Last year, Dr. Charles N. Edel, a professor at the National War College spoke about his experiences in the academic world and the world of politics. He also talked about his book called “Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic.” Apparently, this grand strategy can be applied to the modern society and the world we live in.
What were some of the key points of Edel’s speech?
John Quincy Adams had a chance to change the country for the better after a devastating War that took place in 1812. This was the time when the US could experience economic growth and territorial expansion. Before becoming a president, he was Secretary of State, but his politics and philosophy remained the same. He was against the Old World monarchies, and he advocated republicanism. Adams wanted to prevent European expansion and facilitate the American instead, but he was also against slavery which spread like wildfire.
In order for the US to become a relevant country worldwide, domestic institutions and infrastructure needed to develop first. Among the most important tasks Adams had was instilling a sense of civic duty among the people who lived in America. This was just a part of the grand strategy.
Adams firmly believed that the United States was supposed to remain neutral in foreign affairs, but at the same time, he wanted large sums of money to go into developing military infrastructure. With the country which is strong internally, defense of the territory would be a lot easier, and that was what Adams hoped to achieve.
When he was the Secretary of State, the country spread its borders to Florida and the hinterlands. However, before spreading its powers and displaying it on the global level, the U.S. needed a safe western border. During his presidency, Adams facilitated education, commerce, and industry. Introducing some of the changes and rules was difficult to translate into legislation due to structural shifts in the American politics, but he had a goal to delegitimize monarchy and put republicanism first.
The reason why Adams had such views lies in his upbringing. When he was a boy, his father exposed him to the international politics which sparked his interest in politics and modeled his ambitions. When he was a US diplomat, John Quincy Adams met world leaders, statesmen, and scholars from different corners of Earth. He was familiar with different cultures, philosophies and governing systems which affected his forward-thinking philosophy in large measure.
For Adams, history was quite important, and he learned much from it. He believed that nations, whether they were monarchic or republican, had same universal laws and strategic interests. Thanks to history, he was able to predict what was going to happen and he mostly relied on the Roman history and the history of the Ancient Greeks. Adams wanted all policymakers to be familiar with the rise and fall of all of these great nations so that they could use the knowledge to make better sense of the current affairs and consequently make better decisions. The wars were waged in Europe and Adams advocated a strong centralized government in the US which would protect the then-fragile republic from foreign influence or possible attacks.
However, it took a lot of time for these objectives to be applied and America needed to go through Civil War first. Obviously, his thoughts on foreign policy influence the American grand strategy as we speak. Adams was able to recognize threats which were imminent and those less pressing were dealt later on. This has helped America achieve domestic stability before spreading democracy around the world. Although the changes were not that drastic during his rule, he managed to instill such an opinion and establish himself as one of the most prominent figures of delicate US.