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Henry Adams: Waning of America's Patriciate
A Conservative's Destructive Impulses

- Abstract

There is a revival of interest in the Adams family—to put it mildly. Not only have they become, individually and en famille, a staple in the repertory of the academic periodicals; even Life has gone in for the Adamses, printing hitherto unpublished manuscripts of the family in its glossy pages.

What accounts for this? (If we are to believe the Adamses themselves, they never went out of their way to court anyone’s interest and never felt that popularity was among their long suits.) For one thing, the political climate is right. We are in the midst of prosperity, and there is a conservative revival of sorts. The Adamses fit, if not into an actual American conservatism, then certainly into what many people believe to be the pattern of American conservatism—even though that pattern may be more a mood than a political credo. For another thing, they belonged to the American patriciate, which is the closest this country has come to an aristocracy. It is the same class that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born into—its Hudson River wing matching in status the Bostonian Back Bay of the Adamses.

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