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John Quincy Adams
Suggested Reading



America's First Dynasty : The Adamses
(Richard Brookhiser)
In the spirit of his earlier books, Alexander Hamilton: American and Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, Richard Brookhiser produces an elegant, concise volume drawing on previous scholarship but offering a fresh perspective on four prickly generations of Adamses. Until David McCullough's John Adams became a surprise bestseller, the United States' second president and his descendants seldom had good press. Acknowledging John's essential role in the American Revolution and his son John Quincy's principled fight against slavery, contemporaries and historians nonetheless judged both men poor presidents, characterized by haughty pride and stiff-necked dislike of compromise. Charles Francis Adams, John Quincy's son, lost an almost certain chance to run for president as a Republican in 1872 by disdainfully announcing "that he would reject any nomination that had to be negotiated for;" the most famous book by Charles's son, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), implicitly blames Henry's failure to achieve the prominence of his forefathers on the loss of meaning and coherence in the modern, fragmented world. Tracing the lives and careers of these four men, Brookhiser strikes a balance between their struggles with a daunting heritage and battles with the often unappreciative outer world, identifying "the constant companion of the Adamses" as "the idea of greatness. Am I as great as my ancestors? As great as my contemporaries? Why doesn't the world recognize my greatness?" This proves a sensible organizing principle for his graceful reappraisal of a well-known but not often well-understood family.

Arguing about Slavery : John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress
(WILLIAM LEE MILLER)
In the 1830s slavery was so deeply entrenched that it could not even be discussed in Congress, which had enacted a "gag rule" to ensure that anti-slavery petitions would be summarily rejected. This stirring book chronicles the parliamentary battle to bring "the peculiar institution" into the national debate, a battle that some historians have called "the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy." The campaign to make slavery officially and respectably debatable was waged by John Quincy Adams who spent nine years defying gags, accusations of treason, and assassination threats. In the end he made his case through a combination of cunning and sheer endurance. Telling this story with a brilliant command of detail, Arguing About Slavery endows history with majestic sweep, heroism, and moral weight.

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life
(Paul C. Nagel)
Who is the real John Quincy Adams? The brilliant secretary of state, prime mover behind the Monroe Doctrine, and principled opponent of slavery, defender of the Africans shanghaied aboard the Amistad? Or the ineffectual president stymied by a hostile Congress and his own self-righteousness, the vindictive political foe famed for his cold, disagreeable character? Paul C. Nagel, author of two previous books about the Adams family, seeks to give readers a more human Adams (1767-1848) whose complex nature contained many contradictions. John Quincy Adams is a valuable revisionist biography of a misunderstood figure at the crossroads of American history.

John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union
(James E. Lewis Jr.)
Focusing on John Quincy Adamsís extensive role in American foreign policy, including his years as Secretary of State and as President, this new book provides a brief but comprehensive study of Adamsís foreign policy. In particular, the book analyzes Adamsís accomplishments between 1817 and 1825óthe eight years he was secretary of state during the negotiation of the Rush-Bagot Agreement and the Transcontinental Treaty, the recognition of the Spanish-American republics, and the development of the Monroe Doctrine. The book also scrutinizes Adamsís single term as President from 1825-1829. The core belief that defined Adamsís long and complicated career in foreign policy is his understanding of the nature and function of the American union, which emerged from the crisis of the 1780s and the years of embargo and war between 1807 and 1814. Like many of his contemporaries, Adams believed that the existence of a single political union encompassing all of its independent states was necessary to prevent North America from repeating the European experience of political, commercial, and military conflict among sovereignties. Adams believed in the centrality of the union to American happiness. This book casts new light on the logic behind many of Adamsís accomplishments and also exposes the sources of some of his failures.

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