John Quincy Adams, Reluctant Abolitionist


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About the Book

As a Harvard alumnus, diplomat, U.S. President, member of Congress and attorney before the Supreme Court, John Quincy Adams had a unique relationship with slavery. Prickly and curmudgeonly, he danced with abolitionists, but never became one himself. However, Adams did harbor an intense hatred for the arguments of Southern slaveholders, and eventually found himself in the center of America’s greatest struggle.
Informed by Adams’ revealing and often tormented musings from his vast diary, this sweeping narrative offers a unique and gripping account of John Quincy Adams’ battle with slavery, while exploring the many fault lines in American society that led to the Civil War. Included are the dramatic showdowns in the House of Representatives and Supreme Court, as well as Adams’ attempts at outsmarting Southern politicians and his efforts to keep slavery at the forefront of Congressional activities.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey A. Denman is a retired American history and geography teacher from the Brookline Public Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is the author of two books and multiple articles.

Bibliographic Details

Jeffrey A. Denman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 15 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9329-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5072-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
Chapter One
“The man of my whole country”  9
Chapter Two
“The welfare of this whole Union”  30
Chapter Three
“The destined sword in the hand of the destroying angel”  53
Chapter Four
“Deep if not irreconcilable collisions of interest”  73
Chapter Five
“The fraudulent pretences of ­slave-holding democracy”  101
Chapter Six
A “long, low ­black-looking schooner”  125
Chapter Seven
“The steady and undeviating pursuit of one fundamental principle”  148
Chapter Eight
“Liberty and the natural inalienable rights of man”  173
Conclusion  198
Chapter Notes  209
Bibliography  235
Index  243

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Others have written about John Quincy Adams and slavery, but none have gone as deeply, or more expertly, than Denman….John Quincy Adams does not lack for biographers…Denman, however, looking through the lens of slavery, provides us with a fresh and nuanced view of this politician and statesman….Diaries and letters abound and Denman has probed and utilized these sources with extraordinary care”—Dr. William H. Fowler, Distinguished Historian Emeritus, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, author of Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763