Story about what it was like to live in a house with John Quincy Adams


John Quincy Adams isn’t our most cinematic president, but Anthony Hopkins does a grand old job playing him in Amistad.

(Never forget that McConaughey was in Amistad, by the way:



Now, if you ask me (nobody did) Amistad doesn’t totally nail it as a movie, because the courtroom battle, instead of being about the rightness or wrongness of slavery, ends up coming down to like some points of international and maritime law.  But there’s a great speech by JQA, seen here starting at minute 1:30, about telling a story:

Recently I picked up recently Paul Johnson’s The Birth Of The Modern, a book I’d been seeing on distinguished bookshelves for years, with that great cover art by CDF:


What an absolute boss of a book, one of the highest interesting-information-per-page books I’ve ever come across.  How did Paul Johnson write it, on top of everything else he was up to? From PJ’s Wikipedia page:

The following year, he attacked Ian Fleming’s James Bondnovel Dr No and in 1964 he warned of “The Menace of Beatlism” in an article contemporarily described as being “rather exaggerated” by Henry Fairlie in The Spectator.

Johnson started out as kind of a lefty it appears, but he’d end up working for Margaret Thatcher:

“‘I was instantly drawn to her,’ he recalls. ‘I’d known Margaret at Oxford. She was not a party person. She was an individual who made up her own mind. People would say that she was much influenced by Karl Popper or Frederick Hayek. The result was that Thatcher followed three guiding principles: truthfulness, honesty and never borrowing money.'”

Speaking of not a party person, Johnson has a great description the odd couple times that were had when John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, and James Ashton Bayard went to negotiate the treaty that would end the War Of 1812.

Seems JQA could come off as a bit of a pill:



Imagine referring your bros to Martens, Book vii, chapter 55, section 3!

Poor guy.  JQ was probably just trying to live up to his dad, who was no slouch either.  Van Wyck Brooks sums up Adams The First in a footnote in The Flowering Of New England: 


They don’t make ’em like they used to.

3 Comments on “Story about what it was like to live in a house with John Quincy Adams”

  1. schoboats says:

    Not taking anything away from “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog,” but I’m more of a “Sea of Ice” guy.

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