Best Books About John Quincy Adams
Note: This page is still under construction. All links underlined in blue work as stated. Links in Black link to Amazon page with titles to multiple books on this President
February 21, 1848, the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.: Congressman John Quincy Adams, rising to speak, suddenly collapses at his desk; two days later, he dies in the Speaker’s chamber. The public mourning that followed, writes Paul C. Nagel, “exceeded anything previously seen in America.” Forgotten was his failed presidency and his often cold demeanor. It was the memory of an extraordinary human being–one who in his last years had fought heroically for the right of petition and against a war to expand slavery–that drew a grateful people to salute his coffin in the Capitol and to stand by the railroad tracks as his bier was transported from Washington to Boston. Nagel probes deeply into the psyche of this cantankerous, misanthropic, erudite, hardworking son of a former president whose remarkable career spanned many offices: minister to Holland, Russia, and England, U.S. senator, secretary of state, president of the United States (1825-1829), and, finally, U.S. representative (the only ex-president to serve in the House). On the basis of a thorough study of Adams’ seventy-year diary, among a host of other documents, the author gives us a richer account than we have yet had of JQA’s life–his passionate marriage to Louisa Johnson, his personal tragedies (two sons lost to alcoholism), his brilliant diplomacy, his recurring depression, his exasperating behavior–and shows us why, in the end, only Abraham Lincoln’s death evoked a greater outpouring of national sorrow in nineteenth-century America. We come to see how much Adams disliked politics and hoped for more from life than high office; how he sought distinction in literary and scientific endeavors, and drew his greatest pleasure from being a poet, critic, translator, essayist, botanist, and professor of oratory at Harvard; how tension between the public and private Adams vexed his life; and how his frustrations kept him masked and aloof (and unpopular). Nagel’s great achievement, in this first biography of America’s sixth president in a quarter century, is finally to portray Adams in all his talent and complexity.
Chosen president by the House of Representatives after an inconclusive election against Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams often failed to mesh with the ethos of his era, pushing unsuccessfully for a strong, consolidated national government. Historian Robert V. Remini recounts how in the years before his presidency Adams was a shrewd, influential diplomat, and later, as a dynamic secretary of state under President James Monroe, he solidified many basic aspects of American foreign policy, including the Monroe Doctrine.
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.
He fought for Washington, served with Lincoln, witnessed Bunker Hill, and sounded the clarion against slavery on the eve of the Civil War. He negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of The Amistad. He served his nation as minister to six countries, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president.
Following his single term as President of the United States (1825–1829), John Quincy Adams, embittered by his loss to Andrew Jackson, boycotted his successor’s inauguration, just as his father John Adams had done (the only two presidents ever to do so). Rather than retire, the sixty-two-year-old former president, U.S. senator, secretary of state, and Harvard professor was elected by his Massachusetts friends and neighbors to the House of Representatives to throw off the “incubus of Jacksonianism.” It was the opening chapter in what was arguably the most remarkable post-presidency in American history.
Richards’ study presents not only a vivid portrait of John Quincy Adams but also provides an insightful exploration of American politics in the 1830s and 40s. Examining one of the few presidents who sustained a political career after his term in the White House, Richards depicts how two years after losing the presidential election to Andrew Jackson, Adams ran for the House of Representatives and served there until his death seventeen years later.
American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook
American Phoenix is the sweeping, riveting tale of a grand historic adventure across forbidding oceans and frozen tundra—from the bustling ports and towering birches of Boston to the remote reaches of pre-Soviet Russia, from an exile in arctic St. Petersburg to resurrection and reunion among the gardens of Paris. Upon these varied landscapes this Adams and his Eve must find a way to transform their banishment into America’s salvation.
Based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny on board the Spanish slave ship, Amistad, here is the frightening sequence of events that led fifty-three young men and women – and one young nation – to seek freedom and justice for all people. Amistad is the story of Cinque, the illegally enslaved son of a Mende chief who led an uprising full of fury and courage. It is also the story of John Quincy Adams, the former American president, who reluctantly heeded the call to justice and defended Cinque in a Supreme Court trial that would alter the nation’s history. And it is the story of men and women searching to find truth and to uphold the basic tenets of the American Constitution. Brilliantly narrated by award-winning novelist Alexs Pate, Amistad celebrates the human spirit’s profound determination to fight, hope, and to be free. Visit the “Amistad” book site! A junior novelization is also available for young adults.
Arguing About Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress by 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 Slaveryendows history with majestic sweep, heroism, and moral weight.
There has never been any doubt that the Adams family was America’s first family in our politics and memory. This research-based and insightful book is a multigenerational biography of that family from the founder father John through the mordant writer Brooks.
This 586 page book is a compilation of the original 12 volumes published between 1874-1877 by Charles Francis Adams. Allan Nevins has been able to select from the “Memoirs” that matter which is most important and of the greatest permanent worth. He” has given emphasis to the material which throws light on the social background of the period, on John Quincy Adams’ character, and on the more dramatic political and diplomatic events of the time. Thus, in 600 pages, he has presented nearly everything from the Diary that the general reader and ordinary student will want.”
The 1828 presidential election, which pitted Major General Andrew Jackson against incumbent John Quincy Adams, has long been hailed as a watershed moment in American political history. It was the contest in which an unlettered, hot-tempered southwestern frontiersman, trumpeted by his supporters as a genuine man of the people, soundly defeated a New England “aristocrat” whose education and political résumé were as impressive as any ever seen in American public life. It was, many historians have argued, the country’s first truly democratic presidential election. It was also the election that opened a Pandora’s box of campaign tactics, including coordinated media, get-out-the-vote efforts, fund-raising, organized rallies, opinion polling, campaign paraphernalia, ethnic voting blocs, “opposition research,” and smear tactics.
This is the story of a man, a treaty, and a nation. The man was John Quincy Adams, regarded by most historians as America’s greatest secretary of state. The treaty was the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, of which Adams was the architect. It acquired Florida for the young United States, secured a western boundary extending to the Pacific, and bolstered the nation’s position internationally. As William Weeks persuasively argues, the document also represented the first determined step in the creation of an American global empire.
John Quincy Adams was the last of his kind—a Puritan from the age of the Founders who despised party and compromise, yet dedicated himself to politics and government. The son of John Adams, he was a brilliant ambassador and secretary of state, a frustrated president at a historic turning point in American politics, and a dedicated congressman who literally died in office—at the age of 80, in the House of Representatives, in the midst of an impassioned political debate.
HENRY ADAMS the founder of the Adams family in America fled from ecclesiastical oppression in England and joined the Colony at a very early period but at what precise time is not recorded.
Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife and political partner of John Quincy Adams, became one of the most widely known women in America when her husband assumed office as sixth president in 1825. Shrewd, intellectual, and articulate, she was close to the center of American power over many decades, and extensive archives reveal her as an unparalleled observer of the politics, personalities, and issues of her day. Louisa left behind a trove of journals, essays, letters, and other writings, yet no biographer has mined these riches until now. Margery Heffron brings Louisa out of the shadows at last to offer the first full and nuanced portrait of an extraordinary first lady.
The ensuing Memoir comprises the most important events in the life of a statesman second to none of his contemporaries in laborious and faithful devotion to the service of his country. The light attempted to be thrown on his course has been derived from personal acquaintance, from his public works, and from authentic unpublished materials. The chief endeavor has been to render him the expositor of his own motives, principles, and character, without fear or favor,—in the spirit neither of criticism or eulogy.
From his vast storehouse of knowledge about the Adams family. Nagelpulls out the feminine threads of that tapestry to write all about the Adams women, from Abigail to daughter Nabby, from Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of John Quincy, to Clover Adams, wife of Henry, with others making more than cameo appearances. They all lived exceptional, if not extraordinary, lives, in different ways.
Historians have not been generous in judging the presidency of John Quincy Adams. Those who have most conspicuously upheld Adams’s fame have, at the same time, virtually ignored his service in the White House. Critics, on the other hand, have described his administration as a failure, founded upon “bargain and corruption” and marked by exclusion of the United States from the British West Indian trade, the ineffectiveness of its efforts to promote strong Pan-American relationships, and the enactment of the “tariff of abominations.” Some analysts have even argued that it generated the sectionalism which terminated the “Era of Good Feelings.”
A patriot by birth, John Quincy Adams’s destiny was foreordained. He was not only “The Greatest Traveler of His Age,” but his country’s most gifted linguist and most experienced diplomat. John Quincy’s world encompassed the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the early and late Napoleonic Age. As his diplomat father’s adolescent clerk and secretary, he met everyone who was anyone in Europe, including America’s own luminaries and founding fathers, Franklin and Jefferson. All this made coming back to America a great challenge. But though he was determined to make his own career he was soon embarked, at Washington’s appointment, on his phenomenal work abroad, as well as on a deeply troubled though loving and enduring marriage. But through all the emotional turmoil, he dedicated his life to serving his country. At 50, he returned to America to serve as Secretary of State to President Monroe. He was inaugurated President in 1824, after which he served as a stirring defender of the slaves of the Amistad rebellion and as a member of the House of Representatives from 1831 until his death in 1848. In The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, Phyllis Lee Levin provides the deeply researched and beautifully written definitive biography of one of the most fascinating and towering early Americans.