Quincy Lessons

By Sperling, Godfrey | The Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Quincy Lessons


Sperling, Godfrey, The Christian Science Monitor


When I read that the older George Bush was now referring to son George W. as "Quincy," I scurried to bone up a bit on the only other son of a president to attain that high office: John Quincy Adams - our sixth president, 1825-1829.

George W., himself, it seems, has been reading about the life of the younger Adams. He told a New York Times interviewer he was finding it "instructive." I did, too.

The first words of a brief biography by David Jacobs, revised by Robert A. Rutland in the "American Heritage History of the Presidents," informs us quickly that young Mr. Bush is no Adams:

"Few men have been as well-trained for the presidency as John Quincy Adams. Born in the afterglow of the Stamp Act crisis, young Adams was to journey abroad, dine with Thomas Jefferson in Paris as a 12-year-old boy, and serve as the American minister to the Netherlands while still in his twenties.

"Then he was elected to the US Senate and was named President Monroe's secretary of state. What better credentials for a president."

Yes, Bush has that Texas governorship on his political record - the first person to be twice elected by the voters of that state. And, earlier, he did diligent campaign work for his father.

But his record of public service doesn't come up to that of Adams. For that matter, few of our presidential candidates over the years possessed such glowing credentials.

What was Adams like as a person? In his diary he wrote that when attacked from all sides, "the qualities of mind most peculiarly called for are firmness, perseverance, patience, coolness, and forbearance." That's how he saw himself.

The biography depicted Adams in this way: "Reserved, moral, able to labor twice beyond ordinary human exhaustion, vain one day and self-abusive the next, self-righteous, irritable, possessed with a firmness of purpose fluctuating between virtuous determination and stubborn inflexibility - that was the Adams character. …

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