John Quincy Adams: A Man for the Whole People (Hardcover)

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A magisterial journey through the epic life and transformative times of John Quincy Adams

In this masterful biography, historian Randall B. Woods peels back the many layers of John Quincy’s long life, exposing a rich and complicated family saga and a political legacy that transformed the American Republic.

Born the first son of John and Abigail Adams, he was pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps in both law and politics. His boyhood was spent amid the furor of the American Revolution, and as a teen he assisted his father on diplomatic missions in Europe, hobnobbing with monarchs and statesmen, dining with Ben Franklin, sitting by Voltaire at the opera. He received a world-class education, becoming fluent in Latin, Greek, German, and French. His astonishing intellect and poise would lead to a diplomatic career of his own, in which he'd help solidify his fledgling nation’s standing in the world.

He was intertwined with every famous American of his day, from Washington to Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, Jackson, Calhoun, Clay, and Webster. He was on stage, frequently front and center, during the Revolutionary Era, the fractious birth of American party politics, the War of 1812, the Era of Good Feelings, and the peak of Continental Expansion. It was against this backdrop that he served as an ambassador, senator, secretary of state, and, unhappily, as president. The driving force behind both the Transcontinental Treaty and the Monroe Doctrine, this champion of Manifest Destiny spent the last years of his life fighting against the annexation of Texas because it would facilitate the spread of slavery.

This deeply researched, brilliantly written volume delves into John Quincy’s intellectual pursuits and political thought; his loving, yet at times strained, marriage to Louisa Catherine Johnson, whom he met in London; his troubling relationships with his three sons; and his fiery post-presidency rebirth in Congress as he became the chamber’s most vocal opponent of slavery.

About the Author


Randall Woods is a John A. Cooper Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, where he has taught since 1971. His books include LBJ: Architect of American Ambition and Fulbright: A Biography, which won the Robert H. Ferrell Prize.

Praise For…


“This splendid biography is a genuine Life and Times story of a remarkable American who served his country for more than a half century as diplomat, senator, secretary of state, president, public intellectual, and in a unique post-presidential career as gadfly of the slave power in Congress.  Randall Woods skillfully interweaves the narrative of these events with intimate accounts of Adams' personal and family life in a warmly human manner.”
James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

“Randall Woods’ John Quincy Adams: A Man for the Whole People is a real treasure. Stretching from the American Revolution to the Mexican-American War, Woods provides a fascinating portrait of John Quincy Adams—a man known for his presidency and later abolitionism but little known for his romantic temperament and sociability. Woods’ true passion for John Quincy comes through in his selected anecdotes and eloquent descriptions, articulating a comprehensive image of the life of the sixth president. From narrating his studies at Harvard to his uphill fight against the gag rule, Woods highlights John Quincy in a new light, one that underscores his relatability to, connectivity with, and importance in the present moment. Woods’ volume is an insightful read and a tour de force.”
Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

“Beautifully written biographies are rare gems, and Randall Woods’s John Quincy Adams is truly one of the most exquisite. In this contemporary moment when our democracy feels so fragile, and when the question of what defines us a nation—what will make us the most egalitarian, the most just—feels so pressing, this vibrant and rich look at the life of a man who was at the very center of an earlier so-similar moment in our nation’s past is sobering, hopeful, and needed.”
—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy

“Masterly and magisterial, a compelling, complex, deeply researched and engagingly-written modern biography of John Quincy Adams that brings to life not only an American political dynasty but also a time and a world at the vital moment of the creation of American state and power.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times bestselling author of The World: A Family History of Humanity

“Long hidden behind a mask of his own making, America's sixth president John Quincy Adams emerges in Randall Woods's masterful biography as privately passionate, obsessed with the presidency, and eager to honor his founding father and to meet the high expectancy of his demanding mother. A master of diplomacy, a disaster at popular politics, Quincy Adams devotes a long public life to upholding the principles of the Declaration of Independence while struggling with the contradictions of the Constitution. This tell-all, intimate portrait of a president and his family provides a deeply-researched, insightful panorama of the early nation for readers curious about the origins of American politics.”
—Willard Sterne Randall, author of The Founders’ Fortunes


Product Details
ISBN: 9780593187241
ISBN-10: 0593187245
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: June 25th, 2024
Pages: 784
Language: English