Catalogue


Henry Adams and the making of America /
Garry Wills.
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
description
viii, 467 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0618134301, 9780618134304
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
isbn
0618134301
9780618134304
catalogue key
5497783
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
1Grandmother Louisa And The South On May 20, 1796, Abigail Adams warned her son, John Quincy Adams, against marriage to Louisa Johnson, who was not from New England: "I would hope, for the love I bear my country, that the siren is at least half blood." (A 381) In 1907,Henry Adams wrote of his grandmother, Louisa Johnson Adams: "[I] inherited a quarter taint ofMaryland blood." (E 737) Adams could never escape the fact that he was a member of the Adamses. Yet that does not justify attempts to interpret his whole life as a defense of his family, his region, or his forebears'ideology. In fact, he was determined to escape all three of those things, to be what he called "less Adamsy" (L 6.401). He preferred to be considered a descendant of his Maryland grandmother, Louisa Johnson Adams. His emotional and ideological compass bore due south, from an early age and all through his professional life. Using a genealogical quirk (his grandmother's purported southernness), he sought the South both as symbol and physical location all his life. Except for his six years of teaching at Harvard, Adams preferred Louisa's Washington to Massachusetts, from which he wrote in 1869 that "nothing but sheer poverty shall ever reduce me to passing a whole season here again" (L 2.44). Most of the men he studied and admired were southerners, and especially Virginians, including his three principal heroes, Washington, Marshall, and Gallatin (the latter he treated as a Virginian, since Virginia is where Gallatin became an American citizen). The noblest character in his first novel is a Virginian, and the heroine of the tale is the widow of a Virginian. Adams's good friend at Harvard was a Virginian - in fact, the son of Robert E. Lee - and he was visiting the Lee mansion at Arlington the night Lincoln reached Washington for his inauguration. None of this can cancel the fact that Adams was affected by his own family background. But that was not a simple thing. Those people who claimed that he defended his own family are thinking primarily of the Adamses. But Adams was aware that he was mired in a pretentious muddle of families, of whom the Adamses were the last and least. He was also a Boylston, a Quincy, a Brooks. He wrote his brother Charles: "My own theory of Boylston influence is that you and I have the Boylston strain three times repeated [through their great-grandfather, great-grandmother, and mother]. John Adams had it but once. Which accounts for you and us others being three times as damned a fool as John Adams -which seems hard" (L 6.574). The Quincy line came from Abigail Adams, and she was very proud of it, unwisely putting its crest on her carriage when she went to New York as the vice president's wife. Henry said that the Quincys were the family's "most aristocratic claim."1 The Brooks connection was through Henry's own mother, and it made Henry and his siblings the first Adams generation to have inherited wealth. All four of these family lines had ramifying branches dimmed in clouds of in-laws, making Henry live in a forest of cousinhoods. He found this a stifling environment, and came to admire most the one member of his family who had not a drop of Adams, or Boylston, or Quincy, or Brooks blood in her, his grandmother. He exaggerated his blood tie with her, saying it was a "quarter taint" (actually it was an eighth). She had been mistreated by the family, yet she had survived. He meant to do the same. She had been an intruder into the family fold, but
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2006-02-01:
A book by a leading historian and intellectual/social critic of this generation about arguably the most impressive historian and intellectual/social critic in US history raises high expectations. Expectations that are, in this case, mostly fulfilled, though this book is not so much a general interpretation of Adams as it is a study of his nine-volume History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1889-91), which Wills (Northwestern Univ.) considers one of the great masterpieces of US political and historical writing. Slightly over a fourth of Wills's book examines Adams's career and historical writings leading up to The History; the remainder consists entirely of analysis of The History. There is no attention given to Adams's later writings. The thesis is that The History has been both overlooked and badly misinterpreted. Wills sometimes overstates his arguments, and several minor errors make it obvious that he is not a lifelong Adams scholar, but these faults are minor distractions to what is one of the best and most important books published in decades about the notoriously difficult and enigmatic Adams. Devotees of Adams, US historiography, and early national politics should all find this an important and worthwhile study. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above. K. Blaser Wayne State College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-07-18:
Wills nimbly dusts off the nine volumes of Henry Adams's little-studied history of the United States from 1800 to 1817 and proclaims it to be both "a prose masterpiece" and a model for how to research and write history. Adams, he insists, helped to revolutionize the study of history by conducting actual archival research, not just in U.S. repositories but abroad, in London, Paris and Madrid. And at a time when provincial history was the norm, Adams adopted a broad international scope, placing the fledgling nation on the broad canvas of the Napoleonic Wars. Wills has little time for scholars who have dismissed the History as pessimistic or defensive of Adams's ancestors ("Can these people not read?" Wills cries). In contrast, Wills finds Adams's work to be optimistic about the much-needed nationalization that occurred in this period, even though it took the ill-conceived and disastrous War of 1812 to get there. He also notes that Adams could be harshly critical of his own presidential ancestors, particularly John Quincy, in favor of the bold accomplishments of Jefferson and, to a lesser extent, Madison. In all, Adams's history traces "how a nation stagnating at the end of Federalist rule shook itself awake and struck off boldly in new directions." With its revisionist stance, felicitous prose and compelling argument, Wills's book charts new directions as well. (Sept. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-08-01:
Wills (history, adjunct, Northwestern Univ.; Lincoln at Gettysburg) here challenges existing historiography, arguing that major scholars such as Richard Hofstadter and Henry Steele Commager misrepresented Henry Adams's History of the United States of America by reading only a few of its nine volumes, while other Adams scholars, who focused on his later The Education of Henry Adams, ignored it almost entirely. Wills believes that far from having produced an uninspiring tome, Adams-descendant of patriot Samuel Adams and of two Presidents-wrote a "non-fiction prose masterpiece" on the presidential administrations of Jefferson (the first four volumes) and Madison (the next five volumes). Wills presents a richly detailed account of a man who viewed history as "far more complex than the interplay of two (or many) ideologies." He analyzes History in relation to today's fascination with the Founding Fathers and notes Adams's observation that both Jefferson and Madison ultimately violated classical Jeffersonian ideology with their involvement in foreign entanglements and the establishment of central governmental bureaucracies-political paradoxes that we continue to reckon with. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State Coll. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A contemporary historian pays tribute to a previous one in this personal and rigorous analysis of the works of Henry Adams. . .A marvelous character sketch."
"With its revisionist stance, felicitous prose and compelling argument, Wills's book charts new directions."
"With its revisionist stance, felicitous prose and compelling argument, Wills's book charts new directions." Publishers Weekly, Starred "A contemporary historian pays tribute to a previous one in this personal and rigorous analysis of the works of Henry Adams. . .A marvelous character sketch." Booklist, ALA "Garry Wills brings a lucid style, imaginative analysis and the talent for historical elucidation...I unreservedly recommend this book." --Richard Lingeman The New York Times Book Review
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, May 2005
Publishers Weekly, July 2005
Booklist, August 2005
Library Journal, August 2005
Los Angeles Times, September 2005
New York Times Book Review, September 2005
Washington Post, September 2005
Boston Globe, November 2005
Chicago Tribune, November 2005
Choice, February 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and draws from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixations, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in Lincoln's White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history.Adams's innovations went beyond the technical; he posited an essentially ironic view of the legacy of Jefferson and Madison. As is well known, they strove to shield the young country from "foreign entanglements," a standing army, a central bank, and a federal bureaucracy, among other hallmarks of "big government." Yet by the end of their tenures they had permanently entrenched all of these things in American society. This is the "American paradox" that defines us today: the idealized desire for isolation and political simplicity battling against the inexorable growth and intermingling of political, economic, and military forces. As Wills compellingly shows, the ironies spawned two centuries ago still inhabit our foreign policy and the widening schisms over economic and social policy.
Main Description
In Henry Adams and the Making of America, Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills makes a compelling argument for a reassessment of Henry Adams as our nation's greatest historian and his History as the "nonfiction prose masterpiece of the nineteenth century in America." Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in the Lincoln administration, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history. Ambitious in scope, nuanced in detail, Henry Adams and the Making of America throws brilliant light on the historian and the making of history.
Main Description
One of our greatest historians offers a surprising new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, Henry Adams. Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in Lincoln's White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history. Adams's innovations went beyond the technical; he posited an essentially ironic view of the legacy of Jefferson and Madison. As is well known, they strove to shield the young country from "foreign entanglements," a standing army, a central bank, and a federal bureaucracy, among other hallmarks of "big government." Yet by the end of their tenures they had permanently entrenched all of these things in American society. This is the "American paradox" that defines us today: the idealized desire for isolation and political simplicity battling against the inexorable growth and intermingling of political, economic, and military forces. As Wills compellingly shows, the ironies spawned two centuries ago still inhabit our foreign policy and the widening schisms over economic and social policy. Ambitious in scope, nuanced in detail and argument, Henry Adams and the Making of America throws brilliant light on how history is made -- in both senses of the term.
Table of Contents
Introduction : reading Henry Adams forwardp. 1
The making of an historian
Grandmother Louisa and the Southp. 11
Boston historiansp. 33
Civil War politicsp. 49
Postwar politicsp. 72
Historical methodp. 87
Historical artistryp. 104
The making of a nation
Jefferson's two terms
A people's history : The history, volume onep. 123
Jefferson's success : The history, volume onep. 140
Reaching out : The history, volume twop. 160
Three foes : The history, volume threep. 186
Anything but war : The history, volume fourp. 216
Madison's two terms
False dawn : The history, volume fivep. 249
War : The history, volume sixp. 271
Naval history : The history, volume sixp. 296
The war's second year : The history, volume sevenp. 315
The war's third year : The history, volume eightp. 335
Shame and glory : The history, volume eightp. 349
Peace and nationalism : The history, volume ninep. 366
Nation-making : The history, volume ninep. 381
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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