Louisa got to know John Quincy Adams in 1795, when he was on a temporary diplomatic assignment in London and her father was the American consul in the city (they had met twice before, when they were children). It was not a particularly romantic courtship. When Adams was unexpectedly promoted to the post of American minister to Portugal and had to choose between marrying Louisa earlier than they had planned, or postponing the wedding for three years, he initially opted for the latter. To Louisa’s suggestion that he might place their happiness before his career plans, he replied:
My duty to my country is in my mind the first and most imperious of all obligations; before which every interest and every feeling inconsistent with it must forever disappear. (1)Louisa’s father interceded and the couple was married on July 26, 1797, at the Church of All Hallows by the Tower in London. Instead of Portugal, Adams was posted to Prussia, so he and Louisa lived in Berlin for four years. In 1801, they moved to Massachusetts, where their three sons were born: George in 1801, John in 1803 and Charles Francis in 1807.
In 1809, Adams was appointed the first ever United States minister (ambassador) to Russia. Louisa and Charles accompanied him to St. Petersburg. Young George and John were left to be schooled in the United States, under the care of Adams’ parents. Adams made this decision without consulting Louisa, who was understandably distraught when she found out.
As discussed in my post about Dorothea von Lieven, diplomatic wives could be invaluable aids to their husbands’ missions in early 19th century Europe. Though not as politically interested or as involved as Dorothea, Louisa was a great help to Adams in Russia. Her cordiality compensated for his lack of social graces, and she became a favourite of Tsar Alexander and his wife. The Adams’ marriage, though not overwhelmingly happy, could be considered a success. Adams wrote in his diary on July 26, 1811:Share
I have this day been married fourteen years, during which I have to bless God for the enjoyment of a portion of felicity, resulting from this relation in society, greater than falls to the generality of mankind and far beyond anything that I have been conscious of deserving. Its greatest alloy has arisen from the delicacy of my wife’s constitution, the ill health which has afflicted her much of the time, and the misfortunes she has suffered from it. Our union has not been without its trials, nor invariably without dissensions between us. There are many differences of sentiment, of tastes and of opinions in regard to domestic economy, and to the education of children, between us. There are natural frailties of temper in both of us; both being quick and irascible, and mine being sometimes harsh. But she has always been a faithful and affectionate wife, and a careful, tender, indulgent, and watchful mother to our children, all of whom she nursed herself. I have found in this connection from decisive experience the superior happiness of the marriage state over that of celibacy, and a full conviction that my lot in marriage has been highly favored. (2)(Read more.)