On the Horizon: Henry Adams' Skeptic Faith in Democracy
HENRY ADAMS, who made a philosophy and a career out of his self-publicized failure, was descended from the most illustrious family of “failures” America has ever produced. His great-grandfather, John Adams, the first vice-president and the second president of the United States, spent his life bitterly lamenting the failure of his principles, his party, and his popularity. His grandfather, John Quincy Adams, succeeded, in his turn, to the presidency, but shared with John Adams the mortification of not being reelected for a second term, as he also shared with him an introspective, self-critical, and moralistic cast of mind. Henry’s father, Charles Francis Adams, had the important diplomatic position of minister to Great Britain, but at the unfortunate time of the American Civil War, when British high society and officialdom were overwhelmingly partial to the South, and when intrigue seemed to prevail over principle. Henry Adams could thus boast a long and respectable education in failure.
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