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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Adams's Handler

What about John Quincy Adams the man: humorless prig or prophetic statesman?

John Quincy Adams By Healy

In The Need to be Whole, his new book on race and American history—and the most thoughtful meditation on the meaning of the Civil War since Edmund Wilson’s Patriotic Gore—Wendell Berry writes, “To anybody looking for a truly moral and upright American politician, I think I can name no better candidate than John Quincy Adams.”

I’ve always thought of our sixth president as a sour, splenetic, self-righteous New Englander, and a loose constructionist to boot, but Berry’s judgment came hot on the heels of my reading Freedom, Independence, Peace: John Quincy Adams and American Foreign Policy by David Hendrickson, president of the John Quincy Adams Society (JQAS) and among the most distinguished scholars of the foreign policy of the early republic.