Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-7-2019


John Quincy Adams is seen by the American public today as a failed one-term president. When one starts to see his diplomatic work and his service in Congress, however, he becomes one of the most important figures in American history. The diplomatic historian Samuel Flagg Bemis was in 1944 the first historian to suggest that Adams’ early writings influenced Washington’s Farewell Address. He looked through some of Adams’ early published writings and concluded that it was, “Conspicuous among the admonitions of the Farewell Address are: (1) to exalt patriotically the national words, America, American, Americans; (2) to beware of foreign intrigue; (3) to have no political connections with the foreign nations of distant Europe with their different set of primary interests.” Bemis in 1949 showed how Adams’ public writings might have helped shape the foreign policy aspects of the Farewell Address. This piece will go through Adams’ early relationship with Washington, what his possible motives for writing the pieces, expose some of the holes in Bemis’s theory, and make a side by side comparison of Adams’ first public writings and Washington’s Farewell Address. By assessing all the facts and readings of Adams early correspondence with Washington, there is ample evidence that there was at a bare minimum indirect influence on the Farewell Address.


This piece is a current work in progress of my overall master's thesis that will be about the relationship between George Washington and John Quincy Adams. This is only a piece of the final product.