Fred Kaplan, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Lincoln, returns with John Quincy Adams, an illuminating biography of one of the most overlooked presidents in American history—a leader of sweeping perspective whose progressive values helped shape the course of the nation.
In this fresh and lively biography rich in literary analysis and new historical detail, Fred Kaplan brings into focus the dramatic life of John Quincy Adams—the little known and much misunderstood sixth president of the United States and the first son of John and Abigail Adams—and persuasively demonstrates how Adams's inspiring, progressive vision guided his life and helped shape the course of America.
Kaplan draws on a trove of unpublished archival material to trace Adams's evolution from his childhood during the Revolutionary War to his brilliant years as Secretary of State to his time in the White House and beyond. He examines Adams's myriad sides: the public and private man, the statesman and writer, the wise thinker and passionate advocate, the leading abolitionist and fervent federalist who believed strongly in both individual liberty and the government's role as an engine of progress and prosperity. In these ways—and in his energy, empathy, sharp intellect, and powerful gift with words both spoken and written—he was a predecessor of Lincoln and, later, FDR and Obama. Indeed, this sweeping biography makes clear how Adams's forward-thinking values, his definition of leadership, and his vision for the nation's future is as much about twenty-first century America as it is about Adams's own time.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, John Quincy Adams paints a rich portrait of this brilliant leader and his significance to the nation and our own lives.
Widely considered the nation's greatest secretary of state and its most experienced diplomat, Adams was a member of the House and Senate, President for one term, and one of only two chief executives to return to Congress (the other being Andrew Johnson). Kaplan an experienced biographer of Carlyle, Dickens, Vidal, Twain, and Lincoln follows a long line of Adams biographers trying to capture this complex, difficult, multifaceted figure , and he does well enough: while there's not much new here, Kaplan, unlike most previous Adams biographers, devotes much attention to the man's private life and interests, especially to his poetry, which Adams wrote all his life and to which Kaplan brings unique attention. But what makes Adams of major historical importance remains his unprecedented experience as an American in Europe, his co-authorship of the Monroe Doctrine, and his brilliant late-life battle in the House against slavery. A full-life biography such as this should give those achievements full prominence, something that is lacking here. That said, Kaplan's work is an estimable study of a significant American life and very much up to the level of his earlier books.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This is a very well written and comprehensive review of JQA's life. A perfect addition to the library of anyone trying to read a biography of every President. This book is very sympathetic to the president, which is often the case as writers fall in love with their subjects. Yet, JQA seems worthy of this inevitable bias. This book is long but well worth the effort.