John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

1
His Scope and Stature

Have finished the reading of Cerisier's 'Tableau de l'Histoire des Provinces Unies.' It gives a general idea of their history, but it is an unfinished work, written in haste, and requires much labour of the file to give it the perfection of which it is susceptible.

-- MEMOIRS, March 8, 1795

The Sixth President of the United States, one of the most significant Americans in the period from the inception of the Republic to the threshold of the Civil War, has been unfortunately neglected by his contemporaries and his posterity.1 The biographical studies of John Quincy Adams, for the most part, are inadequate, the majority of them having been influenced by political bias. The recently published, magnificent study of Adams as Secretary of State by Samuel Flagg Bemis is in a class apart.

Many reasons justify an exposition of his political ideology. His career has implications for an amazingly long period in the life of the American Republic. The breadth of his culture was great enough to comprehend not only the intellectual quality of his own day but also the whole intellectual tradition of Western civilization. John Quincy Adams, moreover, was a product of the eighteenth century and manifests in tremendous scope many of the intellectual trends and traditions of that century, both in his acceptance and in his rejection of

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1
As Allan Nevins has written in agreement, "It was one of the remarkable Adams line -- the late Brooks Adams -- who wrote that ' John Quincy Adams appears to me to be the most interesting and suggestive personage of the early nineteenth century.' " Allan Nevins (ed.), The Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1794-1845 ( New York: Longmans, Green, 1928), "Introduction", p. xi, quoted from Chapter I, by Brooks Adams, in Henry Adams, The Degrdation of the Democratic Dogma ( New York: Macmillan, 1931), p. 13.

-3-

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