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If the name of John Quincy Adams means anything to readers it is usually that he was an early President of the USA the sixth and that he and his father John Adams Founding Father and second president were the first father and son pair to hold the post until the Bushes almost two centuries later If people remember it s often that he wasn t a very distinguished president, which is true but does the man and his career a great injustice.JQA s life falls into three distinct phases The first was as a brilliant diplomatic career leading to his being appointed Secretary of State by President James Monroe The second was his single term as Monroe s successor in the White House The third was when he was elected to Congress and became not so much an elder statesman as an elderly firebrand, and a thorn in the side of the slavocrats of the South who exerted so much power in US politics at the time The phases are so different, and man at the centre of them so altered, that they are like three different lives.Adams began his diplomatic career assisting his father in his overseas postings trying to secure recognition for the new nation, and quickly showed himself very good at it, so that within a few years he was called to ambassadorial service in his own right His skills, gift for languages, and ability to settle in to other cultures and make friends with their rulers stood him in good stead, and their recognition led to his becoming Secretary of State and a very good one In this first phase of his career Adams secured a network of treaties and trade agreements that was of great use to the USA, including the first international reorganisation of America s rights to a Pacific coast , and the framing of what became the Monroe doctrine.He seemed a natural successor to Monroe but was challenged for the Presidency by Andrew Jackson Adams loathed and despised Jackson and was convinced he was not fit to be the nation s leader, and the way a hard fought and nasty election campaign led to a disputed outcome convinced each side that the other was corrupt Adams started his term in the White House in a very weak position Unfortunately he was not a skilful political operator while Jackson, popular in the country, was backed by a team that was, and by what became America s first party political machine organised along modern lines Adams refusal to play the game , his insistence on standing aloof from political manoeuvres, his accident proneness when he did try, and the Congressional power of his enemies ensured he would serve only one term.Having tried to slip into post Presidential retirement conducting his profession as a lawyer, and finding he really did not like it, JQA readily accepted a suggestion he run for Congress His service in the House was nothing outstanding, however, until he found a cause that set him on fire He did not support slavery, the hot political topic f the time, but neither was he an active abolitionist However when the representatives from the slave states of the South gagged the opposition by securing resolutions that the House would not receive or discuss petitions, motions, submissions etc on the subject he was furious Such a silencing of was anathema to him as a lawyer, an elected representative, and the son of a man who had so prominently devoted his life liberty and the rejection of any sort of tyranny He became an ardent spokesman for those seeking to overturn the gagging motions, a struggle that extended over years before victory was won In the course of this he became fiery, a man who had been an uninspiring public speaker found an eloquent and very sharp tongue, and he became increasingly linked to the anti slavery cause He foresaw that the issue might come to civil war, and one of his addresses on the subject, about the way that the US could not continue indefinitely as a nation while some states practised slavery, prefigures closely the famous later House Divided speech of Abraham Lincoln.There are similarities between the two Adamses, father and son Both were driven by patriotism, public service, and a hatred of injustice, both were undoubtedly brilliant but also difficult, neither was much bothered about developing people skills and playing the political game Perhaps for that reason both served only one term as president, and both have often been denied their just recognition, both in their own time and by posterity The father has been the subject of some very good recent writing and a TV mini series, and while Remini s book is not on the same scale it does a good job of reminding readers why the son deserves recognition. Many notable historical figures who have excelled in other areas of politics and public service have found their reputations whittled to pieces by their election to the office of President of the United States The post has humbled many, especially in its early years George Washington, still ranked among the great presidents, violently divided the fledgling country over the 1795 Jay Treaty John Adams, one of the absolute heroes of the American Revolution, saw his name scandalized and plummet in stature following his divisive single term Even the nearly unassailable Thomas Jefferson found himself ready to flee from Washington after the debacle of the 1807 Embargo Act His gravestone at Monticello, listing his proud accomplishments, completely ignores his presidency James Madison, architect of the Constitution, also seemed to fall short while leading the nation Much later, the agonies of the Great Depression completely flattened the otherwise highly accomplished Herbert Hoover s prestige Many other examples exist of the once mighty fallen after the election cheers subsided Difficult to obtain, the presidency of the United States seems even harder to hold.In the aftermath of the 1824 election, this fate also awaited John Quincy Adams, though he probably couldn t suspect it As the scandals and puerile mudslinging escalated, he would end up serving only a single aggravating term just like his father Nobody should have to argue for the non linearity of the trajectory of success, but if that situation arises, John Quincy Adams provides a nearly perfect example of someone who appeared perfectly situated for the highest imaginable accomplishments, yet ended up defamed and defeated The sixth volume of The American Presidents series tells the somewhat maniacal story of John Quincy Adams hereafter JQA challenging upbringing, his rise to power, the humiliating fall, and his unprecedented later in life second rise to prominence after leaving the White House Many of his life events would permit a Hollywood, or perhaps a PBS, dramatization, not to mention their underlying redemptive themes of gain, loss and regain Scandal also seemed to follow him to the most important places he traveled Since those places tended to dwell in the realm of politics, this really shouldn t surprise anyone.Apart from an opening scene featuring JQA strolling though the Adams family tombstones in 1824, the narrative flows chronologically Pass another century and we shall all be mouldering in the same dust, the self identified gloomy misanthropist reflected as he perused his ancestors graves Most of the old revolutionary heroes had passed away or had passed from public service, but JQA s horrendously domineering mother Abigail took him to the battle of Bunker Hill at age 7 where he witnessed the killing of people he knew Times have definitely changed The pressure on the young JQA seemed beyond intense as Abigail, along with his father, often berated the boy to please not embarrass them or himself They wanted him to become a great man and so scrounged up all of the guilt and dread that their Puritan heritage could muster and dumped it on him The book even calls Abigail a calamity as a mother because she refused to let go Having a well connected father definitely opens up opportunities, because by age 14 JQA traveled with diplomatic missions to both Holland and St Petersburg, the latter to act as a French translator Abigail pummeled him with moralizing letters constantly He even traveled to Paris at the close of the Revolution and became his father s secretary, though he claimed that his father had little to show for his public service.JQA entered Harvard after clearing some academic hurdles and then practiced law as his parents had wished A group of 1791 essays brought him to the attention of elite conservatives and his reputation began to spread His father, now Vice President, appointed him as minister to the Netherlands in 1794, which led to London, Lisbon and Prussia Along the way he met and married Louisa, who Abigail initially referred to as the Siren The election of 1800 of course changed everything and JQA returned to the US He obtained a Senate seat and mostly aligned politically with the Federalists, but he continued to alienate them with his actions to the point where some referred to him as Judas His attendance at the 1808 Republican Convention proved too much, but now he had amassed strong Republican allies He sympathized with manifest destiny and President Madison sent him to Russia and then London for diplomatic duty President Monroe appointed him Secretary of State, which JQA accepted in 1817 The book considers JQA arguably the greatest ever to hold that office That particular post also served as a launching pad to the Presidency, which almost didn t happen for JQA Perhaps, in retrospect, it shouldn t have.After serving an almost legendary term as Secretary of State, which included drafting the Monroe Doctrine, adding Florida to the Union and expanding the US as a world power, the election of 1824 arrived The formidable Andrew Jackson, whose questionable tactics in Florida JQA had publicly defended, declared his candidacy As usual, deals were struck, much mud flew and Jackson ended up receiving the most votes, but not enough for a majority JQA came in second The election went to the House to decide Henry Clay, who also ran for the Presidency, served as House Speaker so he could essentially dictate the next President, though by this time he was out of the running Clay didn t want to give the office to Jackson, who he saw as an unqualified military hothead, so he struck a deal, apparently still a mystery, and elected JQA as President When JQA appointed Clay as Secretary of State Jackson s supporters cried scandal and condemned the corrupt bargain They didn t stop hounding the administration until the election of 1828 Their interminable fulminations successfully blocked most of what JQA hoped to accomplish, not that JQA needed much help with blocking his own initiatives.JQA appointed positions based on merit rather than loyalty, so he kept many people who actively worked against him in office This shocked everyone His proposed improvements, including an astrological observatory and a national university, alienated Congress for their exorbitant cost and dubious constitutionality Many saw them as power grabs, especially the sweeping new Department of the Interior As the polarization intensified, the Democratic party formed around Jackson and lobbied for Jeffersonian style limited government and a strict economy Gradually they eroded away any support the doomed JQA administration had established Accusations of royal extravagance, similar to what his father had endured, echoed in the press Creek Indians in Georgia also proved too much for JQA to handle, so he passed the matter to Congress They struck various treaties that tried to compensate the Creeks for their lands, but Georgians refused all of them and took the land anyway The Creeks ended up ceding most of their land, but Jackson promised to remove them altogether, so Georgia rallied around Jackson with cries of 1828 JQA, never sympathetic to indigenous people, nevertheless found their treatment deplorable Resistance mounting, he considered his public career over His stubborn preference for integrity over politicking, though morally admirable to a point, just aided the opposition lurking in his very own administration Failed foreign policy moves, especially in the British West Indies, made things worse But few things compared to the Tariff of Abominations US businesses wanted protection from foreign companies so congress, led my Martin Van Buren, drafted a bill so bursting with political favoritism that some thought it a trap It basically punished JQA supporters and favored Jackson supporters, JQA signed it regardless, but the south felt tricked and evoked nullification This obliterated pretty much all of JQA s remaining political support The election of 1848, considered by many the nastiest in the nation s history, seemed preordained.Of course JQA lost, but not after some of the worst character smears ever presented in a US political campaign Attacks on both sides reached new lows of viscousness When Jackson s wife Rachel died in 1828 following a publicized scandal about her marriage to Jackson, Jackson blamed the JQA supporters for her death and vowed eternal vengeance Jackson s side accused JQA of pimping for the Czar of Russia, tax fraud, uniting church and state and many other baseless things JQA s side accused the Jacksons of premarital sex, claimed that Jackson s mother was a prostitute, that Jackson served as a Grand King in the Masonic order and dug up countless examples of his rowdy character In the end, many claim that much of what the Republicans said about Jackson were true, while much of what the Democrats said about JQA were false It didn t matter because the election didn t really accommodate veracity A miserable JQA boycotted Jackson s inauguration, not that Jackson had explicitly invited him anyway Like father, like son, indeed Thereafter, JQA entered history as a below average president.But JQA s public life did not end with the raunchy election of 1828 The book dedicates an entire section to Congressman John Quincy Adams and his election to the Senate in 1830 By that time, he and Louisa had lost three children, one in infancy, another by suicide and another by alcoholism Only one son held any promise of meeting JQA s impossible standards his parenting skills sadly didn t rise above those of his mother s Politics lent him a suitable distraction When the Whig party formed in opposition to Jackson JQA vowed loyalty, despite its name smacking of British aristocracy Gradually he became known as Old Man Eloquent and increasingly spoke out against slavocracy and the Congressional gag rule that prohibited any discussion of anti slavery petitions His successful defense before the Supreme Court of Africans captured on board the Amistad in 1841 and his involvement in ending the gag rule in 1844 still stand above most anything he accomplished as president In early 1848 he collapsed on the Congress floor and died two days later in the Capitol building, having given the majority of his life to public service The American Presidents Series volume on JQA tells the story of this conflicted historical figure in a highly readable and often very entertaining manner This is no turgid, tiresome history tract, but rather a quite gripping and intriguing story complimented by great writing Its final reference to JQA reads surely he now feels completely vindicated Despite JQA s obvious faults, many attributable to his time, this book goes a long way towards further vindication. Robert Remini s brief study of John Quincy Adams 1767 1848 is part of the American Presidency Series edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr The series has the commendable aim of introducing the reader to each of the Presidents in a volume of short scope The broader aim, I think, is to reawaken an appreciation of the history of our country and to stimulate reflection on the American experience Thus, each volume tries to present a story of a life and also to explain briefly what is unique about each President and makes him worthy to be remembered.Remini gives an excellent discussion of John Quincy Adams s service to the United States, both during his Presidency and before and after it The aspect of JQA s public service that stands out, both in his Presidency and otherwise, is his commitment to American Nationalism By this I mean a devotion to creating a strong, united nation for all the people to promote the public welfare JQA worked diligently to advance the interests of the entire American people, as he saw these interests, rather than to be a tool of any faction or party or momentary passion Much of the time, he succeeded.As President, JQA advocated the creation of public works and improvements to link the country together He was a strong supporter of education, scientific advancement, and learning He wanted the Federal government to play an active role in supporting these ends and worked towards the creation of an American university After his Presidency he was a strong advocate for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution Before he assumed the Presidency, Adams served as the Secretary of State under James Monroe He worked for the goal of American Nationalism by expanding the boundaries of the United States through a skillful exercise of diplomacy until they extended to the Pacific Ocean JQA also was instrumental in the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine.Following his presidency JQA served as a Congressman from Massachusetts He distinguished himself in working for the anti slavery cause and, specifically, by his tireless opposition to the gag rule which aimed to prevent critical discussion of slavery related issues in the halls of Congress.Remini presents his material in a way that focuses on this theme of JQA s public service and on its nationalistic aspirations He also points out how and why JQA failed to realize many of his goals, particularly during his term as the sixth President 1825 1828 Adams was named President by the House of Representatives following a highly contested election It was alleged that he struck a corrupt bargain with Henry Clay, who became Adams s Secretary of State This corrupt bargain doomed the Adams Presidency and tarnished both Adams s and Clay s careers.Adams was also highly opinionated and stuffy and gave the impression of aloofness He was not a good politician and lacked a certain ability to compromise or to work cooperatively with others At one point Remini writes p 110 It is really impossible to think of any other president quite like John Quincy Adams He seemed intent on destroying himself and his administration By the same token, it is difficult to think of a president with greater personal integrity JQA was defeated for a second term by Andrew Jackson in a bitterly fought campaign Among other things, Jackson possessed abundant popular appeal and charisma, in sharp contrast to JQA s aloof, intellectual character.While Adams s Presidency failed, his goals and ideals were good They lived on and deserve studying and remembering.Remini also gives a good summary of Adams s personal life, adopting some of the psychohistory of JQA s recent biographers He points out the stresses that Adams endured from his famous father and mother and the pressures placed upon him and his brothers for high achievement JQA also imposed these pressures and expectations, alas, on his own children There is a good discussion of Adams s failed love affair as a young man probably the one passion of his life and of his subsequent marriage to Louisa Johnson Remini describes JQAs extensive intellectual interests, his tendencies to anger and to depression and he links these traits in a sensible way to the failings of Adams s Presidency.This is an excellent study of JQA which captures in short compass the essence and character of his contribution to the United States Readers who want to learn about JQA with a focus on his service as Secretary of State and as Congressman from Massachusetts may wish to read the two volume study by Samuel Flagg Bemis John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy 1949 and John Quincy Adams and the Union 1956.Robin Friedman Robert Remini had the difficult task of summarizing the complicated life and presidency of John Quincy Adams into the short biography required by the American Presidents series He succeeds admirably At times Remini editorializes a bit as in his thoughts about the mothering skills of Abigail Adams Though Abigail s letters support Remini s point, she was a much complicated and well rounded person than a reader would realize from Remini alone Nevertheless, overall, Remini s portrayal of the various characters in Adams life is accurate and clearly written Remini, like most historians, views Adams presidency as the low point of his public life But the author does a nice job of showing how much of that failure was out of Adams hands While criticizing Adams for his failures to compromise, Remini manages to make Adams a sympathetic character This is a worthy addition to the American Presidents series It is well written and will give the reader who wants a synopsis of the presidency of John Quincy Adams an excellent overview of this brilliant man whose life exemplifies what America went through in the first half of the 19th century. I am familiar with the concept of the American Presidents Series, whereby each chief executive is given a relatively short and concise treatment Perfect for the history buff that might not want to invest several weeks in reading a two volume discourse on the life and times of James K Polk.John Quincy Adams was an important American statesman during a turbulent period of American history His heritage as a son of Founding Father John Adams, coupled with a virtual lifetime of public service is certainly deserving of study granted, for a serious history buff, probably than that provided in this work I was therefore somewhat disappointed when upon receipt of the book, it was no larger than a mere pamphlet.The synopsis lists it as being composed of 196 pages I can t imagine how this number was arrived at The text of the book comes in at 155 pages Even including the Editor s Note , endnotes, milestones, bibliography and index, only 173 are consumed If you add the title page, all the blank pages at the beginning and end of the book AND the front and back cover, you still can t come up with 196 pages Therefore, what you have is a very short biography that is actually over 20% shorter than advertised Certainly understandable in the case of some of the sketchier Presidents, but John Quincy Adams Adams, born into the illustrious family of John and Abigail Adams, was raised to lead a life in politics It is an unusual set of circumstances that resulted in Adams s presidency actually being viewed as the least successful period of his life, rather than its pinnacle Adams was an accomplished diplomat from an early age, spending productive time in all the European capitals throughout the early American administrations He finally served as Secretary of State under James Monroe, a recognized stepping stone to the presidency.His election in 1824, by a bitterly divided House of Representatives, ushered in a period of political bitterness and infighting astonishing in its ferocity His personal feuds with Andrew Jackson and his supporters are possibly the most vicious in political history Adams s presidency is generally viewed as quite ineffective His refusal to take advantage of political patronage and his naivety in matters of political strategy doomed him to serve a single term.Following his presidency, Adams was elected to represent the state of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives, where he continued to be a thorn in the side of his opponents, from all aspects of the political spectrum The single personality trait of Adams highlighted throughout this work is independence His refusal to abide by party lines and forge long lasting alliances resulted in his failure to govern firm majorities throuhgout his career.He was a henpecked son and, according to the author, a failure as a father and husband He comes across many times as a sanctimonious Puritan and devolved later in life into an unpleasant, irascible, back bencher Nevertheless, he was a seminal figure in early 19th century American history and deserving of than 155 pages of treatment.Finally, a note on the author s style Given the brevity of the work and the scope of Adams s life, it is not surprising that the writing sometimes feels clipped and brusque, moving quickly from topic to topic On several ocassions, the author begins paragraphs with short, declarative statements such as, What a disaster , What an opening , That did it twice , Superior management , What idiocy , that lent a jarring almost inappropriately informal tone to the writing.All in all a relatively unsatisfactory work Had the author in fact taken 196 pages to present the subject, perhaps it would have been better received Nevertheless, if you want an ultra quick and dirty synopsis on the life and political career of John Quincy Adams and only have 5 6 hours to invest, this may be the best you could do. John Quincy Adams succeeded at everything he did except at being president He was a tremendously effective foreign diplomate, perhaps our greatest secretary of state, and as congressman an indefatigable opponent of slavery Congress enacted the gag rule to silence him As an attorney he was instrumental in winning the freedom of 39 African captives aboard the schooner Amistad But as our nation s sixth president, John Quincy Adams was pretty much a disaster How to explain it That s made perfectly clear in this marvelous little book 155 pages by Robert V Remini Remini is a noted historian and an entertaining storyteller John Quincy Adams is part of The American Presidency series short, cogent bios by noted authors about each of our nation s presidents Interestingly, Remini devotes but five of the book s 12 chapters to Adams presidency Indeed, this is the least interesting part about the man who s great gifts seemed to have been misspent while in the White House His true calling was in the diplomatic service, and, in his post presidential years, as an outspoken advocate of fundamental human rights.As a diplomat, Adams played a key role in negotiating several important treaties, including the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812 As secretary of state, he negotiated with Britain over the United States northern border with Canada, negotiated the deal with Spain that allowed for the annexation of Florida, and he wrote the Monroe Doctrine Ironically, Adams was the one man in the Monroe administration against the censure of General Andrew Jackson, who many thought including President James Monroe had overstepped his authority by slaughtering a number of Native Americans and executing several Spanish officials in Florida, at the time a possession of Spain Later, in Washington, Adams held a ball in Jackson s honor, while secretly the general was planning his bid for president against Adams s candidacy Indeed, no one would do to undermine Adams four year presidency than Andrew Jackson.As president Adams was probably too far ahead of his time in seeking to modernize America in proposing the building of an extensive system of roads and canals, bridges, and highways, as well as a national university and a naval academy similar to West Point He further recommended the erection of an astronomical observatory However he was stymied time and again by a Congress controlled by his enemies, most of whom were Jacksonian democrats Also, as talented as he was in negotiating treaties with European countries, he was out of his depth in negotiating land deals with Native Americans, and in the end could not protect them Says the author His effort to protect the Indians under the legal authority of the federal government gained him nothing but the hatred of those southerners who lusted after Indian territory and could hardly wait for the next election to replace him in the White House with Andrew Jackson After leaving office, Adams was elected as U.S Representative from Massachusetts, serving for the last 17 years of his life with far greater acclaim than he had achieved as president, notably in his stand against expanding slavery into the western states Among Adams greatest hours was his forceful arguments before the Supreme Court in the Amistad case He was so convincing that eight of the nine justices, including chief justice Roger Taney, a slave holder, agreed with Adams and declared the Africans freemen Perhaps than anyone else of his generation John Quincy Adams represented the thinking, opinions, and attitudes of the vast majority of Americans, writes Remini, just like his father before him Unfortunately it took another century before the fact received the recognition it so rightly deserved I appreciated this book for its brevity and insights Remini does a bang up job in humanizing a cold and under appreciated public figure Five stars. John Quincy Adams was the first son of a President to become President himself Although his family connections didn t hurt, they also weren t overly helpful his break from his father s Federalist connections means that JQA had to attain the nation s highest office based primarily on his own resume, not his father s.Ironically, Adam s tenure as President was in some ways, the low point in his career of public service Prior to then, he was one of the best foreign relations people in American history, one of the primary authors of the Treaty of Ghent and the Monroe Doctrine In his post Presidential life, he was a prominent Congressman noted for his anti slavery work including his winning defense in the Amistad case and his part in founding the Smithsonian Institute As a President, however, he was at best mediocre and ineffective, his four years marred from the start by his controversial election and his unwise appointment of Henry Clay as Secretary of State for Clay, it was equally unwise to have accepted the position.Having read Remini s three volume biography of Jackson, it was interesting to read his depiction of one of Jackson s principal political enemies Remini does a good job, but this is not as strong an effort as his other biographical works The brevity of the book which I believe was imposed by the American Presidents Series editors makes this book of an overview than a full biography Remini does cover most of the major points, however, and does deal with Adams s personal life as well.As stated before, John Quincy Adams was not a very significant President, but he is an important part of early U.S history This book is a good introduction to the man often recognized as the best Secretary of State ever For a detailed biography, however, Paul Nagel s recent work is a worthwhile read. Robert V Remini, Professor Emeritus of History and the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, offers us a fascinating portrait of a brilliant and complex man, and of a truly influential American life Heavy were the burdens of John Quincy Adams upbringing Son of the forbidding John Adams and the domineering Abigail, puritanical New Englanders both, he was driven from the earliest age to a life of faith, observance, and public distinction a life that was considered to be his birthright, and his obligation While his natural tendencies were toward a contemplative life filled with art and literature, his path was pre destined the law, and then public service It is no wonder that later, as a grown man, accomplished and admired, he was spoken of as cold and austere, even misanthropic Adams career suffered little from his demeanor A learned and well traveled intellectual as well as a shrewd negotiator, Adams rose through the diplomatic ranks, eventually serving as a dynamic and influential secretary of state under President James Monroe In this role, he helped solidify many basic cornerstones of American foreign policy, including the Monroe Doctrine The greatest triumph of this period was undoubtedly his negotiation of the Transcontinental Treaty, through which Spain acknowledged Florida to be a part of the United States Eventually, Adams arrived in the White House, chosen by the House of Representatives after an inconclusive election against Andrew Jackson His administration, however, had less of a long term impact than much of Adams pre and post presidential endeavors He often failed to mesh with the ethos of his times, pushing unsuccessfully, for example, for a strong, consolidated national government After leaving office, Adams served nine consecutive terms in the House, earning the nickname Old Man Eloquent for his passionate anti slavery oratory