Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life Paperback – March 5, 1999
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It's almost hard to fathom all the public positions held by JQA in his life. From a legislator in Massachusetts, to a long and distinguished career as a diplomat in Europe - most notably Russia where he was a close confidant of the Tzar Alexander - to Secretary of State, sixth President of the United States, and U.S. Congressman. He even turned down an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Relying heavily on a very personal diary JQA kept nearly his entire adult life, this biography delves deeply into the psyche and private life of JQA, giving us an intimate portrait of his personality, family life, religious beliefs, and even some of the things that shaped his thoughts and personality. We literally follow JQA in his day to day life. The biography, as it stands, is extremely interesting.
The downfall of the book is that it does not deal enough with JQA's politics. We end up knowing far more about JQA's religious beliefs at the end of the biography than we do about his political thought. A perfect example is that JQA, as Secretary of State, was the primary influence behind the Monroe Doctrine dictating that European powers could no longer attempt to influence politics or colonize countries in the Western Hemisphere. Other than crediting JQA for this, the author does nothing to explore the details of how this extremely important political stance came about.Read more ›
Given the author's stated intention, this book is as much character analysis as historical biography. Other reviewers of this book listed below have criticized Nagel for neglecting an in-depth accounting of JQA's public accomplishments. Clearly, they didn't read the preface (in which the author clearly lays out the focus of the book) and would have been much better off reading a different volume on Adams' life, such as Samuel Flagg Bemis' masterwork, "John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy," which won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and provides a comprehensive analysis of JQA's many public achievements.
Using JQA's private diary as the primary source, Nagel describes a talented but conflicted man tormented by a life of extreme self-doubt and merciless self-criticism. From an early age JQA was groomed for greatness by his parents. But that preparation - which included a stint as secretary to the US Minister to Russia while only 14 years old, the best classical education a young American of his time could dream of, and close contact with many heads of state and intellectuals - proved to be more curse than blessing in a nation rapidly shifting toward the popular democracy of Jacksonianism. The intense pressure to succeed and a public increasingly hostile to his aristocratic upbringing and bearing caused JQA a lifetime of great personal anguish and ultimately national rejection.Read more ›
Nagel wisely delves into Adams' private side and quotes extensively from his own words. If you are looking for a glum recitation of Adams' political life, look elsewhere, this is a more human biography. There was a refreshing amount of material focusing on Adams' boyhood, and the chapters covering his Congressional years are especially interesting. His story reads like something from a novel: failed President transformed into one of the most influential Congressmen who ever serve in the House.
My only minor criticism is that Nagel does not sufficiently explore or explain Adams' brilliant son, Henry, who grew up to be a caustic and clever chronicler of the late 10th century. Otherwise, this is a solid book, well-written, thoroughly researched and illuminating.
Though I am no expert on the subject, I thought Nagel was a little tough on JQA'S mother Abigail Adams. Actions and words that Nagel seemed to condemn as overbearing in her I found to be...well...*nothing* compared to my mother's ability to nag (Sorry, ma). That is, they were the sort of keep-your-nose-clean-and-your-trousers-buckled exhortations I'd pretty much expect from anybody's mommy.
But this is a small quibble with an otherwise good book. I found the best, most moving writing when Nagel describes JQA's last years in Congress. Here, Nagel evokes respect and sympathy for the JQA who was both drawn to and repulsed by political discourse. And Nagel's treatment of the obvious love between JQA and his wife was touching but not cloying--the best kind of love story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent, well-written biography of a great, but distressingly underrated American President, whose achievements, courage, and service to America were truly outstanding.Published 2 months ago by EZ
It isn't everyday that you read a presidential biography where the low-light of a man's career was his time in the White House but so it was for the 6th President of the United... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Paul
Good chronological bio of JQA. What an amazing life he had. Probably the best educated president the US ever had. Too bad he was such a poor politician.Published 6 months ago by Tom Towle
A human story of a great man of endurance, with tragic life circumstances. A must read.Published 9 months ago by Richard Folsom
Wonderful narrative about one of the most important statesman in American history.Published 15 months ago by Stuart
Extremely well written. Having read "John Adams", the different perspectives of John Adams and JQA on the same subjects are very interesting.Published 17 months ago by Jennifer Lynn Schramm