The Life and Times of the Young Mr. Adams

By Harlow Giles Unger
Da Capo Press, 400 pages, $27.50

John Quincy Adams was the fifth President of the United States. His true claim to fame was helping to negotiate the end of the War of 1812. He was the son of John Adams, yet is often ignored, or forgotten, compared to his more famous father. While many biographies are written about John Adams, not as many are written about his son. John Quincy Adams felt overpowered by the shadow that his father left. He could never escape that shadow, could never become quite as famous as his legendary father. He was an excellent diplomat to Europe for the young nation but could not connect to the regular population when he was President and was the first president to only serve one term, and a fairly uneventful term it was. Adams became more famous when he was elected to the House of Representatives where he became famous for speaking out against slavery. He was often shouted down by the people from the South, but he persisted until his voice was heard.

Author Unger does an thorough albeit uneven job; the first half is slow and pondering, but it finally picks up when John Quincy Adams goes back to Washington and fights the good fight. Mr. Unger spreads his focus around, never getting bogged down by the details. All in all, a powerful biography.

Reviewed by Kevin Winter