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Learning From Q

February 2024
1min read


I thought your glimpses of John Quincy Adams in the February/March issue ("History Now” and “In the News") were particularly timely, coinciding as the issue did with the inauguration of that other son of a President, George W. Bush. President Bush has mentioned that since his election was made official, his father has taken to calling him Quincy, and this has inspired the younger Bush to try to learn more about the sixth Chief Executive. If he keeps up with his studies, I hope that President Bush will learn from his predecessor’s mistakes. J. Q. Adams was a fascinating man with many of the qualifications we would deem essential for any successful President. Nevertheless, his great failing was a certain intellectual righteousness that led him to underestimate men like Andrew Jackson and to overestimate his own ability to stir the nation. He made a fatal mistake on day one, when he named Henry Clay to his cabinet, an action that infuriated the Jacksonians and stained the Adams administration with the appearance of a “corrupt bargain” between the general’s two rivals.

Adams never learned the delicate art of compromise, and it cost him dearly during his White House tenure. One can only hope that George W. Bush takes note of this and takes steps to avoid such pitfalls.

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