Schiller Institute on YouTube Schiller Institute on Facebook RSS

Home >

John Quincy Adams on the Matter of the Mission of the Continental U.S. Republic
and Relations to Russia

by Renee Sigerson

April 2014

John Quincy Adams.

Writing from St. Petersburg in 1811, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) underscored the importance of the establishment of a U.S. Continental Republic, to be conceived as a new concept of nation building, conceived on a higher level than war-dominated and Empire-controlled Europe; a Republic freed from the repeated despotic game of hurling populations one against the other to benefit the power of Empire. Adams wrote in letters to the U.S., as Russia, where he was based, braced for what was recognized as an inevitable invasion by Napoleon:


"If that Party (i.e., the Federalists) are not effectually put down.... the Union is gone. Instead of a nation, coextensive with the North American continen t, destined by God and nature to be the most populous and most powerful people ever combined under one social compact, we shall have an endless multitude of little insignificant clans and tribes at eternal war with one another for a rock, or a fish pond, the sport and fable of European masters and oppressors."

In another communication, he wrote: "The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs." Note his use of the term "system of ... principles," typical of Adams' entire process of thinking. His emphasis on American unity was in no manner whatsoever prejudicial towards other nations or language cultures: this is the man who defended Ibero-America from imperial invasion; was fluent in French since childhood; taught himself classical German to the point of translating classical works; lived in Russia as not only Ambassador but friend to leading scientific circles; and defended Africans in U.S. courts from the global slave system. He was guided in his concepts of government by the reference of a divine, providential purpose to all of mankind's existence, as beautifully described in Lyndon LaRouche’s latest paper, “The prospect for a U.S. Future: Build the Real American Party.” Thus, he conceived of an American culture of a higher principle than the Imperial culture which controlled Europe.

Adams' work to negotiate the northwestern border of a continental United States with the Russian government began as soon as he arrived in 1809. His main interlocutor in this effort was the sternly anti-British, pro-development Counselor Rumiantsov (sometimes spelled Romanzoff), who, according to Adams, told him soon after his arrival: Russia's "attachment to the United States is obstinate, more obstinate than you are aware of."

On the eve of Napoleon's invasion, Rumiantsov arranged an offer to the U.S. for Russia to act as mediator between the U.S. and Britain to avoid what became the War of 1812. Russia wanted to be able to keep relations intact with the U.S. even though Napoleon's attack forced them into an alliance with Britain. If the U.S. and Britain entered into war, Russia would have to downgrade its relations with the U.S. President Madison's bungling contributed to this offer never being taken up, and when the War of 1812 began, Rumiantsov was increasingly pushed aside as top advisor to the Czar, with the pro-British Nesselrode taking his place.

The pro-American Rumiantsov turned to other pursuits to defend his view of a Russian/U.S. alliance around economic progress. He financed out of his own resources a new naval exploration off the coast of Alaska. Meanwhile his good friend Adams soon left Russia to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and becoming briefly, Ambassador to Britain, en route to becoming Secretary of State. Their collaboration later resulted in President's Adams' 1824 Treaty (despite British Prime Ministers Castlereagh's efforts to convince the U.S. that post-Napoleonic Russia was an Imperial enemy of the Americas) with Russia, establishing the first internationally recognized boundary on the West Coast northern border of the United States.