“John Quincy Adams: A Personal History of an Independent Man” by Marie B. Hecht was published in 1972. Her biography of John Quincy Adams seems to be the most substantial work on the sixth president following Samuel Flagg Bemis’s two-volume series which was completed in the 1950s. Hecht, who died in 2007, was the author of six other books including works on Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Marie Hecht’s biography of John Quincy Adams is the oldest and lengthiest of the four biographies of our sixth president in my library (which, sadly, does not yet include Bemis’s series). As I anticipated, this book reminded me of Ralph Ketcham’s biography of James Madison and Harry Ammon’s on James Monroe. They were all published within a year of each other, and they each proved to be thorough, workmanlike biographies of early American presidents.
In Hecht’s biography, she clearly shows her fondness for John Quincy Adams and his long (though sometimes unpopular) legacy of public service. But this is no hagiography, for as much as Hecht touts Adams as a successful diplomat, a committed abolitionist and a brilliant thinker, she does not hesitate to also portray him as…
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