John Quincy Adams : American visionary

by Fred Kaplan

Hardcover, 2014




New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.


A brilliant combination of literary analysis and historical detail, this masterfully written biography of the much misunderstood sixth president of the United States reveals the many sides of this forward-thinking man whose progressive vision helped shape the course of America.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
Even though I read Samuel Flagg Bemis' two-volume biography of John Quincy Adams in 1970-1971 and Harlow Giles Unger's biography of him on 14 Dec 2013, i decided to read this 2014 biography and enjoyed it much. Adams had an amazing life, from the time he was ten and accompanied his father to Europe during the Revolutionary War, through his teenage years in Europe, his return to the USA and to Harvard (for a year and a half, he being admitted as a junior), then to the U.S. Senate for over five years (1803-1808), then as Minister to Russia, negotiator at Ghent to extricate the country from the War of 1812, then minister to Britain, then Secreatry of State, President, and Congressman. This book not only covers the public life of Adams but spends a lot of time on his personal life--which was often cloulded by dire events. It is an exceptionally crowded and eventful life and I found the book extraordinarily felicitous reading. Kaplan shows that Adams foresaw that slavery would only be ended in this country when the President as commander-in-chief exercising his war power was able to so decree.… (more)
LibraryThing member walterhistory
Fred Kaplan's bio of J.Q. Adams is a fairly good work in spite of the author's difficulty in understanding his subject. This work reminds me of Lincoln biographers who write of their subject but end up a hit & miss target. It is also a reminder why socialist writers struggle with subjects who are immersed in their culture in which the Judeo-Christian world view prevail. For example, in Mr. Kaplan's introduction, he makes four serious glaring errors, one statement in particular is a code word(s) that socialists often use which even J.Q. Adams would have rejected or avoided, "living organism." Also, claiming J.Q. Adams, quote, "dreaded & hoped for the Civil War," unquote, which Adams would not have even considered such a thought. Nothing in Adams writing or behavior ever indicated such a view so on what basis did Mr. Kaplan assume this? There are 2 other quotes he makes, all of these in his introduction alone. The rest of the work unfolds with such either code words his subject would have vehemently rejected or broad sweeping statements such as the Civil War quote scattered throughout his 652 page bio. It is true that J.Q. Adams was an enigmatic figure in his lifetime & after his death but there is no excuse to impose on a 19th century subject terms that he would ever understood or believed in. Having said this, this book is a good example of the necessity to keep a subject within the context of the world they lived in. Mr. Kaplan's forte is in English so perhaps the reader will need to keep this in mind as well as being aware of how one's worldview can deeply influence how one sees the world & the dangers of forcing that worldview on a subject that lived & breathed from an entirely opposing world view.… (more)
LibraryThing member zen_923
The book is a well-written biography of the man. It contains unique insights sourced directly from JQA's enormous diary collection. The book is a pleasure to read as the author's writing style ensures that you won't be overwhelmed with too much details crammed in one paragraph. The only reason i didn't give this a 5 star is because i feel that the discussion when it comes to the political context and especially to foreign relations (JQA' specialty) seems to be lacking. I wish there were more background discussion behind the domestic and foreign policy decisions undertaken by JQA.… (more)



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