Heirs of an Honored Name

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


By Douglas R. Egerton

Formats and Prices




$25.99 CAD



  1. ebook $19.99 $25.99 CAD
  2. Hardcover $35.00 $44.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 29, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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.


Explore book giveaways, sneak peeks, deals, and more.

Tap here to learn more.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

—PERCY SHELLEY, “Ozymandias,” 1816


(Third, Fourth, and Fifth Generations)

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS married LOUISA CATHERINE JOHNSON (February 12, 1775–May 15, 1852) on July 26, 1797, and was the father of four children and the grandfather of nine grandchildren.

1. George Washington Adams (April 12, 1801–April 30, 1829).

2. John Adams II (July 4, 1803–October 23, 1834) married Mary Catherine Hellen (1806–1870) on February 25, 1828.

1. Mary Louisa Adams (February 23, 1829–July 16, 1859) married William Clarkson Johnson (August 16, 1823–January 28, 1893) on June 30, 1853.

2. Georgeanna Francis Adams (September 10, 1830–October 2, 1839).

3. Charles Francis Adams Sr. (August 18, 1807–November 21, 1886) married Abigail Brown Brooks (April 25, 1808–June 6, 1889) on September 3, 1829.

1. Louisa Catherine Adams (August 13, 1831–July 13, 1870) married Charles Kuhn (November 2, 1821–October 18, 1899) on April 13, 1854.

1. Mary Elizabeth Kuhn (October 1857).

2. John Quincy Adams II (September 22, 1833–August 14, 1894) married Frances “Fanny” Cadwallader Crowninshield (October 15, 1839–May 16, 1911) on April 29, 1861.

1. John Quincy Adams III (February 23, 1862–April 12, 1876).

2. George Caspar Adams (April 24, 1863–July 13, 1900).

3. Charles Francis Adams III (August 2, 1866–June 10, 1954). married Francis Lovering.

4. Fanny Crowninshield Adams (August 8, 1873–April 11, 1876).

5. Arthur Adams (May 20, 1877–May 19, 1943) married Margery Lee on October 5, 1921.

6. Abigail Adams (September 16, 1879–February 15, 1974) married Robert Homans on June 10, 1907.

3. Charles Francis Adams Jr. (May 27, 1835–May 20, 1915) married Mary “Minnie” Hone Ogden (February 23, 1843–March 23, 1935) on November 8, 1865.

1. Mary Ogden Adams (July 27, 1867–July 21, 1933) married Grafton St. Leon Abbott on September 30, 1890.

2. Louisa Catherine Adams (December 28, 1871–October 13, 1958) married Thomas Nelson Perkins (1879–1937) on June 6, 1900.

3. Elizabeth “Elsie” Ogden Adams (December 3, 1873–October 19, 1945).

4. Henry Adams (July 17, 1875–April 26, 1951).

5. John Adams (July 17, 1875–August 30, 1964) married Marian Morse (1878–1959).

4. Henry Brooks Adams (February 16, 1838–March 27, 1918) married Marian “Clover” Hooper (September 14, 1843–December 6, 1885) on June 27, 1872.

5. Arthur Adams (July 23, 1841–February 9, 1846).

6. Mary Gardiner Adams (February 19, 1846–August 19, 1928). married Henry Parker Quincy (October 27, 1838–March 11, 1899) on June 20, 1877.

1. Emme M. Quincy (1881).

2. William Brazies Quincy (February 3, 1884–December 24, 1958).

3. Dorothy Adams Quincy (December 4, 1885–April 6, 1939).

4. Edwin P. Quincy (1888).

5. Eleanor Adams Quincy (March 11, 1888–1939).

7. Peter Chardon Brooks Adams (June 24, 1848–February 13, 1927). married Evelyn “Daisy” Davis (1853–1926) on September 7, 1889.

4. Louisa Catherine Adams (August 12, 1811–September 15, 1812).




FOR A MAN WHOSE POLITICAL STAR WOULD ONE DAY RISE SO high, his was hardly an auspicious start in the world. Although Louisa Catherine Adams had previously given birth to two healthy boys, she also had a history of miscarriages. When she went into labor at 2:00 A.M. on August 18, 1807, the pains were so severe that her nurse grew alarmed, burst into tears, and was sent out of the room. Instead, for the first time in four births, Louisa’s husband John Quincy assisted and, like many a young father, claimed to have “witnessed sufferings that he had no idea of.” After six hours of labor, Louisa gave birth to “another apparently dead Child.” Within thirty minutes, however, she rejoiced to hear that “the Child had recovered the play of his lungs.” The couple had already named their first son George, after the late president, and the second one John, after the child’s grandfather. This boy was christened Charles Francis, after the newborn’s deceased, alcoholic uncle and after Francis Dana, a minor diplomat who had served as American minister to St. Petersburg when John Quincy was thirteen. But then third sons seemed rarely destined for greatness.1

Born in London, Louisa was one of seven daughters of an Englishwoman and a well-connected Maryland merchant, whose brother served as governor of Maryland before his elevation to the Supreme Court. Louisa had met John Quincy in 1795, during his tenure as minister to the Netherlands, and they wed two years later at a parish church on London’s Tower Hill. For the next several years, the couple lived in Prussia, where John Quincy negotiated a maritime treaty and where George Adams was born on April 12, 1801. (Concerned for Louisa’s health, King Frederick William III ordered the street on which the Adamses lived sealed at both ends to cut down on horse-drawn carriage noise.) After his father lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson in the bitterly fought contest of 1800, John Quincy resigned his position, assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that Jefferson intended to name a Republican to the post. On July 17 the three Adamses boarded the America and sailed for Boston, a city that Louisa had never visited, to meet in-laws she had not yet encountered.2

Only thirty-four years old, John Quincy was unsure about his future. He began to practice law, an occupation that bored him. However, in April 1802 his neighbors elected him to the state assembly. That November, he sought a seat in the national Congress but lost to his Republican opponent by fifty-nine votes. His fortunes improved early in 1803 when the Federalist-controlled legislature selected him for the US Senate, and that July, Louisa gave birth to his second son. But after Senator Adams broke with his party to endorse the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and President Jefferson’s Embargo Act in 1807, the Federalists made it clear that he would not be chosen for a second term. Adams chose, yet again, to resign his office and return to Boston. As he had in 1801, Adams believed his political career to be at its end, although he took some solace in the praise of the pro-Jeffersonian Richmond Enquirer, which applauded his reply to his Federalist critics as “one of the ablest and most eloquent political papers.” John Quincy moved his growing family into a large, airy house on Boylston and Tremont Streets, and it was there, only two weeks after they arrived from Washington, that Charles Francis was born.3

John Quincy did not wander long in the political wasteland. In July 1809, President James Madison appointed Adams to serve as the nation’s first minister to Russia. (Still furious over John Quincy’s defection to the Republicans, both senators from Massachusetts voted against his confirmation.) It was imperative that he leave before the fall: once the harbor of St. Petersburg froze, the city was virtually unreachable until late spring. Abigail Adams, the boys’ grandmother and unquestioned matriarch of the Adams clan, decreed—much to Louisa’s dismay—that George and John, the two eldest sons, should remain in Massachusetts to pursue their education. Louisa, John Quincy, and one-year-old Charles Francis boarded the Horace on August 10. “Eight full and eventful years” were to lapse, Charles Francis later observed, before he would, as a boy of ten, return to American shores.4

Charles Francis later derided his education in St. Petersburg as “of a very desultory character,” but in important ways it prepared the future diplomat for a career in foreign courts. The official language of Russian society was French, which both John Quincy and Louisa spoke fluently thanks to respective childhoods partly spent in Paris and Nantes. For three hours each morning, John Quincy instructed his son in French and German, and so fluent did he quickly become that on one occasion Tsar Alexander I and Empress Elizabeth chatted with the boy for nearly an hour before pronouncing him a “charming child.” Believing that five-year-old Charles Francis possessed a “thirst for learning beyond his years,” John Quincy expanded the morning work schedule to six hours and added mathematics. Lacking a background in New England Calvinism and having not been raised by the demanding John and Abigail, Louisa came to fear that her husband was pushing their son too hard. John Quincy remained convinced that his third son was a prodigy, a view that the praise from the royal family only served to reinforce. For his part, young Charles Francis found subtle ways to assert his independence. When he realized that he could annoy his father by incorrectly “reading or pronouncing words when he knows perfectly well the right,” Charles Francis continued to do so, prompting John Quincy to fret that the boy had a “singular aversion to being taught.”5

While mornings in Russia were devoted to study, the evenings were given over to an elegance and festivity rarely found in dour Quincy. Charles Francis understood enough German—the native language of the empress—to enjoy the German theater, and one “hobgoblin story,” John Quincy remarked, left his son “much diverted.” Charles Francis routinely donned exotic costumes for fancy-dress bells, once appearing as Bacchus, although he preferred American Indian dress, Louisa sighed, to satisfy his “taste for Savages.” John Quincy also took his son to see the circus acts in St. Isaac’s Square and on occasion tried the role of tender companion, playing games with Charles Francis or holding his hand for long walks along the Neva River. What Charles Francis could not then appreciate was that his father gave him what was denied to his brothers: time alone with his parents. But for an Adams, that was ever the mixed blessing. By the time he turned seventeen, Charles Francis would admit that he little enjoyed the company of his father. “He is the only man I ever saw, whose feelings I could not penetrate,” he confided to his diary. “I can study his countenance for ever and very seldom find any guide by which to move.”6

If he found his father cold and unfathomable, Charles Francis quickly learned to discern his mother’s moods. In turn, Louisa thought her son fascinating and, bored as she was in frigid St. Petersburg, came to regard him as both a child and a companion. They spent afternoons together, taking a turn under the blossoms in her garden during the brief summer months or devising fantastical stories for one another. Charles Francis was especially sensitive to his mother’s needs after the birth of his sister, Louisa Catherine Adams, in August 1811. The baby was never well and lived but thirteen months. It had been another troubled delivery, and Louisa knew this would be her last. She and Charles Francis sometimes visited the grave at the city’s Lutheran Cemetery, and Louisa took comfort in her son’s “little tender assiduities; attentions gentle and affectionate beyond [his] years.” The two enjoyed cards, and Charles Francis assured his father that “Mama is a great amateur of cards.” Louisa also took an interest in her son’s education, but the tender companionship that Charles Francis found in his mother was precisely what he found lacking in his severe father.7

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR BETWEEN RUSSIA AND NAPOLEONIC FRANCE in June 1812 surprised few court insiders, just as the nearly simultaneous congressional declaration of war against Britain was equally anticipated. But events took an unexpected turn when Tsar Alexander, who desperately needed British aid, offered to act the role of mediator between Washington and London. Madison promptly named a bipartisan commission to join Adams in St. Petersburg, but when the British rejected the tsar’s offer and instead suggested direct negotiations in the Belgian port of Ghent, John Quincy prepared to leave wife and child in Russia while he journeyed west. The enforced absence from his family brought a surprisingly affectionate quality to his correspondence. The letters they exchanged, Charles Francis later told his sons, revealed “the kindlier, more domestic, and less austere features” of John Quincy’s character. However, Louisa so dreaded the coming winter and feared the French invasion that she considered taking Charles Francis and sailing for home: “I am so sick and weary of it I would willingly run all the risks attached to the Voyage in the present state of things than undergo it much longer.”8

After signing a draft peace treaty on Christmas Day of 1814, Adams quit Ghent for Paris, writing to Louisa that she and Charles Francis should join him there. With the Neva frozen, Louisa prepared for a brutal cross-country trip of 40 days and 1,600 miles. Louisa, who had just turned forty, left St. Petersburg on February 12 in a large carriage known as a berline, its runners designed to be replaced with spring heels when the snows turned to frozen earth. Traveling with the two were a Russian nurse and one soldier to serve as both guard and driver. “We were jolted over hills, through swamps and holes, and into valleys, into which no Carriage had surely ever passed before,” she wrote, “and my whole heart was filled with unspeakable terrors for the safety of my Child.” Although Louisa carried Russian, French, and Prussian passports, as they neared the Marne River, the carriage was surrounded by a crowd of French camp followers who screamed that she and Charles Francis were Russians: “Take them out and kill them.” Louisa stepped out of the carriage and in her perfect French explained that she was the wife of an American diplomat before shouting back, “Viva Napoleon!” The mob parted, and Louisa waved her handkerchief as they drove away. The Adamses were reunited on March 23, the same day that Napoleon Bonaparte marched into the city and began his final reign of one hundred days. Charles Francis was not yet eight years old.9

The boy was fascinated by the chaos of wartime France and thrilled, as part of “the surging crowd,” to look up and see Bonaparte waving from the balcony at the Tuileries. “I well remember the scenes of Paris during the hundred days,” he later wrote, “reviews by Napoleon, the excitement of the city, the theaters, the exhibitions.” In early May, word arrived that Madison had appointed John Quincy as minister to Great Britain, a post once held by his father. The three departed for London, arriving just ahead of the news from Waterloo. With the war at last finally over, John Quincy and Louisa decided that the time had arrived for George and John, whom they had not seen in six years, to join them in England.10

The entire family was finally reunited later that month when the two eldest sons, one fourteen and the other nearly twelve, arrived at their hotel in Cavendish Square. A directive from their grandmother warned John Quincy to be gentle with the sensitive, talented George, although as Abigail feared that her husband had been too lenient with his namesake John, she cautioned that the “wild” boy had a “little too much confidence in himself.” As for Charles Francis, he scarcely knew his brothers and had almost come to regard himself as an only child. Having had little contact with other children his own age in St. Petersburg or Paris, Charles Francis now had to learn to share his parents’ attention with two older and far less urbane brothers. Even communicating was a trial. John Quincy regarded George’s Greek and Latin as unacceptable, while Charles Francis was more fluent in French and Russian than in English.11

John Quincy enrolled the three boys in a large boarding school in Ealing, a few hours’ coach drive from London, run by Dr. George Nicholas. At this home to roughly 250 boys, the gregarious George and John were instantly popular, although George struggled with his Latin classes, which were taught exclusively in that language. Charles Francis took considerable pride in the fact that while his brothers “made several friends, I had none.” As the War of 1812 was but recently over, both Dr. Nicholas and the well-to-do students picked on Charles Francis and routinely sang “Rule, Britannia” on the playground. The headmaster reported him a “dull boy,” and in turn, Charles Francis retorted that he “learned nothing, but the necessity of fighting English boys in defense of the honor of a country of which I knew practically nothing.” The one virtue of the school, he later reflected, was that it taught him the importance of “standing up to the support of my own opinions.” The experience also taught him much about “the English character,” which was to be of “very appreciable value” fifty years later, as he would admit to his own sons.12

In the late spring of 1817, word reached London that the new president, James Monroe, intended to appoint John Quincy his secretary of state. Accordingly, on June 10 the five Adamses sailed for home aboard the Washington after final visits from British abolitionist William Wilberforce and philosopher-reformer Jeremy Bentham. Charles Francis was ten. America “did not look to me as I expected,” he later remarked. “The people were all strange, the habits very different from what I had been used to.” The experience, ironically, turned the boy “shy and cold,” two defects that he so disliked in his father. After first leaving the boys in the care of their grandparents, both strangers to Charles Francis, John Quincy and Louisa hastened to Washington. Abigail Adams was then seventy-three but remained a formidable presence in the old house in Quincy. George was then sixteen and “quite grown up,” in his youngest brother’s estimation. Yet the smallest admonition from Abigail reduced both George and John to tears. At the time, Charles Francis little understood their terror or their feelings of “admiration and affection” for their grandmother. But by the day she died thirteen months hence, he realized that “he himself fully shared in it.”13

Having been rarely separated from his parents even while at Ealing, Charles Francis took the parting hard. When his grandparents entrusted him to Benjamin Anthorp Gould’s Boston Latin School, the traditional preparatory institute for Harvard College, Charles Francis tried to remain with John and Abigail in Quincy by feigning chronic dysentery. Only when John Adams raised the prospect of “medicine and emetics” did the symptoms disappear. Unlike Dr. Nicholas, Gould took to the boy, and Charles Francis thought himself “somewhat of a favorite” of the headmaster. John Quincy was less confident. When the boys visited their parents in Washington over the Christmas holiday, their father confided to Abigail that he was resigned to the dismal prospect of his sons being “like other men,” the goal of perfection and “ideal excellence” being beyond their meager capabilities. Curiously, George agreed, thinking that “the comparative idleness” of his recent travels “unfitted the mind for that severe application necessary for the attainment of profound and useful knowledge.” Even so, the secretary of state still planned to send all his sons to his old college and that of his father, with George destined to enter the class of 1821.14

When John II also left for Harvard, in September 1819, the Adamses decided to send for Charles Francis, now twelve, and enroll him in a Catholic school run by a Reverend Ironside. The boy enjoyed being once more in his parents’ company, as well as again having them to himself. Discipline at the school was evidently casual, as Charles Francis approvingly told his grandfather that “talking playing and whistling” were common in the hallways, a confession that earned a rebuke from Quincy. Such amusements, the eighty-four-year-old patriarch warned, were “not fit to be indulged or tolerated in the scene of education for Youth.”15

Charles Francis’s extensive training in Latin in both Boston and Washington convinced his father that the boy was ready for Harvard at the age of fourteen. When his brothers returned north in February 1821 after the Christmas holidays in Washington, Charles Francis traveled with them. Much to John Quincy’s dismay, Charles bungled his Latin examination and had to sit for it again. Since the examiner was Edward Channing, a professor whose appointment John Quincy had publicly opposed just the year before, the secretary warned Harvard president John Kirkland that his son had been “unfairly treated.” Charles Francis took the exam again, this time with his father observing, and he passed with but one small mistake. Yet even in an era when boys attended college in their late teens, a fourteen-year-old, Charles Francis later conceded, was “very imperfectly fitted for admission.” Although he rightly believed that he had “read more extensively” than any other boy of his age, his mind “was without discipline,” and his “memory for things in which I took no interest, utterly useless.” By the end of his first year, Charles Francis was ranked near the bottom of his class, and he was as friendless as at Ealing. He was mortified that he “was in no condition to enter the list as a competitor for college honors.” Having rushed his youngest son into college, John Quincy now regretted his boys’ collective “blast of mediocrity.” Whether the three spent the next winter vacation in Washington or in Cambridge, he concluded, “would depend on their standing as Scholars.”16

The secretary grew further alarmed when he paid a visit to Cambridge and inquired about his other sons’ rankings. George’s records revealed a mediocre standing of thirtieth in his class while John, ranked forty-fifth, was, like Charles Francis, close to the bottom of his cohort. “You boast of your studying hard, and pray for whose benefit do you study?” John Quincy demanded of John. “Are you so much a baby that you must be taxed to spell your letters by sugar plums?” Toward George, the disappointed father was equally harsh. Given George’s “propensity to skulk from real study,” John Quincy thundered, he should perhaps write his senior dissertation on the maxim “Mind your [own] business.” George at least received his diploma. Just months before his graduation, however, John was one of forty students expelled for violation of Harvard’s code of conduct, probably for drunkenness. John Quincy posted two letters to Kirkland begging him to reconsider, but to no avail.17

Charles Francis responded to his father’s admonitions by proposing that he quit college altogether. Still three months away from his fifteenth birthday, the teenage Adams, as he sorrowfully confided to his diary, had grown “addicted [to] depraved habits,” particularly “billiards, drinking parties and riding.” Charles Francis had also grown infatuated with his cousin Mary Hellen, the orphaned daughter of his mother’s eldest sister, who had moved in with John Quincy and Louisa in 1817. Although the same age as Charles Francis, Mary enjoyed flirting with all three cousins, prompting Louisa to reprimand her niece for “behaving shamefully.” Worried about his younger brother, George rode out to Cambridge to discover whether a leave of absence “would in any way prejudice” Charles Francis’s standing at Harvard. Their father was not so understanding. In a lengthy letter, John Quincy assured his son that while he did not “absolutely reject” the idea of his abandoning his studies, he could only “consent to it upon condition that he should determine upon some other course of life to which he could immediately resort.” Charles Francis’s personal flaws and immorality, John Quincy chided, were an altogether different matter: “If I must give up all expectation of success or distinction for you in this life,” at least “preserve me from the harrowing thought of your perdition in the next.” Deciding that eternal damnation was too high a price to pay, Charles Francis remained at Harvard and graduated in 1825.18


  • "Deeply researched and brimming with anecdotes, from this narrative emerges not only the decline and fall of the Adams family but also the political scene of the nineteenth century, the rise of modern America, and the unavoidable parallels with our own time as a nation that finds itself increasingly divided."—Booklist
  • "Douglas Egerton has emerged as one of our nation's leading historians... Egerton is to be praised for his in-depth coverage of not only the sons of Charles Francis Adams, but also the women who married into the family. Egerton uses the lives of Adams family members as a window into the Civil War era."—Erik Chaput, Providence Journal
  • "Egerton brings to life the third and fourth generations of America's first political dynasty. Readers interested in 19th-century culture or the dynamics of American political families will find food for thought here."—Publishers Weekly
  • "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, the next generation, including 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
  • "Douglas Egerton is one of the most versatile and accomplished historians of our time. Here he writes the saga of America's most extraordinary multi-generational political family. With lyrical and critical prose, Egerton chronicles the Adamses' rise and fall-the latter generations never making lives or imaginations that could match the impossible models of the founders. This is a must read for its family drama, its deep research, its richly American texture, and its cautionary tale for modern strivers."—David W. Blight,author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet 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
  • "In this riveting saga of the personal tribulations of America's first family's later generations, Douglas Egerton beautifully charts the declension of the American Republic from its revolutionary and antislavery ideals. He adeptly mirrors the betrayal of emancipation and hopes for an interracial democracy after the Civil War in the Adams family's retreat from the duties of patriotism to narrow elitism. This is a collective historical biography of a superior order."
    Manisha Sinha, authorof The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition
  • "The Adams family contributed a stunning procession of presidents, diplomats, historians, and intellectuals who played crucial roles in the birth and maturation of the republic and its salvation during the Civil War. In this wonderfully engaging book, one of the most eminent historians of this period tells a compelling story of how this seemingly indispensable family became superfluous to the nation it had so dutifully served."
    Don H. Doyle, authorof The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American CivilWar
  • "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
  • "This is a story of declension: the inter-generational devolution of a great American family line. In vivid and graceful prose, Douglas Egerton recounts the political and moral decay of the Adamses. In his time, John Quincy Adams became a leading, even heroic figure in the fight against slavery, a fight that eventually achieved victory through civil war. But in later years, his descendants turned their back on the principles that animated that struggle. In doing so, they paralleled and illuminated the retreat of the northern business and political elite as a whole from the goals of the nation's second democratic revolution."—Bruce Levine, authorof The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolutionthat Transformed the South

On Sale
Oct 29, 2019
Page Count
480 pages
Basic Books

Douglas R. Egerton

About the Author

Douglas R. Egerton is a professor of history at Le Moyne College. The award-winning author of eight previous books, including Thunder at the Gates and The Wars of Reconstruction, he lives in Fayetteville, New York.

Learn more about this author