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Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams's Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress Hardcover – January 29, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A convincing brief for reconsidering this prescient, fearless public figure." -- Kirkus, December 1, 2007

"Wheelan has written a solid and entertaining account of Adams's 17-year congressional career" -- Boston Globe, February 24, 2008

"[Wheelan] artfully interprets the life of this conscience-bound President as one ironically to be fulfilled by his congressional career" -- Library Journal, January 15th, 2008

About the Author

Joseph Wheelan, a former Associated Press reporter and editor, is the author of Invading Mexico: America's Continental Dream and the Mexican War, 1846–1848, Jefferson's War: America's First War on Terror, 1801- 1805, and Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 309 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720125
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael E. Fitzgerald on July 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For the most part, historians treat John Quincy Adams very poorly. Having left behind a quite complete, daily diary which is the delight of various academic wordsmiths, spin doctors and second guessers, he is always treated as some form of dysfunctional slacker by those who have written his biographies. My view of him has never changed. I always thought of him as independent in the true American sense, grumpy to be sure, but a remarkably brilliant man who chose his country and what was right over party affiliation. Until Joseph Wheelan's Mr. Adams Last Crusade, I felt sorry for this remarkably honest, gifted man. The academic deck just seemed too stacked against Adams by supposedly intelligent men for Adams to ever be recognized for his extraordinary contributions to his country. But thanks to Joseph Wheelan, no more!

After a lifetime in public service which included ambassadorships to the Netherlands, Spain, England and Germany, 8 years as Secretary of State under Monroe and his own term as President, he retires disgruntled, a self described failure. However, he returns to public life on December 5, 1831 at age 64, the only past president to do so, recalled by his 12th Congressional District constituency as a freshman congressman in the US House of Representatives. For 17 more years he would serve Massachusetts and the Nation in a strident defense of human rights. He became known as "Old Man Eloquent" for his stands for women's suffrage and against slavery, Texas Annexation, and the Indian Removal Act. Derided by the nation as he left his one term Presidency, he would go on to become the soul of the House of Representatives. He eschewed political parties and politics. As a result, his positions were complex, little understood by friend and foe alike.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wheelan has written an excellent book on the post-presidential career of John Quincy Adams. Some attention is given to Adams as our nation's sixth president, if merely to conform to other historians' assessments of the Adams presidency, who have mainly considered it a failure. The one problem with books like these is the obvious effort to throw the most favorable light on the author's subject. That being said, I found much to admire in John Quincy Adams and the author makes a good effort in bringing those qualities to light.

As would be shown later in this book, John Quincy Adams would come to represent one of the last vestiges of the founding generation. His father's career needs no mention from me. Any student of the American Revolutionary War period and the early republic will (hopefully) know about John Adams for his influential role. His son became a well-traveled and educated young man who would serve later administrations, perhaps most notably as James Monroe's Secretary of State.

I found it interesting how John Quincy Adams played with political parties; he didn't really follow any party line completely. He was a principled man who seemed to be moved more by his conscience than partisan politics. His ambivalence towards political parties, as the author mentioned, was one of the factors that inhibited his presidency. Adams, as the author mentioned, just could not adapt to the changing political realities. His ascendency to the presidency was certainly controversial enough, being he did not win a plurality of the popular vote and his electoral victory was decided by the Congress.

His post-presidential career was marked by 16 (roughly) years in the House of Representatives.
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Format: Paperback
I've known about John Quincy Adams's post-Presidential career ever since I read Profiles In Courage by JFK many, many years ago. However, what I most remember about that description of him was that that he argued against slavery in the Congress when he could have just coasted along in a comfortable political semi-retirement.

Joseph Wheelan does us all a favor by elaborating on John Quincy Adams's amazing career in this well-written, informative book. Wheelan briefly covers John Quincy Adams's early career in the first 65 pages. As a teenager, John Quincy Adams was an assistant to his father while he was an ambassador to Europe during the Revolutionary War. He served as ambassador to several European countries after the War and also as Secretary of State (the Monroe Doctrine is as much his as Monroe's) and finally President.

Oddly enough, that amazing career was only a prelude to his final post - Representative from Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress. He reports to Congress at age 64. Adams was vaguely opposed to slavery but was very much in favor of the rights to free speech and petition. The Congress was avoiding any discussion of the topic of slavery, including ignoring all petitions to end slavery in Washington, D.C. (Congress administers the District of Columbia so it could have outlawed slavery within it by simple passage of a law).

Adams was indignant that a basic part of the Bill of Rights was being ignored so he began to read the petitions on the floor. He was told to stand down but he kept on reading. He was shouted it, threatened and shunned but he kept on reading.
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