Cover: Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic, from Harvard University PressCover: Nation Builder in HARDCOVER

Nation Builder

John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674368088

Publication Date: 10/06/2014


432 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

13 halftones


Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic is an intellectual biography rather than a full-dress life. Few presidents merit such treatment as much as Adams, who, through essays, speeches, letters and a diary kept meticulously over almost 70 years, left a remarkable record of a great mind at work on the prospects of the young, fragile nation… For Adams, greatness without virtue—like the greatness of Napoleon—was monstrous. Principle was everything. I don’t know that today’s grand strategists would find Adams’s exacting standards congenial. He was, as Edel demonstrates, a farseeing man. But he asked more of America than it is inclined to ask of itself.—James Traub, The Wall Street Journal

[This book] has surprising resonance with the present.—James Fallows, The Atlantic

In this masterful and fluidly written book, Edel tells the story of John Quincy Adams and explores Adams’ pivotal contributions to the American tradition of grand strategy.—Henry R. Nau, Foreign Affairs

[A] remarkable new work. Edel has written a book I wish I had written: a dual biography, of Adams and of the early American republic… The United States has been most successful when it has pursued the sort of grand strategy that Adams envisioned. Charles Edel has written a book worthy of the author of that grand strategy.—Mackubin Thomas Owens, National Review

2014 has been a surprisingly fruitful year for studies of John Quincy Adams, and Edel’s book is in many ways the most intelligent of the bunch. The Adams who emerges from his pages is a fittingly complex figure, as often at war with his own nature as he was with the petty partisanship or Southern slaveholding of his day. Edel’s readers will take away from his book a new appreciation of how much the United States they know owes to this early President they’ve scarcely heard of.—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

Edel shows convincingly that Adams was the first to advance a comprehensive vision for his country. His ‘grand strategy’ required setting clear priorities and knowing how to tie them together in the proper sequence. Those priorities were neutrality with regard to the European powers, continental expansion westward, and promotion of economic development in the belief that improvement of the lives of ordinary citizens would strengthen republicanism. A last priority, not achieved in his lifetime, was to work for the abolition of slavery, which he regarded as a ‘stain’ on the character of the nation.—D. J. Maletz, Choice

Charles Edel’s accurate, honest, and sensitive portrait gets both the history and timeless wisdom of John Quincy Adams exactly right. His ambitious grand strategy was designed for nation building—at home, in North America.—Walter A. McDougall, University of Pennsylvania

Ideas and power are the key ingredients of national achievement, and John Quincy Adams mastered both at a crucial time in American history. Anyone interested in the history of our society and its future possibilities will benefit from this provocative and compelling account of Adams’s life, his thought, and his enduring legacies.—Jeremi Suri, author of Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama

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