|Laocoon and His Sons Marble circa 20 B.C.|
Adams own life had become immensely complicated by the extracurricular burdens peculiar to his job. Throughout 1820 and 1821, he was preparing the annals of the Constitutional Convention, the reports on weights and measures, the decennial census, the biennial register of federal employees, and - an entirely new congressional demand - a digest of commercial laws, including the duties, tariffs, and other commercial regulation of all the nations with which the United States traded. It seemed unimaginable that one man - even with six clerks and two messengers - could accomplish all this while at the same time attending to the nation's diplomacy and foreign affairs. The 1787 records alone made him feel like Laocoon wrestling with his serpents. George Washington had deposited his own copy of the records with the State Department, but Adams found large gaps that had to be plugged with whatever documents he could find elsewhere, including from the few signers still living. The sheer chaos drove him to distraction.
-James Traub, John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit