This is a good book.
JQA was born and raised to be a leader and public servant. He was tolerable as a leader, but was zealous as a public servant. His actions helped our republic in so many ways, yet are underappreciated because most of his work was in groups or behind the scenes.
More fundamentally for me, this book helped me appreciate two things.
First, politics. Because JQA was meticulous in recording his life and thoughts, we know more about what happened behind closed doors than even in today’s White House. As a result of his recording and Traub’s writing, I now appreciate the fact that politicians today are easily equal to the politicians of yesterday.
What do I mean by equal? Equal in duplicity, equal in malevolence, equal in their ability to spout high-minded principles to get elected, but quickly able to sacrifice even their dearest in exchange for power.
The great evil of JQA’s time was slavery. The slave holding states had the republic by the balls due to a constitutional slip-up called the 3/5ths compromise. Adams came to fight it tooth and nail, but it took a Civil War to finally fix it. The great surprise here? That everyone knew war was coming, 20 years before it truly did.
The second thing I learned is that things may have been worse for us during the Jackson administration than they are today during Herr Drumpfs (Trump, or Don John). The things Jackson and his cronies did were astounding even by the standards of yesterday, let alone today. Yes, I now feel a little bit better about all the interesting things going on in today’s Washington.
In closing, I recommend this book. Whether you are interested in history, founding fathers (he’s considered the last remnant of that important force), or politics in general, you’re going to enjoy this tome.