The Political Education of Henry Adams

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9781570030536: The Political Education of Henry Adams

A fresh understanding of Henry Adams' political career is offered with this book. The author argues that Adams sought influence and power, not office, and shows how the young republican sabotaged his career as a journalist and lobbyist by offending the people he sought to influence.

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In this lively work of revisionism, Brooks D. Simpson offers a new understanding of Henry Adams's political career, looking beyond the oft-quoted Education of Henry Adams to discover the historian, journalist, and political gadfly as he truly was. In doing so, Simpson challenges portrayals presented by Adams's many biographers and reassesses positions of major historians. He demonstrates the unreliability of The Education as a factual account of post-Civil War American politics, cautions those who represent Adams as a typical political reformer, and discusses why Adams's fervent desire to achieve political success ended in abject failure. Arguing that Adams sought political influence and power, not office, Simpson follows the young republican's struggle to reconcile the dictates of family heritage with his own personal inclinations by carving out a career as a political journalist and behind-the-scenes manipulator of reform politics. But his arrogance and sarcasm, according to Simpson, doomed him to offend the very people he sought to influence and forced him to the margins of the reform movement. Simpson contends that even as Adams wrote about his failure in The Education of Henry Adams, he sought to conceal its true causes behind a facade of witty, derisive remarks about American politics and politicians. In contrast, Simpson places the blame for Adams's failure squarely on Adams himself, concluding that personality rather than politics thwarted his promising career.

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