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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

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John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life - Paul C. Nagel

If I were John Quincy Adams (oft' referred to as JQA), much of this review would likely consist of chastising myself for not having the discipline or talent to write a better review. I mean, this was a guy who was seriously full of self-reproach. If he didn't have an internal proclivity for finding fault in himself, it's likely that growing up the first-born son of John and Abigail Adams would have steered him in that direction. 


The elder John Adams brought JQA (who was only 14 or so at the time) across the pond with him when he had to attend to his diplomatic duties. While Paul Nagel may have been a bit harsh when it came to laying blame on Abigail for JQA's tortured soul, having read this as well as First Family: Abigail and John Adams (both of which contain numerous letters between family members), it's clear that John became a bit of a go-between in the more difficult days of the Adams Family marriage. In all fairness, Abigail was a bit of a nag, and had a propensity for passive aggressive guilt tripping. 


John Quincy Adams


Nevertheless, JQA survived his bumpy road, winding through European schools, Harvard, a law practice for which he found himself ill-suited. Like his father, he had his own diplomatic missions and was brought back stateside to become Secretary of State to James Monroe and (duh), ultimately, president. Nagel points out that some might find it odd that only a single chapter in the biography was dedicated to Adams' presidency, but it really was a bit of a stalemate. 


JQA set out to write a great diary (noting that the post-stroke sections should be counted as an Afterword), and Nagel makes good use of the excellent material at hand. Adams can be a remarkably frustrating guy. Even in his twilight years, on what should have been his victory tour, he criticizes himself for perhaps basking in the glory of it all too much. He was never one to take a rest. There's some comfort in the knowledge that he was, undoubtedly, his own worst enemy. Here's hoping he's not lying in his coffin wishing he could find a way to decompose more efficiently.