Heirs of an Honored Name (Hardcover)

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

By Douglas R. Egerton

Basic Books, 9780465093885, 480pp.

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


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.

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.

Praise For Heirs of an Honored Name: The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America

"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