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The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams (2015)

by Phyllis Lee Levin

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Really detailed book about the youth of John Quincy Adams. He was a very well traveled and educated young man. The book includes many of his own letters and journal entries to provide a first hand glimpse of his life. ( )
  kkunker | Aug 25, 2015 |
An enthralling book about a fascinating character who felt driven to succeed due to parental expectations and his own nature. A world traveler by the age of sixteen it was none the less very sad to read what his sister wrote, "It is a very unpleasing idea to me, that a whole family, should grow up strangers to each other, as ours have done, yet it has been unavoidable, and will tis probable still continue so." He was impatient for success and its immediate lack often depressed him. He also voted with his fledgling country's best interests at heart rather than with his party's which made him enemies that weren't content just to see him out of office but wanted to see him personally ruined. He wound up being pushed into marrying Louisa Catherine Johnson whose father was on the verge of bankruptcy and trying to marry them off without dowry. She was fragile both mentally and physically and depending on how she was feeling her husband's greatest supporter of detractor. A very interesting man from a family that had its share of problems. ( )
  lisa.schureman | Apr 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This biography would probably be more interesting if you were more of a US history buff than I am. It's well researched, but Levin doesn't really do a good job of taking her many facts and telling a consistent story. JQA was, I think, a bit of an odd duck, but this book doesn't do a good job of capturing this. I learned that JQA's parents cared a lot about him and his education, but maybe put too much pressure on a young boy. One of the things that was interesting to me was how often family members, parents/children; spouses; were separated for long periods of time, with relatively little contact due to the slowness of the mail and of travel. Levin implies that this had an effect on JQA's relationships and character, but I think she could have done more to round this out. ( )
1 vote banjo123 | Apr 10, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a rather mediocre biography of John Quincy Adams, focusing on his childhood through about age 50. I guess the focus of this biography was to explore the experiences of John Quincy Adams's youth and young adulthood to see how it influenced his adulthood. In itself, this is an interesting idea. JQA traveled extensively with his father when he was a child, spending extensive time in France, England, Holland, and Russia, learning the languages and customs and having a first row seat to the politics of the time. His book learning suffered a bit, but he seems to have been a serious child who had good self-discipline when it came to keeping up with his studies as best he could. He later got in to Harvard and rounded out the aspects of his education that he missed. This section sticks with the thesis, but then the author continues on into JQA's relationship with his wife and his subsequent political appointments. I wasn't really sure if she was trying to show how his education and life experience during his youth influenced his life during this later time, or if this was still supposed to be part of the "learning period".

That leads to the main problem with this book. Though a lot of the information was interesting, I wasn't sure what the point was. The author doesn't draw conclusions clearly, but was obviously going for something more than a pure biography or retelling of facts. She also stopped the book at an arbitrary point (or at least didn't explain why it wasn't arbitrary), choosing to end after JQA'a appointment as ambassador to Russia ended. This was just one of several overseas appointments he had and was well before he became President. It just didn't make sense.

This is a time period that I generally enjoy reading about, but this biography missed the mark. I've never read another biography of John Quincy Adams, but there must be better ones out there. ( )
4 vote japaul22 | Apr 8, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Really informative so far on John Quincy Adams early life and formative experiences. Will update as I continue. Note: I won this review copy through Library Thing giveaway. ( )
  SRHarbin | Mar 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Last year was an excellent one for studies of John Quincy Adams.… Levin’s book makes a heartfelt and distinguished addition to a very welcome revival.
 
In general, Levin stays close — sometimes too close — to the primary sources, quoting liberally and paraphrasing so meticulously at times that she might as well be quoting.… [The book] offers detail and intimacy. But its readability might have been improved by judicious omissions and more historical context.
added by Muscogulus | editBoston Globe, Julia M. Klein (Jan 2, 2015)
 
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Epigraph
The early age at which you went abroad gave you not an opportunity of becoming acquainted with your own country. Yet the revolution, in which we were engaged, held it up in so striking, and important a light, that you could not avoid being in some measure irradiated with the view. The characters with which you were connected, and the conversations you continually heard, must have impressed your mind with a sense of the laws, the liberties, and the glorious privileges which distinguish the free, sovereign, independent states of America.
--Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams,
December 26, 1783
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INTRODUCTION
When President George Washington named John Quincy Adams "Minister Resident for the United States of American with their High Mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands" on May 30, 1794, the nominee, both surprised and humbled, was uneasy about his credentials.
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Destined for greatness,
John Q. saw and did so much.
Pipe down, Louisa!
— Muscogulus

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