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America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918 (2009)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684868814, Hardcover)In the spirit of his earlier books, Alexander Hamilton: American and Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, Richard Brookhiser produces an elegant, concise volume drawing on previous scholarship but offering a fresh perspective on four prickly generations of Adamses. Until David McCullough's John Adams became a surprise bestseller, the United States' second president and his descendants seldom had good press. Acknowledging John's essential role in the American Revolution and his son John Quincy's principled fight against slavery, contemporaries and historians nonetheless judged both men poor presidents, characterized by haughty pride and stiff-necked dislike of compromise. Charles Francis Adams, John Quincy's son, lost an almost certain chance to run for president as a Republican in 1872 by disdainfully announcing "that he would reject any nomination that had to be negotiated for;" the most famous book by Charles's son, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), implicitly blames Henry's failure to achieve the prominence of his forefathers on the loss of meaning and coherence in the modern, fragmented world. Tracing the lives and careers of these four men, Brookhiser strikes a balance between their struggles with a daunting heritage and battles with the often unappreciative outer world, identifying "the constant companion of the Adamses" as "the idea of greatness. Am I as great as my ancestors? As great as my contemporaries? Why doesn't the world recognize my greatness?" This proves a sensible organizing principle for his graceful reappraisal of a well-known but not often well-understood family. --Wendy Smith
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:48 -0400)
Richard Brookhiser has won a wide and loyal following for his stylish, pointed, and elegant biographies of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. In "America's First Dynasty," Brookhiser tells the story of America's longest and still greatest dynasty -- the Adamses, the only family in our history to play a leading role in American affairs for nearly two centuries. From John, the self-made, tough-minded lawyer who rose to the highest office in the government he helped create; to John Quincy, the child prodigy who grew up amid foreign royalty, followed his father to the White House, and later reinvented himself as a champion of liberty in Congress; to politician and writer Charles Francis, the only well-balanced Adams; to Henry, brilliant scholar and journalist -- the Adamses achieved longer-lasting greatness than any other American family. Brookhiser's canvass starts in colonial America, when John Adams had to teach himself the law and ride on horseback for miles to find clients. It does not end until after the "Titanic" sinks -- Henry had booked a room but changed his plans -- and World War I begins, with Henry near the action
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