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Democracy: An American Novel (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – July 8, 2003
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In "Democracy," the nation's capital "swarms with simple-minded exhibitions of human nature; men and women curiously out of place, whom it would be cruel to ridicule and ridiculous to weep over." But Adams is not hesitant about being cruel in his portrayal of Washington's residents, and he saves his weeping for the true victims in his novel: the American people. The typical American senator combines "the utmost pragmatical self-assurance and overbearing temper with the narrowest education and meanest personal experience that ever existed in any considerable government." (Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!)
The story concerns Madeleine Lee, an intelligent and well-meaning (if somewhat naive) New York widow, who, bored with her cosmopolitan lifestyle, travels to Washington to learn what makes the nation tick. She and her sister are quickly surrounded by a diverse group of politicians, lobbyists, and foreign diplomats, and she finds herself courted by Silas Ratcliffe, a senator with presidential aspirations whose talent "consisted in the skill with which he evaded questions of principle." During one heated (and humorous) argument about George Washington's merits, Ratcliffe sums up his view of politics: "If virtue won't answer our purpose, then we must use vice, or our opponents will put us out of office.Read more ›
This book had an interesting history. It is a roman a clef and certain people, notably James Blaine (one time corrupt congressman, corrupt senator and corrupt presidential contender) were reportedly outraged by the rather unflattering portrayal. To prevent libel suits, as well as the more damaging social slights, Adams did not disclose he had written it. As one of the leading historians of the day, he probably did not wish to be associated with something as frivilous as a novel. He and his friends did have fun, baiting a curious reading public by periodically throwing out all sorts of red herrings to divert suspicion from Adams.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A riveting yet delicate high-stakes political drama, with all the requisite seductions, subtle gamesmanship, and (Victorian) sex. Read morePublished on March 24, 2014 by N. Allen
The problem, according to Henry B. Adams in his fascinating novel, "Democracy," isn't really with the government. Read morePublished on January 27, 2014 by J. Walker Blue
"Democracy - An American Novel" was published anonymously in 1880, and it was not to be revealed until after his death in 1918 that Henry Adams was the author. Read morePublished on May 21, 2010 by Dave_42
This is a fine novel, but don't buy the 106 p. Feather Trail Press publication unless you enjoy eye strain. The type is tiny (8 pt?). The lines are jammed on the page. Read morePublished on March 20, 2010 by Mrs. Beth A. Franklin
Henry Adams was a scion of the famous Adams family which produced two American Preisdents in John and his son John Quincy. Read morePublished on January 9, 2009 by C. M Mills
Henry Adams' trenchant observations on politics in the 19th century is every bit as relevant today. Fatuous, self-important senators apparently have some shared genetic code that... Read morePublished on November 22, 2008 by Albert Gidari
While this book/pamplet was written a good while back in American history it's message still holds true! Read morePublished on August 4, 2008 by M. Rushing
Henry Adams, the direct descendent of two presidents, published his novel, Democracy, anonymously in 1880. Read morePublished on May 25, 2005 by J. Martens