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Heirs of an Honored Name

Heirs of an Honored Name

The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America

An enthralling chronicle of the American nineteenth century told through the unraveling of the nation’s first political dynasty

John and Abigail Adams founded a famous political family, but they would not witness its calamitous fall from grace. When John Quincy Adams died in 1848, so began the slow decline of the family’s political legacy.

In Heirs of an Honored Name, award-winning historian Douglas R. Egerton depicts a family grown famous, wealthy — and aimless. After the Civil War, Republicans looked to the Adamses to steer their party back to its radical 1850s roots. Instead, Charles Francis Sr. and his children — Charles Francis Jr., John Quincy II, Henry and Clover Adams, and Louisa Adams Kuhn — largely quit the political arena and found refuge in an imagined past of aristocratic preeminence.

An absorbing story of brilliant siblings and family strain, Heirs of an Honored Name shows how the burden of impossible expectations shaped the Adamses and, through them, American history.
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Genre: Nonfiction / History / United States / 19th Century

On Sale: October 29th 2019

Price: $35 / $44 (CAD)

Page Count: 480

ISBN-13: 9780465093885

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


"Douglas Egerton's eloquent group biography of the descendants of Abigail and John Quincy Adams is a nineteenth-century secular version of Puritan declension. Following Charles Francis Adams's exemplary diplomatic service in Britain during the Civil War, Heirs of an Honored Name reveals how the next generation that included his sons Charles and Henry drifted into racism, anti-Semitism, and narcissistic self-pity -- an inglorious sequel to three generations of America's most prominent founding family, chronicled by Egerton with sensitivity and nuance."—James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom
"In Douglas R. Egerton's brilliant telling, the story of this singular American dynasty becomes both accessible and captivating. The struggles of Charles Francis Adams and his sons to live up to the legacy of their illustrious forbears reveal a family at odds with itself: the Adamses' noble impulses of public service and sacrifice did battle with their corrosive competitiveness and patrician sense of entitlement. Their battle mirrors America's battle, in the turbulent nineteenth century and beyond, to reconcile the imperatives and reform and tradition."—Elizabeth R. Varon, author of Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War
"If good biography tells us what we need to know about its subjects and the society they inhabit, then in this splendid life story of the Adams family, Douglas Egerton takes us on a troubling journey through the many ways this patrician family, and the country, abandoned their lofty principles and commitment to equality for a crass denial of rights."—Richard Blackett, author of The Captive's Quest for Freedom and Making Freedom
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