POTUS 6 Redeemed at 250

January 15, 2019

A compilation John Quincy Adams' diary entries, edited by Distinguished Professor David Waldstreicher, has received glowing reviews.

1796 portrait (detail) of John Quincy Adams by John Singleton Copley. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Charles Francis Adams.)

Update, January 2019 — Since this article was written in 2017, The Diaries of John Quincy Adams 1779–1848 has earned additional praise. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Andrew Delbanco, Alexander Hamilton Professor of American Studies at Columbia and president of the Teagle Foundation, called Waldstreicher's version "a superb edition that should secure a place for the diary in the canon of American literature."

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Quincy Adams, and a new compilation of his diary entries, edited by Distinguished Professor David Waldstreicher (History), has received glowing reviews in The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor.  

The Journal reviewer, Richard Brookhiser, wrote that Waldstreicher’s distillation of Adams’s voluminous writings, The Diaries of John Quincy Adams 1779–1848 (Library of America, 2017), “will be the standard reader’s edition of this masterpiece, which gives an account of both a fascinating life and a thrilling, disastrous period of American history.”

Adams (1767–1848), the sixth president of the United States, a diplomat, and a member of Congress, was a consummate chronicler of his eventful life. He started the diary at age 12, during the American Revolution, and kept it up through the years leading up to the Civil War when he served in the House of Representatives.

John-Quincy-Adams-Diary collection

The Christian Science Monitor called the diaries “spellbinding” and noted, “Historian David Waldstreicher does an outstanding job editing this enormous mass of material, 51 manuscript volumes, almost 15,000 pages.”

In a recent essay in The Atlantic, Waldstreicher asserted that Adams, who, late in his career, vociferously opposed the institution of slavery, “not only prophesized but actually laid so much of the groundwork for the Civil War.”

“JQA left, in his life and his diary, the example of a statesman, distracted by many projects and woes, who, late but true, grasped the vital question,” Brookhiser concluded in his review of the diaries.

Read and hear an interview with Waldstreicher about the diaries.
Learn more about Waldstreicher’s research and publications.