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America's First Dynasty : The Adamses, 1735-1918 (2009)

de Richard Brookhiser

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They were America's longest lasting dynasty, the closest thing to a royal family our nation has ever known. The Adamses played a leading role in America's affairs for nearly two centuries -- from John, the self-taught lawyer who rose to the highest office in the government he helped to create; to John Quincy, the child prodigy who followed his father to the White House and fought slavery in Congress; to Charles Francis, the Civil War diplomat; to Henry, the brilliant scholar and journalist. Indeed, the history of the Adams family can be read as the history of America itself. For when the Adamses "looked at their past, they saw the nation's," writes author Richard Brookhiser. "When they looked at the nation's past, they saw themselves." America's First Dynasty charts the family's travels through American history along with an impressive cast of characters, among them George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Brookhiser also details the darker side of the Adams experience, from the specters of alcoholism and suicide to the crushing burden of performance passed on from father to son. Yet by putting a human face on this legendary family, Brookhiser succeeds in creating an impassioned, heroic family portrait that the American public is not likely to forget.… (mais)
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Exibindo 5 de 5
Richard Brookhiser has written biographies of Presidents Madison and Washington, revolutionary statesmen Hamilton and Gouvernor Morris, and most recently a book on Lincoln, but my favorite of his biographies that I have read is America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918. The dates alone, spanning three centuries, suggest the significance of this family on the history of the United States.

The first two of the dynasty, John and his son John Quincy both became President. The father was one of the leaders of the American Revolution while the son was both President and, later, member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts. John's grandson Charles Francis also had a brilliant political career that included a term as Minister to England in the Lincoln Administration. The fourth Adams of this dynasty, John's great grandson Henry Adams, found his greatness in literature both as an academic historian and with the publication of his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, a classic that is read to this day.

Their story begins with John Adams, a self-taught lawyer who rode horseback to meet clients, and ends with Henry Adams in France as World War I begins and he returns to Washington, D. C. This is a well told overview of a family dynasty that more than any other helped make the United States the great nation it is today. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 28, 2015 |
While this is not his first book, nor his first biography of important American politicians, it is decidedly written differently. In a New Englander matter-of-fact tone, with a smattering of don't-take-my-word-for-it and a texture of this-is-the-way-it-was, Mr. Brookhiser writes with an authority from a standpoint of emotional detachment.

Perhaps, realizing Richard Brookhiser was the editor of a premier conservative magazine, he remained arm's length away from the antithesis of the contemporary Bush Dynasty. Brookhiser pulled countless punches; authoring a book that fellow conservatives might label "benign" and liberals would undoubtedly attach as biased.

Rather than a prosy, pseudo-novel styled biography, Brookhiser remains clinical in his approach and spares the reader from delving into unauthorized biography muckraking. For instance he writes: "John Randolph, his power long lost to opium, alcohol, and irresponsibility, but his tongue still bright and gleaming, attacked [Henry] Clay with sparkling malice.... The secretary of state [Clay] challenged him [Randolph] to a duel. Both men missed twice and shook hands." (pg 94) While literarily elegant, he refrains from unnecessary elaboration.

As the perennial disagreement goes, the party name at the genesis of the Democrat Party can be a plethora of monikers; however Brookhiser insists on calling it the Republican Party [First Generation], opting to forgo a more clear delineation between the modern Republican Party and that of the Anti-Federalists. I merely mention this aspect of the book to illustrate his non-partisanship and sticking to historical facts, rather than retooling four Adamses lives to disparage a party.

Incorporating four men's biographies into one work, not a lot of depth is expected. But delightfully, the quartet of men spanning generations from pre-Revolutionary War to the start of World War I is surprisingly comprehensive. I especially enjoyed the sections on the lesser known Adamses, Charles Francis and Henry. ( )
  HistReader | Dec 24, 2012 |
There are a number of books on "dynasty" first familes. Nagel has written more on the Adams family in Adams Women and Descent from Glory. There are an increasing number of books on the Bushes, not all flattering.
  carterchristian1 | Dec 10, 2008 |
Interesting ( )
  Harrod | Nov 29, 2008 |
An excellent discussion of the Adams generations. ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 10, 2006 |
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They were America's longest lasting dynasty, the closest thing to a royal family our nation has ever known. The Adamses played a leading role in America's affairs for nearly two centuries -- from John, the self-taught lawyer who rose to the highest office in the government he helped to create; to John Quincy, the child prodigy who followed his father to the White House and fought slavery in Congress; to Charles Francis, the Civil War diplomat; to Henry, the brilliant scholar and journalist. Indeed, the history of the Adams family can be read as the history of America itself. For when the Adamses "looked at their past, they saw the nation's," writes author Richard Brookhiser. "When they looked at the nation's past, they saw themselves." America's First Dynasty charts the family's travels through American history along with an impressive cast of characters, among them George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Brookhiser also details the darker side of the Adams experience, from the specters of alcoholism and suicide to the crushing burden of performance passed on from father to son. Yet by putting a human face on this legendary family, Brookhiser succeeds in creating an impassioned, heroic family portrait that the American public is not likely to forget.

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