John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

14
Adams's Politics

One of these assemblies [political meetings] was held yesterday. I was invited also there, but did not attend. . . . Here is a revolution in the habits and manners of the people. Where will it end? . . . These meetings cannot be multiplied in numbers and frequency without resulting in yet deeper tragedies. Their manifest tendency is to civil war.

MEMOIRS, August 29, 1840

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., refers to John Quincy Adams and several of his contemporaries as honest Jeffersonians.1 The record testifies to his honesty, but one must question the validity or propriety of categorizing Adams as a Jeffersonian. To be sure, the substance of his doctrine, as revealed in his political life, must be inspected in any effort to place Adams in the political context in the United States during its early history. Obvious bases in his career and theory exist for the conclusion of Schlesinger, but other compelling factors in his career argue to the contrary, not least of which was the superficial Whiggery of his later political career. Moreover, inspection of the written and spoken record even more thoroughly casts doubt upon the wisdom of a facile generalization concerning Adams's political orientation. The material heretofore adduced may have provided adequate demonstration of this contention. However, in this chapter we shall consider further data involved basically in the question of his place in the whole picture of the period. We shall deal particularly with explicit references by Adams to the political forces and figures of his day. If these references are at all significant, they will indicate

____________________
1
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1945), p. 313.

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