John Quincy Adams (Hardcover)

By Harlow Giles Unger

Da Capo Press, 9780306821295, 364pp.

Publication Date: September 4, 2012



He fought for Washington, served with Lincoln, witnessed Bunker Hill, and sounded the clarion against slavery on the eve of the Civil War. He negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of The Amistad. He served his nation as minister to six countries, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president.
John Quincy Adams was all of these things and more. In this masterful biography, award winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals Quincy Adams as a towering figure in the nation's formative years and one of the most courageous figures in American history, which is why he ranked first in John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prizewinning Profiles in Courage.
A magisterial biography and a sweeping panorama of American history from the Washington to Lincoln eras, Unger's John Quincy Adams follows one of America's most important yet least-known figures.

About the Author

A former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at George Washington's Mount Vernon, Harlow Giles Unger is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian. He is the author of twenty books, including six biographies of America's Founding Fathers and two other histories of the early republic.

Praise For John Quincy Adams

Kirkus Reviews, 5/1
“A neglected president receives his due as a statesman and practical politician…A fine examination of a life, well deserving a place alongside David McCullough’s study of Adams père.”

Publishers Weekly, 6/11/12“Spare prose clarifies the overview of political complications and intricate family dynamics, revealing Adams as a historically overlooked yet key transitional figure who witnessed the birth of the nation and endured its nearly irreparable geographic squabbles of the 1840s.”

Booklist, August 2012“Unger’s well-presented portrait merits American-history readers’ attention.”

Asbury Park Sunday Press, 8/26/12“[A] lively and often intimate account…John Quincy Adams is usually brushed aside in discussions of the presidents, but Unger makes a convincing argument that the presidency was only a footnote in one of the most important public careers in American history.”
BookPage, September 2012“Unger captures the many sides of Adams and his era in the superb John Quincy Adams…Eloquent, irritating and fiercely committed to his work, John Quincy Adams lived and extraordinary life, and Unger tells his story convincingly in this compelling narrative.”
Library Journal, 9/1/12“[An] in-depth biography. The reader comes to know John Quincy Adams intimately as a son, father, statesman, and patriot…The individuals encountered in the narrative are familiar, but—in the best tradition of David McCullough’s biographies—the pace and plotting pull readers forward even though they may know the ending. Unger makes use of many years of JQA’s diaries and expertly dissects intricate political and (potentially confusing) family relationships. In all, he succeeds in making clear why JQA was the first subject of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Verdict: Unger does a masterful job. Although there are other books on John Quincy Adams, American history and political history buffs will find this stirring work irresistible.”
Internet Review of Books, 9/14/12
“Unger gives us the story of a person bred for great deeds…A thoughtful significant work, bringing this sixth president to life.”
Book Review, 9/12/12“Thorough…Mr. Unger spreads his focus around, never getting bogged down by the details…A powerful biography.”

Washington Times,
“Unger gives us the biography of one of the great intellects of that era, our sixth president, and son of the second, and how he interacted with both his fellow Americans and the foreigners with whom he was assigned to deal…We should be grateful to Harlow Unger for his detailed biography.”
Denver Post, 9/16/12“JQA had quite a life. Unger, an award-winning historian, spells it out.”, 9/20/12“Readers of this fact-packed, dense biography will certainly come away feeling that politicians like John Quincy Adams do not exist anymore.”

Encyclopedia Britannica blog, 9/26/12“Searching and thorough, though not overwhelming in length or detail, John Quincy Adams helps restore the second Adams to memory.”
AND Magazine
, 9/22/12
“There are few historians of the United States from the Revolution up to the Jacksonian era who have the knowledge and ability to make familiar faces seem brand-new and shine the spotlight on some of the more obscure figures or those who are often overshadowed by the most famous of the Founders…As is his style, Unger's John Quincy Adams is first-class history from cover-to-cover…Unger is one of the preeminent historians and chroniclers of our nation's first 75 years. Nobody is better-equipped to write this biography, and we're lucky that Unger has told the story of this underrated American icon, legendary diplomat, and tireless advocate of everything that is just and righteous in our country.”

Louisville Courier-Journal, 9/28/12“As our election season kicks off with crude and confounding incivility, it is pure pleasure to read about a statesman who refused to tout himself because he believed that votes should be cast for principles, not for the politician behind them…The superlative nature of Unger’s material alone would make for a rich life history. But his distinctive biographical gift is his ability to humanize rather than lionize his subject.”
Times, 9/23/12“Most Americans know very little of this former president…Unger has provided a palatable remedy to that national knowledge gap…An excellent portrait of Adams as a man of great intellect…Unger has brought the dour visage of Adams from the dim daguerreotype, with which many are familiar, to life.”
Tucson Citizen
, 10/1/12
“A fascinating biography of this almost bigger-than-life figure. Exciting and crisply written, this is a vivid biography that finally gives Adams the historic acclaim he deserves. This is more than a mere political biography since it is nothing less than the stirring story of our country finding its way during changing and often turbulent times.”
Reference & Research Book News
, October 2012
“This readable narrative biography for general readers interweaves many excerpts from Adams's diary as it celebrates Adams's triumphs.”
Bookviews blog
, October 2012“An extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man…I heartily recommend this book.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/7/12“Finely written…Unger deftly weaves into a narrative of what was a very demanding—even harrowing—career, choice reporting on the tragedies that dotted Adams’ personal life…Anyone still burdened with an image of an early American leaders bewigged, wearing shoes with silver buckles, rolling along cheerfully in horse-drawn carriages while thinking great thoughts should read this book…[Adams] wasn’t a great president, but he was a great American statesman and legislator.”,9/27/12
“This biography is a gift to all of us who love American History.”