John Quincy Adams was raised, educated, and groomed to be President, following in the footsteps of his father, John. At fourteen he was secretary to the Minister to Russia and, later, was himself Minister to the Netherlands and Prussia. He was U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and then President for one ill-fated term. His private life showed a parallel descent. He was a poet, writer, critic, and Professor of Oratory at Harvard. He married a talented and engaging Southerner, but two of his three sons were disappointments. This polymath and troubled man, caught up in both a democratic age not to his understanding and the furies of passion, was an American lion in winter.
Who is the real John Quincy Adams? The brilliant secretary of state, prime mover behind the Monroe Doctrine, and principled opponent of slavery, defender of the Africans shanghaied aboard the Amistad? Or the ineffectual president stymied by a hostile Congress and his own self-righteousness, the vindictive political foe famed for his cold, disagreeable character? Paul C. Nagel, author of two previous books about the Adams family, seeks to give readers a more human Adams (1767-1848) whose complex nature contained many contradictions. John Quincy Adams is a valuable revisionist biography of a misunderstood figure at the crossroads of American history.