John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I did not know much about John Quincy Adams except for the fact that he was president of the United States, and that he argued the Amistad case before the Supreme Court, winning the kidnapped African's their freedom. What I discovered was that he was a true genius, a man who saw far beyond his time and paid the price for it. Adams was fluent in several European languages including Dutch, French, and Russian. Due to this fact and other aspects of his intelligence, he first served his country in diplomacy securing international recognition for the new American nations and favorable trade relations for its industries.
His presidency was unsuccessful due to the fact that he was a true minority president, receiving fewer popular and electoral votes than his main rival and successor Andrew Jackson. However, due to the fact that no candidate for the presidency got a majority of the electoral votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where a deal was reached with Henry Clay to give Adams the office. However, while president, he was never respected. Jackson used the accusation that Adams had made a dishonorable deal to gain the White House to discredit and thwart Adams.
After losing to Jackson in 1828, Adams was elected to the House of Representatives from Massachusetts practically without opposition where he immediately threw himself into the growing slave controversy much to the outrage of the Southern congressmen who tried, unsuccessfully to censure and dismiss him from the House.
Adams' success in the Amistad trial was in many ways the first battle of the Civil War and the precursor to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. (Lincoln in his only term in the House served with Adams in his final term.) Adams literally died on the House floor fighting the Amistad case when he opposed the claims Spain made against the United States in regards to their lost "property" (the freed Africans).
Harlow Unger's book is very accessible. He acquainted me not only with the man but the times in which he lived. I now have a respect for John Quincy Adams that I did not have before.
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