The United States has had perhaps no greater master of grand strategy than John Quincy Adams. Yet Adams’s life and works are understudied. A little over a quarter century ago, the movie Amistad highlighted the latter part of his public life—as America’s “Old Man Eloquent” who fought against the “gag rule,” which blocked discussion of slavery in the House of Representatives, and who, as in the movie, worked to secure liberty for slaves illegally transported on the high seas. But the first part of Adams’s career—from his boyhood journey to Europe alongside his father in 1778, to his brilliant tenure as secretary of state under President James Monroe—was no less illustrious. As its title suggests, United and Independent: John Quincy Adams on American Foreign Policy provides an introduction to this first act of Adams’s story.

United and Independent is artfully crafted. It presents a biographical sketch of Adams’s life from his birth in July 1767 to the end of his presidency in March 1829. The account is divided into ten chapters, each of which is followed by a selection of documents from the relevant portion of Adams’s life, with introductory paragraphs highlighting key passages. The sources include diplomatic communiqués, letters, speeches, and diary entries (Adams was among the great diarists of his age). This is a life-and-letters

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