Mr. Adam's Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams's Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congressby Joseph Wheelan
Following his single term as President of the United States (18251829), John Quincy Adams, embittered by his loss to Andrew Jackson, boycotted his successor's inauguration, just as his father John Adams had done (the only two presidents ever to do so). Rather than retire, the sixty-two-year-old former president, U.S. senator, secretary of state, and Harvard
Following his single term as President of the United States (18251829), John Quincy Adams, embittered by his loss to Andrew Jackson, boycotted his successor's inauguration, just as his father John Adams had done (the only two presidents ever to do so). Rather than retire, the sixty-two-year-old former president, U.S. senator, secretary of state, and Harvard professor was elected by his Massachusetts friends and neighbors to the House of Representatives to throw off the "incubus of Jacksonianism." It was the opening chapter in what was arguably the most remarkable post-presidency in American history.
In this engaging biography, historian Joseph Wheelan describes Adams's battles against the House Gag Rule that banished abolition petitions; the removal of Eastern Indian tribes; and the annexation of slave-holding Texas, while recounting his efforts to establish the Smithsonian Institution. As a "man of the whole country," Adams was not bound by political party, yet was reelected to the House eight times before collapsing at his "post of duty" on February 21, 1848, and then dying in the House Speaker's office. His funeral evoked the greatest public outpouring since Benjamin Franklin's death.
Mr. Adams's Last Crusade will enlighten and delight anyone interested in American history.
Former AP reporter Wheelan (Jefferson's War) renders a valuable service by reminding readers that a constructive post-presidential career is not a new phenomenon. While Robert V. Remini's John Quincy Adamscovered the sixth president's entire career, Wheelan's contribution focuses on the illustrious 17-year period in Adams's life when, as a congressman for eastern Massachusetts, after his one White House term ended, he functioned as a "man of the whole country." Within the constraints of his time, this highly intelligent but prickly man eventually fought more forcefully for abolition and civil rights, for women's political participation, and against Indian removal than perhaps anyone else then in the U.S. government. Readers who remember the film portrayal of John Quincy Adams working to free the passengers of the slave ship Amistadin the film of that name will benefit from the fuller treatment on "Old Man Eloquent" here. They will learn of his role in the governmental support of scientific research through the judicious use of James Smithson's bequest, for example. Although Wheelan seems to have used few new sources as addenda to Adams's diligently kept 68-year-long diary and his family's papers, he artfully interprets the life of this conscience-bound President as one ironically to be fulfilled by his congressional career. That Adams entered Congress at age 64, beset by depression and physical ailments, and succeeded, should encourage other service-minded seniors. Recommended for public libraries and for all U.S. history collections.
Frederick J. Augustyn Jr.
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Meet 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, 18461848, 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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