Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Unger is brutally honest about JQA's achievements: his presidency is acknowledged to be notable for its lack of accomplishment and JQA's refusal to engage in political campaigning or any form of party membership or partianship while in the White House. Instead his major contribution to the nation he loved was before and after his presidency - in his years of service overseas in diplomatic posts (starting at the age of 15 when he was sent to the Russian court at St. Petersburg). His various European posts and accomplishments - France, London, the Hague, St Petersburg) are all delightfully portrayed and give us a feeling of affection for someone so young and so talented.
It is however, in his life after the Presidency that he truly shines. As the only (so far) previous president to serve in the House after his presidency, JQA made a name for himself defending free speech, fighting against slavery, speaking before the Supreme Court, and finally learning the power of the political speech. He made many enemies, but died a man respected by many more on both sides of the aisle.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this biography. It gave me the information I needed to understand why his presidency was so non-productive, to see the influences that shaped his thinking, to meet the friends, relatives and mentors who helped him become the truly great statesman he was. In his last term as a Congressman (he died on the floor of the House while it was in session), he gave a speech that was so memorable about slavery and the need to abolish it, that a young 1st term Congressman from Illinois (one Abraham Lincoln) used his wording when he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.
Reading facts like that convince me that my decision to read the presidents in order was a good one. I read Andrew Jackson (next in line) last year, but may skim back through it again before going on to Martin Van Buren. It is an interesting, enlightening, and entertaining reading challenge. Who else wants to join in?
Title: John Quincy Adams
Author: Harlow Giles Unger
Publisher: De Capo Press (2012), 384 pages
Subject: John Quincy Adams
Source: Barnes & Noble, purchased for my Nook
Why did I read this book now? Next president in line for the US Presidents Reading Challenge
Posted by Tina at 12:00 AM