Among all thegreat characters that it has been my lot
to meet ... I have never met with a mind of such varied powers,
such acute discriminatian, and which if I may use the expression,
was so intrinsically sound; with a memory so fertile, so clear, and
sa perspicuous. Every thing in his mind was rich, racy, and true.
—Louisa Catherine Adams, Diary, June 2, 1839
I have as great a Terror of learned Ladies, as you
have. I have such a consciousness of Inferiority to them, as mortifies
and humiliates my self-love, to such a degree that I can scarcely
speak in their presence. Very few of these Ladies have ever had the
condescention to allow me to talk. And when it has so happened, I
have always come off mortified at the discovery of my Inferiority.
—Adams to Francis Vanderkemp, April 8, 1815
AS THE RETIREMENT YEARS at Quincy rolled on and Adams entered his eighties, his vision of public affairs remained connected to incessant explorations of his own boisterous personality. When he looked backwards into history or outward into the emerging nation he had helped to establish, he saw the same emotional ingredients throbbing and pulsating and influencing events as when he looked inside himself. Politics for him remained psychology writ large, a heaving collection of irrational urges that moved across the social landscape like the ambitions and vanities he felt surging through his own soul. More than any member of the revolutionary generation, Adams thought of statecraft as a public application of the skills required for self-management, regarded polit