6 John Quincy Adams

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6 John Quincy Adams

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Editado: Maio 22, 2010, 10:09 am

John Quincy Adams:A Public Life, A Private Life
John Quincy Adams by Robert V Remini
Mr Adams's Last Crusade
John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire: Letters, speeches, and papers
John Quincy Adams "Old Man Eloquent"
Cannibals of the Heart : A Personal Biography of Louisa Catherine and John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams: American Statesmen Series by John T. Morse, Jr

1824 Election JQ Adams (84 electoral votes) vs. Jackson (99) Crawford (41) Clay (37)
As no candidate had an electoral-vote majority, the House of Representatives chose the president from the first three. In a vote by states, 13 votes were cast for Adams, 7 for Jackson, and 4 for Crawford.

His wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson, was the only foreign first lady.
John Quincy Adams was a second cousin once removed of Samuel Adams and a third cousin once removed to his own mother, Abigail Smith Adams.
Adams liked to take nude dips in the Potomac River almost every day.
John Quincy Adams was the only president to be elected to the House of Representatives after serving as President.
Adams argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of slaves from the ship Amistad who mutinied during their journey from Africa.
John Quincy Adams owned a pet alligator which he kept in the East Room of the White House.
Adams had the first pool table installed in the White House.
John Quincy Adams was the only president to name a son George Washington.
Adams was the first president to be photographed.
John Quincy Adams's favorite foods were corn and fresh fruits.
He kept silkworms as pets.
He was named after his great-grandfather John Quincy, Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly, member of the Governer's council, and militia officer.

Mar 7, 2009, 2:48 pm

John Quincy Adams by Robert V Remini

My battery is nearly dead, so I can't write a full set of comments now, but wanted to *finally* post that I've actually finished a book! :-)

I'll be back after a re-charge to write more. But this book was surprisingly good. More later.

Mar 8, 2009, 3:29 pm

#2 Sorry about that - I should have just waited until I could post a real comment. When I ordered the Remini book from the library, I didn't realize it was an American Presidents series book. For some reason, that disappointed me. I went ahead and ordered another, full-length, book, thinking I would just read it instead. When I picked this book up the other day to decide whether to give it a try or just take it back, I opened it up and began to read just a page or two. I didn't stop until the end of chapter 3. (I love it when that happens!) I finished it the next day.

John Quincy Adams by Robert V Remini

According to the short bio on the dust jacket, this author is best known as a Jacksonian scholar. I thought he did a wonderful job on JQ Adams. Adams kept a very thorough journal throughout his life which has survived to the present. It has provided historians with a wealth of information, not only about Adams, but about society and life in general during Adams' lifetime. I believe most of this work was probably based on Adams' journal. However, Remini also referred several times to another Adams biography by Paul Nagel (whose work this title touchstone takes you to). The Nagel book is the other Adams biography I got, so I think I'll read it, as well.

Abagail Adams may have been a wonderful and supportive wife to her husband, but she was a domineering and demanding mother to her son. Because she and, to a lessor extent, father John "relentlessly spelled out his duties, reprimanded him when he failed to live up to them, and corrected every move he made that seemed to contradict their expectations of him, it is not surprising that he developed into a very introverted, self-critical individual of enormous pride and low personal esteem who suffered periodic and deep mental depressions." (pg 3) Abagail forced him, at age 7, to watch the battle of Bunker Hill where men he knew were being wounded and killed, so that he would gain an understanding of the price of freedom. She harrangued him about his slovenliness and work ethic her entire life and was furious when he neglected to answer her letters. To say nothing about her reactions to the woman he fell in love with and the one he married (unfortunately for him, not the same woman). I don't want to give the impression that this is a Mommy, Dearest type of book. I was just struck by this other side of the same Abagail Adams that we've come to hold in such high esteem.

JQA was a gifted diplomat, but not a natural politician. His election to the presidency in 1824 was full of controversy (he did not receive the majority of electoral votes and was elected by the House of Representatives). Andrew Jackson, who did receive the most votes, was bitter and his supporters began campaigning for the next election immediately. This resulted in Adams' presidency being sabatoged at every turn by Jacksonians. The 1828 election was as dirty as any we've become accustomed to in modern times (including allegations of sexual misconduct). Adams was so bitter towards Jackson by the time of that man's inauguration in March 1829 that he refused to attend, joining his father as the only two outgoing presidents to boycott their successor's inaugural ceremony.

His subsequent career in the US House of Representatives was when he finally gained a measure of respect as a statesman. He was very outspoken against slavery at every opportunity, and argued the Amistad case in front of the supreme court during this time. He collapsed and died in the Capitol in 1848, at age 80.

As I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised by this little book. I thought Remini did a wonderful job of bringing JQA to life, and out from under his father's shadow. Evidently, Adams was the first president who stated that government has a responsibility to improve conditions for its citizens. He was in favor of the central government building and improving roads, highways, bridges, and canals; providing a national university; funding scientific research; and establishing standard weights and measures. Unfortunately, the Jacksonians ridiculed and derailed any new plan put forth by Adams during his administration, so he was unable to accomplish any of this. I gave this book 4 stars and am looking forward to the Nagel book and learning more about this overlooked president.

Mar 8, 2009, 5:51 pm

What a great review, dang, I still have to finish Madison and Monroe before I get to JQA. Now I will be looking forward to him.

I just wonder since apparently it has taken a while for JQA to get his due, if Bush2 will end up the same way?

Mar 8, 2009, 6:01 pm

I was thinking exactly the same thing as I read about the troubles that Adams2 had in office!

Editado: Mar 26, 2009, 11:23 am

I recently received a signed paperback copy of Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams's Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress by Joseph Wheelan, which focuses on his post-presidency role in Congress. I'm only about 65 pages in, but so far is a fun read. It is very very brief in terms of his early life and his presidency (all of which are covered in those 65 pages), but I am looking forward to the attention focused on his later life.

Mar 26, 2009, 5:30 pm

I think JQA was one of those presidents whose greatest public service was not in the white house. I was pleasantly surprised by how impressive his entire career was, but it was his time in the Congress which I thought was most compelling. For the first time, he was able to take the stand he wanted to take, without either his parents or political enemies influencing his choices. Looking forward to your comments about the book.

Abr 1, 2009, 8:29 pm

I have read the book about JQA and his congressional career after his Presidency. I found the book very enlughtening and it led me to appreciate him as a man even more. I man above political parties and determined to do right despite the ramifications. I wish we had more politicians like him today. Good book!

Abr 2, 2009, 6:43 pm

Be sure to let us know what the book was, so we can credit you for reading JQA and get the group farther along the quest!

Abr 2, 2009, 8:35 pm

I am sorry, I knew what I was talking about I assumed everyone else did too. The book is Mr. Adams Last Crusade by Joseph Wheelan.

Abr 23, 2009, 1:22 pm

The Last Crusade book references Remini a number of times as well.

Abr 25, 2009, 4:50 pm

I have finished Mr. Adams' Last Crusade and thoroughly enjoyed it. I posted a perhaps lengthy and high-schoolish review as well. Oh well, not everything can be my finest piece of writing. Apparently I am the first to review this book on LT.


The book also interested me in the Amistad case, and the Mexican-American war. My current extent of knowledge on both these topics is from high school, so I may follow up by pursuing those topics. I enjoyed the personal approach that this book took of those events though - dealing with what JQA thought of van Buren, Jackson, Taylor, and why he felt it important to argue the Amistad case, even though he tried to decline at first.

Abr 26, 2009, 10:30 am

That was a great review. I'm getting ready to start Monroe so I'm glad for a suggestion on JQA.

Abr 26, 2009, 10:52 am

#12 Have you seen the movie "Amistad"? That was the first time I'd ever heard of this case and found it very interesting. I've seen the movie more than once now and think it holds up very well, but not sure how historically accurate it really is. The Remini book I read (msg 3, above) didn't go into any real details about it.

Abr 26, 2009, 6:20 pm

>13 cyderry: Thanks for writing that!

>14 sjmccreary: I haven't seen Amistad, though I recall hearing about it when it came out. At the time I didn't bother with it since friends who had seen it were disappointed by the historical inaccuracies and the Spielberg-ization/ sensationalization of it. Now that I've learned a little about it, I'm intrigued to read more, and am open to seeing the movie, recognizing it may not be 'perfect' (whatever that means).

Joseph Wheelan cites the Remini biography several times, so combined with that and your review I would be interested to read it.

I might also be on the lookout to see if someone has put together and edited compilation of JQA's letters - perhaps both professional and personal - I imagine those would be very interesting to read. I might do some digging.

Abr 27, 2009, 11:26 am

Since Remini was so short, I'm following up with the Nagel biography, but am taking it slow, and I'm only about 1/3 in. Nagel was mentioned several times by Remini. So far, I'm finding it to be very readable. Nothing new or different from Remini yet - just more details. I'll be interested in what he says about Amistad, if anything. He has said, though, that the Adams journal is incredibly extensive, and it sounded like it hasn't all been published yet. Researchers are still required to view microfilm to read all of it. He does mention more than once that much of the journal is tedious - as I suppose it must be. I don't recall him saying anything about the letters, other than to mention here and there that a particular letter didn't survive. Wheelan looks interesting, but I think I'll give it a pass - right now I'm not feeling the need to read more about JQA after this one. I need to pick up the pace if I have any hope of finishing the challenge before Obama leaves office!

Maio 2, 2009, 2:26 am

I did a tagmash search and came up with John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire, which I found in my university library and received via interlibrary loan on Thursday. It's from 1965 and the price on the cover is listed as $2.25 (How nice would it be if that price was still typical!). I have reviewed the book as well.

I also requested the Remini and Nagel biographies, but they have not arrived at my local library yet. Will let you know once I've gotten to them.

Editado: Maio 4, 2009, 10:14 pm

I have finished John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire: Letters, speeches, and papers, edited by Walter Lafeber.

The review is here: http://tinyurl.com/djwqz3

The bibliography notes that JQA's memoirs, as edited by his son Charles Francis, amounts to 12 volumes! Allen Nevins edited this down to one volume (1929, 1951). That might be interesting. Also, William Seward, later Secretary of State under Lincoln, wrote a tribute to his mentor, Life and public services of John Quincy Adams (Auburn, New York, 1850). http://tinyurl.com/czxx98

The Remini and Nagel biographies arrived at my local library and I picked them up today. I will try to read them as I have time.

Maio 4, 2009, 10:04 pm

#18 I'll be watching for your comments. I'm about half through the Nagel, but need to make a push because it is due back in about 10 days - all out of renewals, I'm afraid.

Maio 7, 2009, 11:00 pm

Another one that is mentioned by both Remini and Nagel, and also Joseph Wheelan is Samuel Flagg Bemis's 1949 John Quincy Adams and the foundation of American foreign policy. Apparently, according to LT, it won a Pulitzer in 1950. I may try to take a look at that one as well, though we'll see. I'm about half way through the Remini, and will post a review when finished.

For me, two things got interested in learning more about JQA. Specifically David McCullough's John Adams descriptions made me think of what an interesting life JQA must have had growing up, and got me wondering what sort of person he was. More generally, I become fascinated by the lesser well known, the secondary characters of history, if you will. I am curious about why they get left in the proverbial historical dust, given an opportunity to serve in the same office as great leaders. Also, I wonder about their accomplishments and their weaknesses, and figure there's always time for a reassessment and potentially (partial?) validation. Lesser well known figures seem in some way more approachable to me, and often offer as many intriguing tidbits and stories.

Maio 10, 2009, 5:54 am

Well, I finished John Quincy Adams by Robert Remini tonight. Sjmccreary did a great job summarizing the facts and general gist of the book, so I'm just going to jump in with my comments and slightly different perspective.

Though it's pretty short (only 155 pages), I had a harder time getting into it and felt that the 2nd half (presidential years onwards) went much quicker. Overall it pretty much tried to stick to the facts and there wasn't any overarching thesis or angle that Remini was trying to view JQA's life through, but commentary was sprinkled throughout. Overall, I thought the writing was a bit dry, and at times didn't fully explore topics brought up, but perhaps that is due to the commitment to keeping the length down, which was a stated goal upfront. Remini does, however, go into details about both presidential elections (the one JQA won and the one JQA lost), with all sorts of fun mud slinging snippet and does a good job at explaining the rise and shifts in political parties towards the end of the Era of Good Feelings: the attrition of the Federalist party, the split of the Republicans into Democratic Republicans (Democrats) and National Republicans, and the rise of the Whig party - I had always had difficulty keeping the nuances straight in school and Remini was able to succicntly clarify these for me. Throughout most of the book the analysis was kept to short comments, often somewhat snarky one sentence remarks that repeated a particular quotation with a tone of indignation, bemusement, or sarcasm. Remini comes down a bit hard on both Abigail and Louisa, only mentioning how JQA's mother nagged and reproached JQA and how Louisa hated living in Russia and Washington. Remini further rates JQA as an abysmal father, completing the familial cycle of impossible expectations. Another commentary was that Remini portrayed JQA's fight for the right to petition and his haranguement of slavery (post-presidentially) essentially as revenge against Jackson and his followers and self-vindication, rather than actually carrying the cause. Remini notes that JQA did not pick up the torch for other contemporary causes of similar nature, nor particularly fight for women's rights etc and his description of the Amistad case was an afterthought. At the end, Remini states that JQA is only starting to receive his due as public servant but that still regularly polls as a 'below average' president. On the whole, I got the sense that Remini was trying to be neutral and occasionally slipped, which may be understandable given that he is apparently known as a Jacksonian scholar, and has published widely on Jackson.

Remini relied heavily on the Nagel and the Bemis biographies, perhaps even more so than JQA's own diary. At times I felt that I was practically reading Bemis' work considering the number of times he was quoted for his characterizations of the events. I have the Nagel biography from the library, so I'll be reading that, and depending on how JQA'd out I feel, I may go for the Bemis one as well - so far all the books I've read have relied on that as a reference, it apparently won a Pulitzer, so it may be worth a shot.

Maio 11, 2009, 12:30 am

#21 Thanks for filling in the holes I left in my comments about Remini's book. You've done an excellent job describing what this book was really like.

I was shocked by the description of Abigail, but so far, the Nagel book hasn't said anything about her that contradicts Remini. Same with Louisa.

I think I have been more fascinated by JQA than any of the other presidents so far. Maybe because we tend to know so little about him outside of his relationship to his father. At least my education didn't convey anything other than that.

Maio 20, 2009, 6:13 pm

Noted Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald passed away the other day. It was said that, at the time of his death, he was working on a "character study" of JQA. I wonder how close he was to finishing it.

After reading so much about JQA in the McCullough book on John Adams, I am looking forward to reading more about JQA.

Jun 17, 2009, 7:23 pm

I finished up Nagel's John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life this evening. Here are my thoughts:

I want to be John Quincy Adams when I grow up. He was a curmudgeon, plain and simple, and I've always aspired to be one. At least, that's been his reputation - not wholly undeserved. Nagel's portrait of him in Johns Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life, shows that there's much more to the man than his reputation for snarkiness and a failed presidency.

Nagel had the advantage of access to all of JQA's extensive diaries and private writings, which if the introduction is accurate, hadn't been fully available before. The picture that comes out of this extra material is of a man that had a love of fine living and a deep desire or a life of literature and learning, a husband devoted to his wife and agonizing over his family, and a son that had a seriously rocky relationship with his parents yet managed to make them proud. What really hit home for me was how much of his later life was driven by the very high expectations John and Abigail Adams had for him and the early push into a public life that he really didn't want. One wonders what JQA would have been like if he had been freer to pursue his own way.

Nagel doesn't spend a lot of time talking about historical events or the political issues that characterized JQA's career. Instead, the book is more about his relationships and his internal life as seen through his diaries. So in the end, I was left more with a sense of who he was rather than a recitation of the events of his life, which was what I was looking for. There's an obvious comparison here to David McCullough's John Adams, concerning JQA's father and mother. Frankly, Nagel doesn't have nearly the high opinion of them that McCullough does - Abigail in particular suffers from fairly severe criticism. I suspect the real truth is somewhere between the extremes in the two books, but Nagel's picture is at least partly correct, I think.

Recommended as a good biography of an often neglected figure in American history.

Jun 19, 2009, 9:16 am

Great review, DrNeutron!

Ago 5, 2009, 6:50 am

J.Q. tweets! Beginning today John Quincy Adams will be tweeting from beyond with the help of the Massachusetts Historical Society. This was inspired by a high school student who noticed that his diary entries were much like tweets. With the anniversary of his journey to Russia his tweets will show his daily activities. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/08/john-quincy-adams-twitter-twe...

Ago 6, 2009, 8:09 am

> 26 Just adding a tip of the hat to LT's own jbd1, who's the driving force behind this. The press, unable to find Mr Adams, has apparently been mobbing him instead.

Editado: Ago 6, 2009, 5:37 pm

Author : Paul Nagel
Read : June 28 - Aug 6
Category : US Presidents, Histories, Biographies
Pages : 420

I have to admit that I knew hardly anything about John Quincy Adams (JQA) before I read this book. All I knew was that he was the 6th President of the United States and the son of John Adams, the 2nd President. I can no longer say that. This book was absolutely tremendous in telling the reader about the man, statesman, politician, son, husband, father, grandfather.
I won't try to convey all the information that Paul Nagel, the author, tries to give the reader. It would be impossible. What I will tell you is that this book tells you the history of man, who was brilliant, strove for perfection in himself, was ambitious yet scholarly and poetic, who wanted only the best for the nation that his father helped to birth.
What I will you is that there were so many moments in history that he touched and was part of and never received the credit that I think he deserved if what is in this book is true. I say that because most of the book is based on JQA's papers, journals, etc. and could be biased.
Did you know that he was part of the commission that handled the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, or that he headed the diplomatic corps that negotiated the treaty that ended the War of 1812? Did you know that he was Secretary of State at the time that Monroe Doctrine was issued (I believe he was the one that put the bug in Monroe's ear)?
All this said, I don't believe that he was meant to be President. Not that he wasn't qualified, he didn't have the temperament for the political side of the job and the manner of his election ( through the House of Representatives) didn't make it easier. After he was defeated for reelection by Andrew Jackson, he went on to a brilliant career in the House and was responsible for the protection of the Smithson bequest to the United States which we now have as the Smithsonian Institute.

As for the book, it was tremendously informative but it got weighed down by too many excerpts from his journal and sometimes there was too much detail. All in all,, I'd read it again if I knew nothing about the man, but now I think, I may know too much.

Ago 6, 2009, 7:26 pm

#26, I signed up as a JQA follower. I go to twitter about once a month, if that, but will probably look more often now, to read JQA's tweets.

Cheli, I never knew about JQA's connection to the Smithsonian.

Ago 6, 2009, 8:18 pm

I didn't either.

Ago 7, 2009, 12:31 am

cheli, thanks for your review of Nagel's book. I had gotten it out of the library, but never really had a chance to start it before it was due. your review encourages me to get it back out again as soon as i can get the chance.

also, i happened to find a copy of Bemis' biography John Quincy Adams and the foundations of American Foreign Policy in the outdoor sale shelves at The Strand when I was in NYC earlier this summer for $1. I picked it up and am excited to get to it, but it too is on the back burner at the moment. the intro suggests that it focuses on his life as a diplomat and statesman and leading up to his presidency, but as I haven't started reading the book seriously yet, I'll wait to discuss it further.

Ago 7, 2009, 6:17 am

I may have to sign up for Twitter, just to stay in touch with JQA. I've always considered him underrated, so maybe now is the time to look into this tweet tweet stuff.

Ago 7, 2009, 8:50 pm

Twittering article on the front page of MSN! Congrats!

Editado: Set 6, 2009, 10:38 pm

The book I read was: John Quincy Adams "Old Man Eloquent" by Bennett Champ Clark.
This book does not have the large number of pages at the back carrying quote notes, etc. It does have a bibliography and an index, but 418 of the 437 pages are all story - and what a story!
From all the reading I have done, JQA continues to be the President I admire most. It is a great pity that his supporters so angered Andrew Jackson supporters that the enmity surrounding his presidency precluded his achieving as much as the nation's Chief Executive as he did in his years of service either side of that position. The political machinations during the election of 1824 were so much uglier and dishonest than they are today. Had the modern-day, artful communications networks been available to him back then, he may have been able to correct, or at least adjust, opponent-spread misinformation in time for voting day. I find myself wondering what might have been subsequently achieved had he been able to have Mr. Jackson as his vice-presidential running mate as he had originally desired.
For all that, this nation is better for his having lived, learned and served in the manner he did. At 14 years of age he was secretary to the fledgling country's Delegation to Russia. As Mr. Monroe's Secretary of State he was the power thinker behind the Monroe doctrine and the successful negotiator with Britain and Spain enabling the subsequent annexation of the Pacific Northwest. As Massachussetts' congressman he championed the Abolitionists rights of petition and struggled for the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. As "Old Man Eloquent" he went to the defence of the "Amistad" africans who had been accused of murder and piracy on the high seas after being illegally stolen from their land of birth by slavers - his argument on the grounds of public policy and moral law probably did not influence the judgment, which is reputed to have been made on purely legal contentions, but it sure got the attention of Americans.
The author of this book was elected to the senate during the year of it's publication, 1932, and he was the son of Champ Clark, Speaker of the House from 1911-1919.

Nov 15, 2009, 6:06 pm

I just finished John Quincy Adams by Robert V. Remini. Reading it immediately after the book on James Monroe really helped me digest the information. The author is probably the first person I have read who did not like Abigail Adams at all and at times I thought he went a bit overboard in his critique. Still it was interesting to get a different view of her. There were so many things I did not realize about JQA until this book. I didn't know he went on to be a Congressman or that he was involved with Amistad. While he was a horrible politician, I admire his desire to do the right thing. Instead of giving people jobs because it was the politically right thing to do, he kept people in positions because they were the most qualified even when it turned out they were working against him. Not many people could do that. I would recommend this book for an interesting look at what turned out to be a very intelligent self-aware man.

Editado: Nov 15, 2009, 6:49 pm

"he went on to be a Congressman;" . . . .
"horrible politician..." (#35)

Yes, he went to Congress (when JQA started in politics the House even had more prestige than the Senate. Today itʻs different, and hard to imagine an ex-president going into Congress.)

There is his career as Sec. of State, too. Some historians believe the "Monroe Doctrine" should be called the "Adams Doctrine, because JQA worked out most of it. He was also the only president who was a strong supporter of having a National University.

I didnʻt know about a historian disliking Abigail Adams (you were saying it was Remini, not Adams himself who disliked her?) I know Adams seemed, in his diary, to have a visceral dislike for Democratic politician Martin Van Buren, going beyond the dislike you might expect him to have for Democrat leader Andrew Jacksonʻs main man. ( Van Buren, too, was later a Sec. of State.) Iʻm from Adamsʻs home state, but I admire Van Buren, who certainly had his faults, much more than Adams. More than anyone, except possibly Jefferson, Van Buren deserves the credit for making the Democrats a national, not just a Southern regional party. The "National Democrats", of whom Adams was one, at the time were developing into the short-lived, but national, Whig Party. If JQA had been able to work in what they now call a ʻBi-partisan" way with M v B, his career might have been much more successful.

The "Adams family" mini-series shown on TV decades ago had two very poignant scenes: at the end of one episode, a very upbeat Henry Clay (W, KY) is shown lobbying in the House for Adams voters after a standoff with Jackson (D, TN) in the Electoral College --and successfully, givine Adams his one-term presidency. Near the end, a gaunt, crestfallen Clay is shown offering his condolences to Adamsʻs relatives, after JQAʻs sudden death on the floor of the House. Adamsʻs last words are said to have been, "This is the end of earth; I am content." The series also implied that Adams didnʻt want to be president but accepted the presidency as a sort of duty. He assures his daughter, after being elected, that he "wouldnʻt even want it any other way". Then he is shown staring glumly out the window on a depressing, rainy day. I think this goes a little too farin support of the legend of his being UN-political.

To my mind, he was a flawed politician, but not a "horrible" one.

Nov 15, 2009, 11:09 pm

We surprises me is that with our reading of 5 different bios of JQA we all seem to have the same impressions.

Nov 16, 2009, 12:18 pm

I wonder if we will maintain the same impressions of JQA we have now when we read more on Jackson and Van Buren, and/or if our impressions will remain similar to each other at that point..

Jackson is a controversial figure - even today in some ways I suppose - I wonder how our reading of him pro/con/mixed will influence our thinking on JQA

Editado: Dez 10, 2009, 9:46 am

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul Nagel

Adams, our 6th President, is more well-known for his lengthy post-presidential career as a Congressman, where he fought slavery, the addition of Texas to the Union, and the Mexican-American War. As a youthful aide to his father, John Adams, he lived and traveled widely in Europe and Russia, preparing himself for a long career as a diplomat before he became Secretary of State and then President. His presidency was a bust. He was a lifelong depressive who kept an almost daily journal for most of his adult life. The diaries served as much of the basis for this biography and reflect the deep loathing he had for what he considered a wasted life. Tortured as he was, though, he finally found some satisfaction in turning his education, experience and considerable skills at oratory to the task of infuriating and frustrating his political opponents, often on the floor of the House, where he collapsed in 1848 (he died 2 days later).

The book can be tiring at times, with the many repetitions of Adams' self-doubt. Also, the book seems to put as much emphasis on any one time in his life than on any other, which gives it a rather odd rhythm. There is little independent examination of the important events in his life, which would have been welcome. Still, having finished the book, I have to say it gave me an unexpected appreciation for its subject.

ETA: Like other readers, I found Nagel's treatment of Abigail Adams quite a different approach from that of McCullough in John Adams. She does seem to have been a tough person to please, to put it mildly. This was a woman who should have been given a career to keep her brain occupied and herself away from motherhood.

Why Louisa Adams married JQA is a mystery to me. Even she admitted being married to him for 50 years was one of the reasons she was so worn out near the end of her life. He sounds as though he was absolutely impossible to live with. And, reading so many excerpts from his diary made me think hard about how deadly it might be to one's future reputation to keep a journal.

Dez 15, 2009, 9:24 pm

I finished up John Quincy Adams this evening. I read both John Quincy Adams by Paul Nagel and John Quincy Adams: Presidents Series by Robert Remini. I really enjoyed both books. Of course, the Nagel book was much longer and delved a lot more in to JQA's personal life. Still I learned something from each book.

Through a good bit of the Nagel book, I was not sure how I felt about JQA. The impression I had was that he was a spoiled, privileged kid. He was always trying to figure out how not to work for a living. All he wanted to do was work on his hobbies. His solution was to become a diplomat and politician and live off government dollars. It did not make him rich but it sure gave him time to pursue his other interests.

By the end of the book, my opinion of him had softened; so much personal tragedy and inner turmoil. I finish JQA up thinking of him not as a great President but as a great American.

I am interested in reading some of his work so I have downloaded some of his writing from Google Books.

Dez 18, 2009, 10:58 pm

Isn't interesting that for a lesser known president how much we are driven to find out more after reading about him?

Dez 27, 2009, 2:34 pm

despite his presidency, there was a lot to him, and he was a 'deep' sort of character. since he was such a profilic writer, there's lots of angles to look at him from.

Jan 2, 2010, 12:21 am

I hope to finish up on James Monroe this weekend and then move on to JQA. I'm planning the Remini book as my basic book and then the Joseph Wheelan book on JQA's post-presidency, Mr. Adams's Last Crusade.

To ease into Andrew Jackson, I am also hoping to read Lynn Parson's book The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. I like to read books on elections to transition to the next election.

Jan 17, 2010, 8:22 pm

John Quincy Adams by Robert V. Remini

Sandy's review, back in message 3, summarizes this book far better than I can but here's a little something.

Before I read this brief bio of President John Quincy Adams (from the American Presidents series), I knew very little about JQA. I read David McCullough's John Adams book last year so I knew of him in connection with his parents but not much more.

To best sum up: not a very good president but one who had a great post-presidency.

Remini certainly didn't think much of how JQA was raised, with constant criticism of John and Abigail Adams' childraising. The focus, rightly, is on JQA's presidency with quite a bit about his time afterwards. For my reading about the presidents, this represents a big step forward for me, into a new historical period.

This book makes me want to read more about JQA. For its size, it's a very good bio.

Mar 29, 2010, 9:16 am

Here's a review from yesterday's NYT, Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O'Brien. It's about her journey from St. Petersburg to Paris to join him in the winter of 1809. Looks interesting. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/books/review/Schiff-t.html?ref=books

Abr 8, 2010, 4:27 pm

Does look interesting, but somewhat of a critical review, no?

Abr 8, 2010, 5:10 pm

Yes, but I remain undeterred. My curiosity is up about it as I've been receiving daily tweets from Mr. Adams diary from his time as ambassador through the good offices of some well-meaning historical organization whose name escapes me at the moment.

Maio 7, 2010, 2:58 pm

I read John Quincy Adams: American Statesmen Series by John T. Morse, Jr as a Project Gutenberg ebook, in the Kindle format. I finished it on 2-3-2010.

It can be downloaded from:

http://manybooks.net/titles/morsej2018320183-8.html (for Kindle format)



Bill Masom

Maio 18, 2010, 11:14 pm

I've read two JQA books and am about to finish the third. There's a lot more to him than I ever expected but I will be glad to move on to Andrew Jackson.

John Quincy Adams by Robert V. Remini provided a good overview.

The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828 by Lynn Parsons provided a lot of insight into the 1828 election and is a good lead-in for Andrew Jackson.

Finally, almost finished with Mr. Adams's Last Crusade by Joseph Wheelan. Extraordinary post-presidential life indeed. I had no idea.

Jul 21, 2010, 11:01 am

Remini's work isn't bad. It's a good overview, which is the most you can hope for with books as short as the American Presidents Series is. I read them before I read more thorough works, and to mark them for use in high school teaching.

Wheelan's work is excellent. Very entertaining. Not super thorough, but enough to get you to understand JQA.

The Presidency of John Quincy Adams by Mary W. M Hargreaves is one of those books that makes you wonder how some historians got through school with such horrendous writing skill. The book is over 300 pages long and is ONLY about the presidency. The writing is detail heavy, dense, and poorly organized. It reads like an encyclopedia. Definitely a low light in an otherwise GREAT series.

Jul 22, 2010, 8:23 pm

But did you like JQA himself as a public servant?

Jul 23, 2010, 9:26 am

I did. I empathized with his doomed presidency due to the "corrupt bargain" and the fact that Congress was going to try to stonewall everything that he did. I respect that he tried to be less political, much like his father. His non-Presidential career was extraordinary. He was definitely a prickly man, and he loved to snipe at people in his diary. But it takes all kinds.

Set 6, 2010, 8:13 pm

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel

It's very disturbing, but in my readings of presidential biographies, I find I'm identifying most with the losers. Both John Adams and his son were one term presidents who failed to match the accomplishments of those who preceded and followed them. In the case of John Quincy, he was an accomplished diplomat and served well as Secretary of State. As President, however, he was so hamstrung by political opponents that he was quite ready to hand the office over to Andrew Jackson. Afterwards, he had a notable role in the House of Representatives, finally succumbing to a stroke after one last, stubborn "no" vote. But despite these accomplishments, which would be success enough for us plain folks, he spent much of his life frustrated that he never achieved literary greatness. I could really relate with doing well in one's job yet longing for glory in some other field. Anyway, the book. The book is quite good, check it out. Thanks to Adams' extensive diary, Mr. Nagel is able to offer a rather complete picture of JQA from his political activities to some rather intimate correspondence with his wife. (No details, just a few comments to stimulate the marital desires.) In regards to American history, JQA's life abroad offers less insight into Revolutionary America, but does offer a picture into the developing conflict over slavery. I also found an interesting view of the political parties of early America, as JQA experienced life as a Federalist who became a Republican who then sided with the Whigs. It wasn't that the man himself was so flighty, but rather the parties themselves embraced or failed to embrace the issues for which he stood. All in all, John Quincy Adams was an interesting man, one well worth reading about.

Editado: Dez 19, 2010, 1:03 am

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel

Many have already this book, but I did enjoy it. Nagel decides to only have one chapter dedicated to his presidency (and he gives his reason why)-that probably best explains the JQ presidency. Failure as a President is probably too strong of a word, sounded like he was hamstrung by the "corrupt bargain" that he was accused of after he won the highly contested election.

The book was definitely more focused on JQA as a person and not so much of the political parts of his life.

What I love is that JQA after being Sec. of State, President, House member, etc...was still worried about his legacy. Also I love the little stories in the book about how different the life of politician to what it is now (though sometimes things stay the same)-I like the story of the drifter who ended up in the White House banging on Andrew Jackson's bedroom door in the middle of the night before anybody stopped him.

and finally, I want to make some John Quincy Adams "lemonade": Add to a gallon of water: a bottle of Jamaican rum, a bottle of cognac, a bottle of champagne, and a pound of sugar. Oh and it suggests a pint of lemon juice.

Dez 19, 2010, 5:57 pm

What is sad is that JQA had every right to worry for his legacy. Almost no Americans can remember him and those who can identify him know almost nothing about him.

Dez 20, 2010, 9:09 am

He remains the President I would most like to "have over" for dinner and conversation.

Dez 20, 2010, 10:18 am

Yeah but I'd rather go to a bar with Jack Kennedy LOL

Dez 21, 2010, 7:12 am

Catholic tastes, huh?

Dez 21, 2010, 6:08 pm

I'm sure me and Jack would have a fascinating conversation, I would be awed by his intellect and wit, and then he would leave with a beautiful blonde on his arm and I would realize a few minutes later that he left me with the tab! Still, I would gladly pick up the tab for that opportunity.

Dez 22, 2010, 7:46 am

Yep. I think almost all of these guys would be interesting to talk with. At least each had a issue of his times that would be fascinating to dissect in hindsight. Our man JQA had a lot of them as I read him. I was especially interested in his life efforts after his Presidency. The biographer I read made no indication of a blonde in his life - I wonder. It seems that a lot of our chief executives had someone like that in a closet somewhere. Jack's just managed to be downright gorgeous and out there for us all to see. I agree that his intellect would have been awesome but then so would several of the others: Presidents Clinton, Obama, Madison, Lincoln, Hoover, Jefferson, Polk, Wilson and, in my opinion, JQA.
Merry Christmas everybody.

Dez 24, 2010, 1:39 am

On 57, 58, 60, 61:

Two presidents that I very much admire, but whom I canʻt imagine having an interesting conversation with are:
F D R and J F K. (Itʻs not that I would expect to have
many disagreements with them.)

I would expect to be very interesting conversationalists:
Adams, Jefferson, J Q A, Van Buren#, Polk* Lincoln, Garfield (the only president who was, academically, in "the same field" with me: Classics),
Wilson*, Truman, Carter, Obama.
Probable dullest: The two Harrisons, McKinley (still a good chance of a fight), Harding, Coolidge and Bush I (despite the
fact of our being of similar ethnic and geographic backgorund, in the case of these last 2. And despite the fact that I think Bush I
had perhaps the most interesting overall career (mainly pre-presidential) of any president.

Presidents I have actually seen, other than on television:
Eisenhower, Ford, and Bush I -- and the latter I didnʻt know I
was seeing him --when he was playing college baseball in 1947.

Presidents I have voted for (1952 -- 2008): Kennedy, Carter, Clinton(2 x), Obama. Also had the winner of the pop;ular vote, Gore, in 2000. (As you can see, I usually "have" the loser.)

# Likely the most interesting if the conversation stuck strictly to politics, national, state, and local. Like HST, he really "liked" Politics.
*Also among the most likely to have the confab degenerate into a into a fight.

Dez 24, 2010, 3:22 pm

So Roland, why do you think you wouldn't have an interesting conversation with FDR or JFK?

btw, kudos for not voting for Reagan in '80, despite Carter's shortcomings ...

Dez 24, 2010, 4:18 pm

On 62-63:

No very rational reason for suspecting that JFk and I or FDR and I
would not be interested in each otherʻs conversation.

Itʻs just an impression, and more the likelihood that I would bore them than that they would bore me. JFK and I both have an Irish background,and went to Harvard, but have little else in common.
Iʻm half-Irish, whereas Kennedy is depicted* usually as pure Irish.
And Iʻm working class, whereas the Kennedys and a few other Irish families lived in a completely different world from ours. The two presidential conversationalists were borderline intellectuals, whereas Iʻm so deeply into intellectualism that, if
any deeper, I would be coming out the other side. (FDR, in conservative folklore is even called an "intellectual lightweight", but i donʻt agree with that.

As for drinking
a beer with JFK, if alcohol is going to be a part of it, I relate more
to alcoholics and total abstainers than to social drinkers.

*JFK did say, during the 1960 campaign that he was "probably" part Italian, descended from an Italian family named Ghirardini,
on his motherʻs side. There are obvious reasons, if you know Masssachusetts politics and demography for wanting to be part-Italian. But, generally, on the mainland, claiming ethnic ancestry on the MOTHERʻs side is almost a joke. --because if itʻs without having the ethnic surname, itʻs considered ridiculous.

Ago 29, 2011, 8:08 pm

I read John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life. Besides John Adams it has been the most enjoyable biography so far. Learned so much about a man who is usually known for being the first son of a president to be president along with his contributions to the Monroe Doctrine. In this book I found a incredibly conflicted man, a man who sought to be popular and loved but at the same time did not want to be seen as vain. Additionally, there was a man who yearned to be an independent, self-made man but also had to live up to the Adams name and support his family. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can really appreciate who he became in later life: a crotchety old man who wanted to make life hell for his opponents in the House.

Nov 10, 2011, 11:23 pm

I finished John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel. Although it spent very little time on his presidential years, those seemed to be the most useless part of his life. An interesting personality came through, and even when I felt I would never finish with it, I still enjoyed the ride. Good choice.

Set 2, 2012, 5:20 pm

I just pre-ordered the Harlan Unger bio of JQA....I really enjoyed his bio of Monroe so I figured I'd give this one a try- it will land on my NOOK later this week and I'll keep everyone posted.

Editado: Jan 26, 2014, 8:40 am

I finished John Quincy Adams by Lynn Hudson Parsons in December and really enjoyed it. I will look for other books in the American Profile series.

Jan 29, 2014, 10:31 pm

Trying to catch up, been reading but not recording. Read John Quincy Adams by Harlow Unger. Lots of interesting things I didn't know about him. A true statesman to his dying days. He served his country as president and then served until his death in Congress. His fellow politicians respected him as well as the people of the country.