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The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams PDF, ePub eBook A patriot by birth, John Quincy Adams's destiny was foreordained. He was not only "The Greatest Traveler of His Age," but his country's most gifted linguist and most experienced diplomat. John Quincy's world encompassed the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the early and late Napoleonic Age. As his diplomat father's adolescent clerk and secretary, he met everyone w A patriot by birth, John Quincy Adams's destiny was foreordained. He was not only "The Greatest Traveler of His Age," but his country's most gifted linguist and most experienced diplomat. John Quincy's world encompassed the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the early and late Napoleonic Age. As his diplomat father's adolescent clerk and secretary, he met everyone who was anyone in Europe, including America's own luminaries and founding fathers, Franklin and Jefferson. All this made coming back to America a great challenge. But though he was determined to make his own career he was soon embarked, at Washington's appointment, on his phenomenal work abroad, as well as on a deeply troubled though loving and enduring marriage. But through all the emotional turmoil, he dedicated his life to serving his country. At 50, he returned to America to serve as Secretary of State to President Monroe. He was inaugurated President in 1824, after which he served as a stirring defender of the slaves of the Amistad rebellion and as a member of the House of Representatives from 1831 until his death in 1848. In The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, Phyllis Lee Levin provides the deeply researched and beautifully written definitive biography of one of the most fascinating and towering early Americans.

30 review for The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    He’s not exactly an American Founding Father--John Quincy Adams is actually the son of a Founding Father so he’s more like a Founding Son--but he’s become one of my favorite Revolutionary era personalities and I so enjoyed spending time with him in the pages of this book that I was a little heartbroken when I came to its end. Being the oldest son of John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy was raised to embrace the Puritan work ethic and absorb a strict moral compass that dictated self-improvement, g He’s not exactly an American Founding Father--John Quincy Adams is actually the son of a Founding Father so he’s more like a Founding Son--but he’s become one of my favorite Revolutionary era personalities and I so enjoyed spending time with him in the pages of this book that I was a little heartbroken when I came to its end. Being the oldest son of John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy was raised to embrace the Puritan work ethic and absorb a strict moral compass that dictated self-improvement, good works, and public service, but unlike his parents he spent many of his formative years living, traveling, working, and studying in Europe so there’s a Continental enhancement to John Quincy’s personal outlook, political understandings, cultural appreciations, and love life. His wife Louisa was the only European born First Lady. John Quincy’s European adventures are thoroughly covered in this book which focuses on the first half of his life. His extended trips abroad were during that turbulent but highly interesting time surrounding the French revolution, stretching from Louis XVI through Napoleon and beyond, and John Quincy got to meet and sometimes know well many of the era’s leading figures. As a young teenager John Quincy acted as secretary and translator for his father and other American government officials in countries that included France, England, Russia, and what became Germany, and later as a young man he himself had several diplomatic postings around Europe. Well researched and written with clear-eyed sympathy and appreciation, The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams brings readers into the heart and mind of John Quincy before he became President. While John Quincy was born and bred an American patriot and eventually attended Harvard like his father, having the chance to enjoy and compare the arts, cultures, cities, governments, and landscapes of Europe gave him a broad political education that could not be duplicated in any classroom. Even just as a history of its time this book is fascinating, and I especially enjoyed the personal glimpses of rulers John Quincy became close to, like Alexander I of Russia and young King William III of Prussia and his family. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing. Review opinions are mine.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    I enjoyed The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, by Phyllis Lee Levin, very much. On LibraryThing, which allows half-stars, I rated it with 4 1/2 stars in recognition of its minor deficiencies. Going in I knew very little about the man, aside from his being John Adams's son and the sixth president. Levin's book covers his life, from birth (actually, she starts with a brief section on John and Abigail Adams) to around the age of 50, when President James Monroe appointed him secretary of s I enjoyed The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, by Phyllis Lee Levin, very much. On LibraryThing, which allows half-stars, I rated it with 4 1/2 stars in recognition of its minor deficiencies. Going in I knew very little about the man, aside from his being John Adams's son and the sixth president. Levin's book covers his life, from birth (actually, she starts with a brief section on John and Abigail Adams) to around the age of 50, when President James Monroe appointed him secretary of state. Her focus is on, as the title would suggest, his education/formation, both through his studies and his experiences. The book is certainly not scholarly – it was actually quite a “fast read” – but Levin generously integrates quotations from letters, diaries, and other original sources throughout. She makes mention of the work of the Massachusetts Historical Association in making available online the 51 volumes of John Quincy Adams's diary, and she clearly explored this work in depth. Selections from letters of John and Abigail Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams (JQA's wife), selections from the writings of Charles Francis Adams (JQA's son) and Henry Adams (grandson), passages from contemporary newspapers, etc., all contribute to a multifaceted portrait of John Quincy Adams. I found Levin's writing to be a bit flowery at first (“On this ravishing day, as John Quincy opened the front gate, the sky was cerulean, a canopy of deep lavender wisteria crowned the front path...” pg 14) and extravagant (she describes the trip from Quincy to Boston as “an 11-mile, two hour walk,” pg 13), but she soon settles down to a more restrained but quite engaging style. I found John Quincy Adams a really fascinating character – dutiful, driven, hard-working, and insecure. Did I mention “dutiful”? My word. John and Abigail set a great example of patriotic devotion, and also moral rectitude and inflexibility, and their son followed this path with incredible dedication. His mother, Abigail Adams, would put modern “tiger” mothers to shame. In a letter to 10 year old JQA, going off to France on a diplomatic mission with his father, she wrote, “Improve your understanding for acquiring useful knowledge and virtue, such as will render you an ornament to society, an honor to your country, and a blessing to your parents. Great learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small estimation, unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them. …. Dear as you are to me, I had much rather you should have found your grave in the ocean you have crossed, or any untimely death crop you in your infant years, rather than see you an immoral profligate or a graceless child” (pg 31). “Come back with your shield or on it,” as the Spartan moms used to say, though I'm not sure even they said this to their ten year olds! The “supporting” characters in the story were also wonderful, particularly Louisa Catherine, JQA's unfortunate wife. I found the entire book interesting, but the last section was particularly good. JQA was stationed in St. Petersburg during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and I found his perspective on an event I otherwise pretty much only know from War and Peace absolutely fascinating! He was friends with and an admirer of the Emperor Alexander, who comes off so poorly (to me, at least) in War and Peace. His diary entries and letters to his parents concerning peace negotiations and various diplomatic maneuverings (in the War of 1812, for instance) gave these historical events an unusual immediacy and interest. While I had a few minor complaints, mostly noted above, on the whole I thought the book was excellent. It focused on John Quincy Adams during his formative years, and provided an appropriate amount of historical background to allow the general reader to appreciate this remarkable man, offering a balanced portrait which includes both his strengths and shortcomings. I received this book at no cost from the publisher, through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, on the understanding that I would review it, but also that my rating of the book would not affect my future likelihood of receiving books through the program.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    John Quincy Adams was the eldest son of John and Abigail Adams and thus always destined for a political career. Eventually he became America’s 6th President. He lived in interesting times and met many of the great and the good of those times, particularly as he travelled widely and was appointed to many important posts around Europe. The book is meticulously researched and gives a full and detailed picture of the man and his life. I learnt a great deal, but I found the book pretty heavy going. I John Quincy Adams was the eldest son of John and Abigail Adams and thus always destined for a political career. Eventually he became America’s 6th President. He lived in interesting times and met many of the great and the good of those times, particularly as he travelled widely and was appointed to many important posts around Europe. The book is meticulously researched and gives a full and detailed picture of the man and his life. I learnt a great deal, but I found the book pretty heavy going. It’s written in a dry and rather repetitious way, often too detailed for its own good, and I found I could only read a bit at a time. This doesn’t detract from the book’s scholarship but it fails somewhat on its readability.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    A decent biography of John Quincy Adams and his formative years. it taught me some new things, but I think it relies too heavily on quoting from primary sources rather than quality writing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Faith Justice

    Biographers of the Adams family are blessed with a super-abundance of material. Down through the years the men and women of this remarkable family corresponded frequently and kept diaries documenting most of the important historic moments in our country's early history, as well as publishing frequently on current political topics. We're lucky they were also pack rats keeping their letters and diaries for generations. John Adams specified his library (the first presidential library) be build of s Biographers of the Adams family are blessed with a super-abundance of material. Down through the years the men and women of this remarkable family corresponded frequently and kept diaries documenting most of the important historic moments in our country's early history, as well as publishing frequently on current political topics. We're lucky they were also pack rats keeping their letters and diaries for generations. John Adams specified his library (the first presidential library) be build of stone so it would be fireproof. His descendants added their own books and papers to his over the years. Such a wealth of material is bound to attract historians and biographers and I've read many of their efforts over the years. This one, focusing on the early years of John Quincy Adams (sixth president of the US and John Adam's son), is a good addition to the canon. John Quincy had an unorthodox education, to say the least. Primarily "home schooled" and tutored from a rigorous curriculum devised by his father, his real education came in life experience. At the tender age of twelve he accompanied his father on his various embassies in Europe during and after the Revolutionary War. At fourteen, he accompanied Francis Dana on an embassy to Russia to gain recognition for our fledgling country. JQ spoke several languages (as well as reading and writing Greek and Latin). He met and frequently interacted with the leading people of his age. When he finally returned to the US to complete his education at Harvard and apprentice to a law firm, he seemed his most depressed and complained frequently of ill health. He expressed his fear that he would not fit in with the other young men of his cohort who had not traveled and experienced as much as he had. Levin takes the narrative through the early years of JQ's marriage, his short stint as a senator from Massachusetts, further embassies in Europe and ends with his return to the US in 1817; covering the first fifty years of his life, but stopping before his significant service in his native government. A brief Afterword by the author adds some facts about the ends of JQ' children and grandchildren. I found the book quite readable, well-documented, and even-handed in its assessments of his abilities and flaws. My only complaint is that the last couple of sections seemed a bit rushed. I felt the author could easily have stopped at an earlier point in his life and written a sequel where she picks up the story and takes us through his presidency, long Congressional career (one of only two presidents to serve in Congress after their terms as president), and famous defense of the enslaved Africans from the ship Armistad. Perhaps she plans to do that, but it wasn't evident from the back material of this uncorrected proof. For folks who enjoy biography and particularly those of early American figures, I recommend this one. Note: This review is based an Advance Review Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Canfield

    There is quite a bit to recommend about The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, a recounting of the first half of the titular character's life. It provides a hard-to-reach goalpost when it comes to the level of sophistication, learning, and worldliness Americans should expect from their country's leaders. Few aspects seem left unexamined when it comes to the numerous in and out of school educational components of John Quincy Adams's early life. The multilingual son of the second president There is quite a bit to recommend about The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, a recounting of the first half of the titular character's life. It provides a hard-to-reach goalpost when it comes to the level of sophistication, learning, and worldliness Americans should expect from their country's leaders. Few aspects seem left unexamined when it comes to the numerous in and out of school educational components of John Quincy Adams's early life. The multilingual son of the second president spent close to half of his first thirty years abroad, traveling with his father on diplomatic missions to numerous locations in Europe before being selected by Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison to undertake similar diplomatic work once he came of age. Tagging along on these trips with his father (and as an aide to Francis Dana) allowed the young Adams to have many education experiences in The Netherlands and Russia, and he was able to spend ample time in France and Great Britain alongside his dad at a very formative age. The book stresses the importance of these experiences in shaping the layered worldview JQA attained as a young man. He would even go on to graduate from Harvard the age of twenty, excelling in both the written and spoken word on his way to becoming educated in the law. Despite the quality nature of the writing, this biography felt like it should have been Volume 1 of a 3 or 4 part recounting of JQA's life. There is nothing about his time as president, nor his loss to Jackson in the 1828 election; nothing mentioned about his career as the only post-president to serve terms in the U.S. Congress (and his prodigious opposition to American slavery in the 1830s and 40s). It felt as if things were abruptly cut off when there were angles still left to be pursued and followed up on. But these aforementioned elements should in no way be counted against the book: Levin's goal was to lay out JQA's formative years in heavily researched detail, and she was mostly successful in pulling this off. Yet it would have been nice to see how his formal and informal education paid off during his time in the executive and legislative branches. Perhaps some details about about how his Secretary of Stateship under Monroe was shaped-including the doctrine JQA would create but be credited to the president he served under-would have given The Remarkable Education a more well-rounded feel. Readers will complete this book having gained a grasp of what a statesman's truly solid foundation in forming a worldview should look like. Listening to JQA give his take on Czar Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon Bonaparte of France is compelling readings, and nuggets like these only make this narrative all the more recommendable of a read. -Andrew Canfield Denver, Colorado

  7. 4 out of 5

    William Smith

    This is the fifth full or partial biography of John Quincy Adams that I have read. I find him one of the most fascinating singular personalities in the history of our nation. In reading Levin's book, it is critical to read the full title: "The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams." This is not a full biography. That takes something like 40-some odd volumes. Each writer/researcher/reader of his extensive journal and writings must pick and choose what items of interest they wish to share with This is the fifth full or partial biography of John Quincy Adams that I have read. I find him one of the most fascinating singular personalities in the history of our nation. In reading Levin's book, it is critical to read the full title: "The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams." This is not a full biography. That takes something like 40-some odd volumes. Each writer/researcher/reader of his extensive journal and writings must pick and choose what items of interest they wish to share with their readers. For this reason, some readers are bound to be disappointed, because so much must always be left out. The education and formative years of John Quincy (and, I especially liked her use of that reference, unlike an earlier reviewer!) made an excellent selection for Levin's focus. It was indeed remarkable. His overseas experience from a very young age, repeated while still a young man, created one of the, if not the, greatest diplomats in our country's history. Yet, he was able to retain the strength of character and devotion to public service to his home country that he got from his father, and mother, to reach the highest offices of the land, without need to compromise his principals. His rise over and above party (in their founding years) is still simply remarkable. I learned many details of John Quincy's education in this book that I had not read before, so I consider it a success. I have recently read a full biography of Louisa Catherine, his wife, as well, so inclusion of many stories of their relationship made this read especially enjoyable. They did not always have a happy life, but there can be no doubt of their total devotion to each other and to their role of public service to the country. If only that were more prevalent today, in more of our modern political life. Levin did well what she set out to do. For that, I give her my highest commendation.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    A Remarkable Biography of a Most Remarkable American Patriot Phyllis Lee Levin's "The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams" easily ranks as among the finest biographies of American statesmen published so far this century, drawing extensively on Adams' diaries and private correspondence, but written in a sufficiently lively and engaging style that will interest both a wide audience as well as those keenly interested in the early history of the United States. Levin's book offers us a most reve A Remarkable Biography of a Most Remarkable American Patriot Phyllis Lee Levin's "The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams" easily ranks as among the finest biographies of American statesmen published so far this century, drawing extensively on Adams' diaries and private correspondence, but written in a sufficiently lively and engaging style that will interest both a wide audience as well as those keenly interested in the early history of the United States. Levin's book offers us a most revealing look into the brilliant mind of John Quincy Adams, whose interests ranged widely, including a nearly life-long interest in science and technology. As such, he may be, along with Thomas Jefferson, the most brilliant President of the United States in the first century of its existence. Levin introduces us to a precocious youth who easily mastered several European languages while serving as secretary for his father and Francis Dana - and acting too as Dana's interpreter - as both older men served respectively, as America's ambassadors to the Netherlands and the Russian Empire. A man who mastered the arts and skills required for diplomacy so well that he would serve successfully as United States minister to the Netherlands, the British and Russian empires, while dealing simultaneously with a complicated, often difficult, marriage to his wife Louisa. Levin's biography is historical scholarship at its best, providing us with a sympathetic portrait of one of the most brilliant men ever to become President of the United States, and, without question, our most experienced - and most important - diplomat during the first half-century of the United States' existence.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brault

    Phyllis Lee Levin gracefully compiles the mass of profound acts that were the life of John Quincy Adams. Adams is largely known for his presidency, yet little detail about which is known. In fact little about Adams is common knowledge. This novel explores a man I now regard as extremely underrated, both in presidency and life in general. John Quincy Adams seemed to be somehow involved in many of the most important moments of the Napoleonic Era. Levin illustrates a life of accomplishment. Showing Phyllis Lee Levin gracefully compiles the mass of profound acts that were the life of John Quincy Adams. Adams is largely known for his presidency, yet little detail about which is known. In fact little about Adams is common knowledge. This novel explores a man I now regard as extremely underrated, both in presidency and life in general. John Quincy Adams seemed to be somehow involved in many of the most important moments of the Napoleonic Era. Levin illustrates a life of accomplishment. Showing Adams as a vulnerable human at times and totally impervious at others. To read this novel was to sit over dinner with Adams himself and peel back the layers that make him such a compelling figure. It also sheds light on how Adams became the most accomplished man you know nothing about. Overall this was an extremely insightful if not exciting read. Great use of literary intercourse and animalistic directness. While that could make for a dull read, Levin sidesteps such shortcomings. This novel is filled with trivia yet does not feel trivial.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    ARC received courtesy of Goodreads.com giveaway Wow, John Quincy Adams lived a remarkable life due to his remarkable education! He left home at 11 to accompany his father to Europe and act as his secretary. He wouldn't return home at all for more than 6 years. I cannot even begin to imagine any 11 year old I know doing something like that. JQA criss-crossed the ocean and Europe as if he were living in the modern day. His life is truly amazing. I found this book a bit difficult to stay with but I ARC received courtesy of Goodreads.com giveaway Wow, John Quincy Adams lived a remarkable life due to his remarkable education! He left home at 11 to accompany his father to Europe and act as his secretary. He wouldn't return home at all for more than 6 years. I cannot even begin to imagine any 11 year old I know doing something like that. JQA criss-crossed the ocean and Europe as if he were living in the modern day. His life is truly amazing. I found this book a bit difficult to stay with but I think that's because I'm not used to reading a meaty biography. Open the book and meet a truly remarkable American!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    I received this ARC from netgalley.com. I am in the process of reading about various U.S. presidents so this seemed like a good choice. John Quincy Adams was definitely privileged and had many opportunities that the average person was not afforded. Unfortunately, I found this book to be very dry. Was a compilation of facts and excerpts from various correspondences from Adams and his family members. I did not feel as though I got much information as to the who JQA was.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steven Tibbetts

    The fascinating account of the younger John Quincy Adams, from his boyhood through his service as a diplomat up to the conclusion of the War of 1812, drawing upon JQA's journals and correspondence. And yes, details of his education -- long before the days of public schools -- is a part of both the "fascinating" and "account." The author does especially fine with his youth, particularly as it related to how he assisted his father during the United States' formation as a nation, and his young adul The fascinating account of the younger John Quincy Adams, from his boyhood through his service as a diplomat up to the conclusion of the War of 1812, drawing upon JQA's journals and correspondence. And yes, details of his education -- long before the days of public schools -- is a part of both the "fascinating" and "account." The author does especially fine with his youth, particularly as it related to how he assisted his father during the United States' formation as a nation, and his young adulthood as he developed his own independent political reputation. The book concludes with his service as a US Senator and US Minister to Russia, though by then the author seems to have run out of steam. But then I think anyone telling the story of JQA's life would be exhausted by the time he turned 40. Such a full life! Highly recommended as a look at life in the young America as lived by one of her scions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Brooks

    Very good. Potential readers should be aware that it is more an account of JQA's personal life and relationships than an analysis of his political and diplomatic contributions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Judie

    “No other American diarist touched life at quite so many points, over quite so long a period, as John Quincy Adams” wrote historian Allan Nevins. As a youth, he went to Europe with his father while America was in the process of becoming a democracy. His life in the United States and the trip provided him with the opportunity to meet not only some of the major personalities of the fledgling American government, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, but also the leaders in politics, the “No other American diarist touched life at quite so many points, over quite so long a period, as John Quincy Adams” wrote historian Allan Nevins. As a youth, he went to Europe with his father while America was in the process of becoming a democracy. His life in the United States and the trip provided him with the opportunity to meet not only some of the major personalities of the fledgling American government, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, but also the leaders in politics, the arts, society, and science of the major European nations and Russia. As part of his education, he learned to speak several languages. His father guided his schooling and was a very exacting taskmaster. His father lectured him, in person or by mail, about subjects as diverse as geography, manners, appearance, history, penmanship, and observation. He told him “”[H]e had come into life with advantages which would disgrace him if his success were mediocre. If he did not rise to the head not only of his profession but of his country, ‘it will be owing to your own laziness, slovenliness and obstinacy.’” Letters from his mother and sister, Nabby, provided him encouragement and advice as well as a desire to be with them and at home again. It was in Europe that he met Louise, his future wife and where they began a difficult marriage. His interest in science, later to be described as “one of the greatest political spokesman for science, especially for pure and basic science, in the nineteenth century,” played a role in the development of Robert Fulton’s steam engine and the establishment of the Smithsonian in Washington DC. As President, he “would call on America to contribute her share of labor and expense for ‘the improvement of those arts of knowledge which lie beyond the reach of individual acquisition.” Letters from his mother and sister, Nabby, provided him encouragement and advice as well as a desire to be with them and at home again. It was in Europe that he met Louise, his future wife and where they began a difficult marriage. JQA was against slavery, which “nearly doubled their masters’ voting privileges,” and wrote, “what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity do depend upon the color of the skin?” Later he declared “if the Union must be dissolved, slavery was ‘precisely the question upon which it ought to break.” Francis Dana, JQA’s trusted mentor and friend “were puzzled by the spectrum of religious prejudice they encountered on their travels–with the blatant exception of the Jewish people.” On the other hand, JQA expressed negative opinions about Jews. About a village opposite Cologne, inhabited by Jews, he said “A nasty, dirty place indeed, and fit only for Jews to live in.” Many of his observations, included in his daily diary notes, are still relevant today: “While the poor complain of government oppression, men of property think it gives too much liberty to unprincipled citizens. He worried, ‘that a pure democracy appears to much greater advantage in speculation than when reduced to practice...and bids fair for popularity.’” As an adult back in the United States, JQA published essays in the newspapers under the pseudonym Publicola presenting his view of American politics. The book also explains the reasons for the break down of the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. His later career as a lawyer is given as is a very brief mention of career in the Federal government. The book ends with his death on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Phyllis Lee Levin did a lot of research, much of it from primary sources, before writing this biography. Much of the this book is presented as direct quotes, mostly from JQA’s personal diaries. Unfortunately, she included way too much of it in the book. For example she wrote that he, his mother, and sister visited a lace shop where the milliner was making expensive dresses “for the 10-year-old infanta of Spain, shortly to marry a 12-year-old prince of Portugal.” and “Monroe, having sailed for France on March 8, reached his Paris hotel at one o’clock on Tuessday, April 12....” At the same time. She dropped names without explaining them (e.g., “the controversial diplomat Silas Deane,” and “The XYZ Affair”). For a reader who is looking for a somewhat condensed version of John Quincy Adams for academic research, this book would be valuable. For a more casual reader, it lacks the spark to make it really interesting. I received an advance copy of this book through Goodreads.

  15. 5 out of 5

    JCB

    This book’s scope was a bit limited - although I should have seen that right away by its title. Not really an in depth historical biography, but nonetheless a strong researched partial look at a well traveled and well educated (of course) man. I especially found interesting his relationship with his father, his struggles with his marriage, and the semi-feud with Thomas Jefferson concerning the French revolution. All in all, a recommended read for all fascinated with America’s colonial times.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cris

    This book was alright. For a historical biography it was sometimes short on historical analysis, specially towards the end of JQA's life. The bulk of the text is dedicated to a JQA under age 30, which probably accounts for the romantic title. Granted, at that age he had already traveled the world and seen more of the world and politics than 90 percent of us ever will ever see but.... With this title in mind, it seems to me that the book would have been better off ending after the family's return This book was alright. For a historical biography it was sometimes short on historical analysis, specially towards the end of JQA's life. The bulk of the text is dedicated to a JQA under age 30, which probably accounts for the romantic title. Granted, at that age he had already traveled the world and seen more of the world and politics than 90 percent of us ever will ever see but.... With this title in mind, it seems to me that the book would have been better off ending after the family's return to Braintree. Admirers of John Adams will delight in how large his father looms in both the book and in the imagination of J.Quincy. The most interesting part of the book for me concerned the Adams/Jefferson feud over taking sides with Edmund Burke or the French Revolution. The book leans heavily on J.Quincy's letters to his family and others, as have many other books on him. However, there is very little discussion of his actual education: the plan, scope and failings of it that is, (whether one means the formation of his personal character or an in-depth look at the subjects he was to master). That he was an ambitious man, there is no doubt. His parents, in my opinion pushed him (and his sister) a little too much to be 'practical' and not marry until he had more lucrative prospects, with sad results. It is a sad thing that he frequented prostitutes instead of marrying. Furthermore, later in rebellion against his parents, he marries a woman that was clearly not his equal in either discipline or maturity. The book talks about this relationship for almost three chapter at least. Meanwhile the how of JQA being launched into the government is solved in one sentence. The little side-trip of Nabby Adams not being given opportunities like her brothers is there for no reason I can see. But one has to bear with every author's pet cause. Or their lack of curiosity in other matters. On the other hand for example the book is completely silent about his belief system. Levin classes him a humanist (in the modern sense?) in a careless off-hand comment, which I first did not believe unsupported as it was by silence. Nevertheless after reading from his letters in the Unitarian Journal, I would say JQA was probably a Socianist. If JQA had convictions of any kind, this book does not analyze. And even the political convictions are left unexamined. No large system for classifying political ideas is discussed. That he was clannish, stubborn and unforgiving there is no doubt. That he was methodical, thrifty and anti-partisan like his father is also a fact. Aside from his personal life, I came away not too enlightened for a book marshaling so many facts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    H. P.

    The book copy doesn’t say it. The Amazon editorial reviews don’t say. The title only hints at it. Let me be clear then: this book only covers John Quincy Adams’ early life, omitting his presidency entirely and ending before his service as secretary of state in the Monroe administration. “At 27, John Quincy was a world traveler and remarkable linguist—he spoke not only French and Dutch, but at one time or another studied Italian, Spanish, German and Russian, apart from reading and translating Lati The book copy doesn’t say it. The Amazon editorial reviews don’t say. The title only hints at it. Let me be clear then: this book only covers John Quincy Adams’ early life, omitting his presidency entirely and ending before his service as secretary of state in the Monroe administration. “At 27, John Quincy was a world traveler and remarkable linguist—he spoke not only French and Dutch, but at one time or another studied Italian, Spanish, German and Russian, apart from reading and translating Latin and Greek.” Levin focuses on John Quincy’s early life, mostly abroad in various diplomatic roles. We see his famous anti-slavery sentiments as early as, and influenced by, his pre-adulthood travels in Russia. We see mainly a diplomat—John Quincy was never happy as a lawyer and unwilling to accept the learning curve. Why would he when he had achieved so much so young? We see the original maverick, abandoning the Federalists for the Republican Party. Unfortunately, Levin doesn’t seem particularly interested in the switch, and it is presented as something that just sort of happens. We see one of the first great Constitutionalists, convinced the annexation of Louisiana was unconstitutional, although he turned down an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. A lot of attention is paid to his relationship with his wife. She comes away poorly, and we come away with the impression that Levin disagrees with how prior popular historians have interpreted the relationship. But then Levin makes statements like “She was above all, and admittedly so, the victim of her own towering and enduring aspiration to nurture John Quincy’s candidacy for president” without ever saying anything else in support of the notion. This is very much a biography, not history masquerading as biography. You won’t get chapter long digressions on tangentially related people and events the way you would in, say, Robert Caro’s multi-volume LBJ bio. Disclosure: I received an advance copy through NetGalley.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Les

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having watched the John Adams TV series (twice!) and read a biography of Abigail Adams, I felt I knew the family a bit, and this book gave much greater insight into the values, strengths,and struggles of this celebrated group of individuals. This book also gives an interesting look at the beliefs held by both John Q and his parents. Through John's actions in both his personal and political life and his corresponding detailed journal entries, one can see the though I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having watched the John Adams TV series (twice!) and read a biography of Abigail Adams, I felt I knew the family a bit, and this book gave much greater insight into the values, strengths,and struggles of this celebrated group of individuals. This book also gives an interesting look at the beliefs held by both John Q and his parents. Through John's actions in both his personal and political life and his corresponding detailed journal entries, one can see the thought, determination and sometimes great difficulty behind everything he did. (Like anyone who tends to over-analyze and sometimes think too much, John Quincy's good intentions occasionally brought about unintended bad results.) While I do not agree with them on every issue, I greatly admire his and his parents work ethic, dedication to learning, and strong sense of public duty. It is obvious that the author, Phyllis Lee Levin, is genuinely interested in and enthralled by the Adams family and spent a great deal of time and effort reading and analyzing all of their correspondence and journals. At times, though, she lets her personal opinion come through in her writing. For example, it was obvious at times that she did not think very highly of John Quincy's wife, Louisa. Ms. Levin does, however, explain that she thinks John Quincy was judged too harshly by many biographers because of the two sad memoirs that his wife wrote about her married life, and that after reading all of the family letters sent and received by JQ, as well as his extensive journals, she determined that much of what was written in those two books was simply untrue. I would have given the book five stars if it had been better edited. As it stands, the writing it is at times awkward or repetitious. And I was disappointed to find that it ends well before John Quincy becomes President. But for me, these weaknesses did not spoil the pleasure of this interesting, captivating read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    John Quincy Adams - one of our earliest Presidents, raised by another President. He followed his own dictates and refused to bend to Party Pressure. And in an era when slavery was so common as to be seen as "acceptable to God", John Quincy (As he is referred to in this book to avoid confusion with his father, John Adams.) defended the slaves in the Amistad revolt. According to Phyllis Lee Levin, he was also prone to depression (as was his wife) and suffered greatly in the service of his newly-fo John Quincy Adams - one of our earliest Presidents, raised by another President. He followed his own dictates and refused to bend to Party Pressure. And in an era when slavery was so common as to be seen as "acceptable to God", John Quincy (As he is referred to in this book to avoid confusion with his father, John Adams.) defended the slaves in the Amistad revolt. According to Phyllis Lee Levin, he was also prone to depression (as was his wife) and suffered greatly in the service of his newly-formed country. I freely admit I knew nothing about Adams coming into this book. I was a poor history student in school (hated all the dates) and am just now making up for it as an adult, where I find it much more interesting where there are no tests involved :) His upbringing was singular for the time, as was the pressure he must have felt as the son of revolutionaries. The book certainly covers his strange education, but I made the mistake of believing it was ONLY about that. It is not - it covers the majority of his life, and what he learned from both official schooling, and those life lessons that everyone gets. While I did learn quite a bit about Adams, by the final 1/3 of the book, I was ready to be done. It was a bit *too* thorough for me, and felt plodding in places. If I'm totally honest, it may actually have been closer to 1/2 of the book. I think quite a bit could have been edited to provide just as thorough a look at Adams, without feeling like wading through the actual sands of the hourglass. In all, I remain glad I read the book - it was informative, and reasonably interesting. But for those out there like me, who enjoy history but don't need to read quite so many entries into one person's daily life, then this might *not* be the book for you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Ms. Phyllis Lee Levin is an excellent author. Using diaries, journals, and letters, she chronicals John Quincy, who had the opportunity to live and work in Europe several times between ages 11 and 18. His education, plus fluency in several languages, made him a natural for secretary to his father as ambassador to the Dutch, secretary to the American ambassador to Russia, and, later as ambassador to Russian. He became good friends with the Emperor Alexander I. John Quincy, true to his upbringing, Ms. Phyllis Lee Levin is an excellent author. Using diaries, journals, and letters, she chronicals John Quincy, who had the opportunity to live and work in Europe several times between ages 11 and 18. His education, plus fluency in several languages, made him a natural for secretary to his father as ambassador to the Dutch, secretary to the American ambassador to Russia, and, later as ambassador to Russian. He became good friends with the Emperor Alexander I. John Quincy, true to his upbringing, saw the world as black or white. His positions were not always popular. He worried that the Louisiana Purchase was not Constitutional. He did not agree with slavery. He would often disagree with his party and the opposing party. He met or was related to many of the early patriots, George Washington, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Lafayette. On a personal note, he and his wife suffered from depression. Many of Louisa's pregnancies ended in miscarriage. Their infant daughter died in St. Petersburg, Russia. Of their 3 living sons, one, George Washington Adams, Harvard graduate and lawyer, fell or jumped to his death in Long Island Sound at age 28, another, John Adams II, Harvard graduate, lawyer and businessman, died an alcoholic at age 28. Charles Francis Adams, youngest of their sons, became an ambassador to Great Britain during Abraham Lincoln's administration. I would recommend this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    An enthralling book about a fascinating character who felt driven to succeed due to parental expectations and his own nature. A world traveler by the age of sixteen it was none the less very sad to read what his sister wrote, "It is a very unpleasing idea to me, that a whole family, should grow up strangers to each other, as ours have done, yet it has been unavoidable, and will tis probable still continue so." He was impatient for success and its immediate lack often depressed him. He also voted An enthralling book about a fascinating character who felt driven to succeed due to parental expectations and his own nature. A world traveler by the age of sixteen it was none the less very sad to read what his sister wrote, "It is a very unpleasing idea to me, that a whole family, should grow up strangers to each other, as ours have done, yet it has been unavoidable, and will tis probable still continue so." He was impatient for success and its immediate lack often depressed him. He also voted with his fledgling country's best interests at heart rather than with his party's which made him enemies that weren't content just to see him out of office but wanted to see him personally ruined. He wound up being pushed into marrying Louisa Catherine Johnson whose father was on the verge of bankruptcy and trying to marry them off without dowry. She was fragile both mentally and physically and depending on how she was feeling her husband's greatest supporter of detractor. A very interesting man from a family that had its share of problems.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    *I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.* A fascinating examination of John Quincy Adams' early life. Growing up the son of the renowned American revolutionary, John Quincy had a remarkable youth, spending time at his father's side as treaties were negotiated in France and Britain, having dinners with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and serving as a secretary to the American ambassador to Russia. It's no wonder that John Quincy went on to a successful diplomatic and pol *I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.* A fascinating examination of John Quincy Adams' early life. Growing up the son of the renowned American revolutionary, John Quincy had a remarkable youth, spending time at his father's side as treaties were negotiated in France and Britain, having dinners with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and serving as a secretary to the American ambassador to Russia. It's no wonder that John Quincy went on to a successful diplomatic and political career. I really enjoyed this very personal account of his early life, as it truly shows how much material the author drew from John Quincy's unedited journals and writings. A fascinating figure I look forward to reading more about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angel Hatfield

    **I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review** This is a detailed account of John Quincy Adams, son of John and Abigail Adams and the nation's 6th president. It's obvious by the introduction that the author is very passionate about this particular man in history. It made me want to read it enthusiastically. It spoke of a man that was pushed hard by his father and given higher expectations by one of our top founding fathers. However, the more I read into the book, the drier an **I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review** This is a detailed account of John Quincy Adams, son of John and Abigail Adams and the nation's 6th president. It's obvious by the introduction that the author is very passionate about this particular man in history. It made me want to read it enthusiastically. It spoke of a man that was pushed hard by his father and given higher expectations by one of our top founding fathers. However, the more I read into the book, the drier and harder to read it was.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James Testani

    Outstanding book about an amazing individual who began serving his country at the age of 14 and died on the floor of the House of Representatives at 78. I've read many biographies of JQA. This book takes us through his thirties explaining the factors that made up his very complex personality. Levin also goes into detail about Louisa Catherine Adams. The only negative is that it can be a little difficult. It is well worth it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy Garrett

    From the very first sentence ("On the lilac-scented evening" Levin p 11) you can tell that this is a book you should be reading. John Quincy Adams was our 6th President, however it seems as there is not much written about him. This book, however changes that. It whisks you away into the quite remarkable world around him. The things this man saw, places he went, and things that he accomplished are just stunning!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    This book was problematic for me. There were many sections that prattled on endlessly about incessant banalities without explanation as to why they were important. The cost was barely mentioning little, unimportant things such as Adams becoming president of the United States and influencing Abraham Lincoln as a senator. Furthermore, the author did a wonderful job of previewing direct quotes from Adams by implying that they would say things that they did not actually say.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    I loved this book! Truly a remarkable education of the reader. I loved the passion and detail of the book. The life of this man is truly fascinating as he was truly a genius. The author brings in quotes and documentation that allows the reader to see the full breadth of John Quincy Adams life and experiences. Great detail for the true history buff and very readable for the casual reader.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I have read several books on JQ Adams and appreciated how this one gave detail and substance to his early life. The portrait of JQ Adams is very sympathetic. His pre-presidential career, and time in the senate after his presidency, was his most productive and accomplished. I did not find this book dry, but felt Adams come alive.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Exapno Mapcase

    Levin provides a thoughtful look into the early life of our 6th president. Using letters and his own diary we are treated to an insightful look at a young man who was thoughtful and studious but also optimistic and exuberant, although as he aged the latter two went by the wayside. Free review copy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Thanks to Goodreads and the author, Phyllis Lee Levin for giving me the opportunity to read this book. The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams is a very informative, interesting biography. I knew very little about JQA before reading this book. Once I got to the part of the book where JQA met his future wife, Louisa Catherine I had a hard time putting the book down.

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