concur that Adams was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history, but they tend to rank him as an average president.
John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, to John and Abigail Adams (née Smith) in a part of Braintree, Massachusetts that is now Quincy. He was named for his mother's maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts, is named. Young Adams was educated by private tutors – his cousin James Thaxter and his father's law clerk, Nathan Rice.[page needed] He soon began to exhibit his literary skills, and in 1779 he initiated a diary which he kept until just before he died in 1848. Until the age of ten, Adams grew up on the family farm in Braintree, largely in the care of his mother. Though frequently absent due to his participation in the American Revolution, John Adams maintained a correspondence with his son, encouraging him to read works by authors like Thucydides and Hugo Grotius. With his father's encouragement, Adams would also translate classical authors like Virgil, Horace, Plutarch, and Aristotle.
In 1778, Adams and his father departed for Europe, where John Adams would serve as part of American diplomatic missions in France and the Netherlands. During this period, Adams studied French, Greek, and Latin, and attended several schools, including Leiden University. In 1781, Adams traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he served as the secretary of American diplomat Francis Dana. He returned to the Netherlands in 1783, and accompanied his father to Great Britain in 1784. Though Adams enjoyed Europe, he and his family decided he needed to return to the United States to complete his education and eventually launch a political career.