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John Quincy Adams by Robert V. Remini
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A very nice and brief version of JQA's life and career. I felt I learned quite a bit reading it. I was very interested in the part about the Amistad and his role in that. But I just didn't like him and I felt the author was a little too fixated on his mom. Would love to read about his sons! ( )
  briannad84 | Nov 19, 2012 |
Excellent brief account of the brilliant, highly accomplished and far-seeing statesman who, because he lacked the common touch, failed at much of what he set out to do as President of the United States. But would that many more of today's politicians shared his abhorrence of demagoguery as well as his sterling integrity! ( )
  markbstephenson | Jun 2, 2010 |
Though it's pretty short (only 155 pages), I had a hard time getting into this book and felt that the 2nd half (presidential years onwards) went much quicker. Overall it pretty much tried to stick to the facts and there wasn't any overarching thesis or angle that Remini was trying to view JQA's life through, but commentary was sprinkled throughout. Overall, I thought the writing was a bit dry, and at times didn't fully explore topics brought up, but perhaps that is due to the commitment to keeping the length down, which was a stated goal upfront.

Remini does, however, go into details about both presidential elections (the one JQA won and the one JQA lost), with all sorts of fun mud slinging snippet and does a good job at explaining the rise and shifts in political parties towards the end of the Era of Good Feelings: the attrition of the Federalist party, the split of the Republicans into Democratic Republicans (Democrats) and National Republicans, and the rise of the Whig party - I had always had difficulty keeping the nuances straight in school and Remini was able to succinctly clarify these for me.

Throughout most of the book the analysis was kept to short comments, often somewhat snarky one sentence remarks that repeated a particular quotation with a tone of indignation, bemusement, or sarcasm. Remini comes down a bit hard on both Abigail and Louisa, only mentioning how JQA's mother nagged and reproached JQA and how Louisa hated living in Russia and Washington. Remini further rates JQA as an abysmal father, completing the familial cycle of impossible expectations. Another commentary was that Remini portrayed JQA's fight for the right to petition and his haranguement of slavery (post-presidentially) essentially as revenge against Jackson and his followers and self-vindication, rather than actually carrying the cause. Remini notes that JQA did not pick up the torch for other contemporary causes of similar nature, nor particularly fight for women's rights etc and his description of the Amistad case was an afterthought. At the end, Remini states that JQA is only starting to receive his due as public servant but that still regularly polls as a 'below average' president. On the whole, I got the sense that Remini was trying to be neutral and occasionally slipped, which may be understandable given that he is apparently known as a Jacksonian scholar, and has published widely on Jackson.

Remini relied heavily on the previous Nagel and the Bemis biographies, perhaps even more so than JQA's own very extensive diary. At times I felt that I was practically reading Bemis' work considering the number of times he was quoted for his characterizations of the events.

Overall, this is a brief, factual, somewhat dry telling of JQA's life and public service. If you're pressed for time and just want to know the basics, this will give a very serviceable outline, but if you are looking for a more personal characterization of the man, or deeper analysis, or information about a particular chapter of his multifaceted career, I would suggest to look elsewhere. ( )
1 vote bfertig | May 10, 2009 |
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 more 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 Amazon 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 more 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. ( )
  santhony | Sep 25, 2008 |
wrong cover
  EdMarshall | Mar 11, 2008 |
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Toward the end of the presidential campaign of 1824, John Quincy Adams, one of the four candidates for the office, left his duties as secretary of state in Washington and returned to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, there to roam around the cemetery and look at tombstones of his ancesters and meditate on the past and future.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805069399, Hardcover)

A vivid portrait of a man whose pre- and post-presidential careers overshadowed his presidency.

Chosen 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. Undoubtedly his greatest triumph was the negotiation of the Transcontinental Treaty, through which Spain acknowledged Florida to be part of the United States. After his term in office, he earned the nickname "Old Man Eloquent" for his passionate antislavery speeches.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:08 -0400)

A portrait of the early nineteenth-century president documents his career with the House of Representatives, efforts to create a consolidated national government, role as a diplomat, contributions to foreign policy, and antislavery campaigns.

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