Born in 1838 into one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Boston, a family which had produced two American presidents, Henry Adams had the opportunity to pursue a wide-ranging variety of intellectual interests during the course of his life. Functioning both in the world of practical men and afffairs (as a journalist and an assistant to his father, who was an American diplomat in Washinton and London), and in the world of ideas (as a prolific writer, the editor of the prestigious North American Review, and a professor of medieval, european, and American history at Harvard), Adams was one of the few men of his era who attempted to understand art, thought, culture, and history as one complex force field of interacting energies. His two masterworks in this dazzling effort are Mont Saint Michel and Chartres and The Education of Henry Adams, published one after the other in 1904 and 1907. Taken together they may be read as Adams' spiritual autobiographytwo monumental volumes in which he attempts to bring together into a vast synthesis all of his knowledge of politics, economics, psychology, science, philosophy, art, and literature in order to attempt to understand the individual's place in history and society. They constitute one of the greatest historical and philosophical meditations on the human condition in all of literature.
History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (Library of America)by Henry Adams
This monumental work, complete in two volumes, culminated Henry Adams' lifelong fascination with the American past. First published in nine volumes from 1889-91, it has been judged one of the greatest historical works in English -- and yet has been out of print for several decades. Adams' History traces the formative period of American nationality from the rise of… See more details below
This monumental work, complete in two volumes, culminated Henry Adams' lifelong fascination with the American past. First published in nine volumes from 1889-91, it has been judged one of the greatest historical works in English -- and yet has been out of print for several decades. Adams' History traces the formative period of American nationality from the rise of Thomas Jefferson's Republican party through the War of 1812. Hoping to keep the United States out of Europe's Napoleonic wars, Jefferson's pacificism instead antagonizes both France and England, the two greatest military powers in the world. While the states threaten to duplicate the map of Europe by dissolving into separate, squabbling sections, Madison leads the country into a war with British regulars and Indian tribes that he is illequipped to fight. Yet time is on the side of the American people -- who, despite statesmen and generals, emerge from the conflict a single nation ready to flex its burgeoning muscles. In Adams' ironic narrative, personalities like Bonaparte and Aaron Burr, William "Tippecanoe" Harrison and Andrew Jackson, Shawnee leader Tecumseh and Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture act their glittering parts against a background of inexorable historical forces that transform the United States from a pre-industrial backwater into an emergent world power.
In this first volume, Jefferson's optimistic laissez-faire principles -- designed to prevent American government from becoming a militaristic European "tyranny" -- clash with the realities of European war and American security. The party of small government presides over the Louisiana Purchase, the most extensive use of executive power the country had yet seen. Jefferson's embargo -- a high-minded effort at peaceable coercion -- breeds corruption and smuggling, and the former defender of states' rights is forced to use federal power to suppress them. The passion for peace and liberty pushes the country toward war. In the center of these ironic reversals, played out in a Washington full of diplomatic intrigue, is the complex figure of Jefferson himself, part tragic visionary, part comic mock-hero. Like his contemporary Napoleon Bonaparte, he is swept into power by the rising tide of democratic nationalism; unlike Bonaparte, he tries to avert the consequences of the wolfish struggle for power among nation-states.
The grandson of one president and great-grandson of another, Adams gained access to hitherto secret archives in Europe. The diplomatic documents that lace the history lend a novelistic intimacy to scenes such as Jefferson's conscientious introduction of democratic table manners into stuffily aristocratic state dinner parties. Written in a strong, lively style pointed with Adams' wit, the History chronicles the consolidation of American character, and poses questions about the future course of democracy.
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