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Library of America Henry Adams Edition

Henry Adams
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Library of America Henry Adams Edition : Titles in Order

Book 3
This monumental work, the second of two Library of America volumes, culminated Henry Adams’s lifelong fascination with the American past. Writing at the height of his powers, Adams understood the true subject as the consolidation of the American nation and character, and his treatment has never been surpassed.

Covering the eight years spanning the presidency of James Madison, this volume chronicles “Mr. Madison’s War”—the most bungled war in American history. The President and Congress delay while the United States is bullied and insulted by both England and France; then they plunge the country into the War of 1812 without providing the troops, monies, or fleets to wage it. The incompetence of the commanders leads to a series of disasters—including the burning of the White House and Capitol while Madison and his cabinet, fleeing from an invading army, watch from the nearby hills of Maryland and Virginia.

The war has its heroes, too: William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe and Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, Commodores Perry and Decatur and the officers and crew of the Constitution. As Adams tells it, though, disgrace, is averted by other means: the ineptitude of the British, the skill of the American artillerymen and privateers, and the diplomatic brilliance of Albert Gallatin and John Quincy Adams, who negotiated the peace treaty at Ghent. The history, full of reversals and paradoxes, ends with the largest irony of all: the United States, the apparent loser of the war, emerges as a great new world power destined to eclipse its European rivals.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 2
One of the greatest histories ever written in English, Henry Adams’s History of the United States is remarkable for its fullness of detail, its penetrating insight, and above all its strong, lively, and ironic style. First published in nine volumes from 1889 to 1891, this classic work was out of print for several decades until The Library of America reissued it in two volumes: the first volume on the years of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency and the second devoted to those of James Madison.

With a cast of characters including Aaron Burr, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Gallatin, John Randolph, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the complex, brilliantly delineated character of Thomas Jefferson, the first volume is unrivaled in its handling of diplomatic intrigue and political factionalism. Upon assuming office, Jefferson discovers that his optimistic laissez-faire principles—designed to prevent American government from becoming a militaristic European “tyranny”—clash with the realities of European war and American security. The party of small government presides over the Louisiana Purchase, the most extensive use of executive power the country has yet seen. Jefferson’s embargo—a high-minded effort at peaceable coercion—breeds corruption and smuggling, and the former defender of states’ rights is forced to use federal power to suppress them. The passion for peace and liberty pushes the country toward war.

In the center of these ironic reversals, played out in a Washington full of diplomatic intrigue, is the complex figure of Jefferson himself, part tragic visionary, part comic mock-hero. Like his contemporary Napoleon Bonaparte, he is swept into power by the rising tide of democratic nationalism; unlike Bonaparte, he tries to avert the consequences of the wolfish struggle for power among nation-states.

The grandson of one president and the great-grandson of another, Adams gained access to hitherto secret archives in Europe. The diplomatic documents that lace the history lend a novelistic intimacy to scenes such as Jefferson’s conscientious introduction of democratic table manners into stuffily aristocratic state dinner parties. Written in a strong, lively style pointed with Adams’s wit, the History chronicles the consolidation of American character, and poses questions about the future course of democracy.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
This Library of America volume includes the best-known works of Henry Adams, one of the most powerful and original minds to illuminate the American scene from the Civil War to World War I. Now brought together for the first time in a single volume, these works show the many forms—fiction, poetry, philosophical and historical speculation, autobiography—in which Adams gave expression to his vision of the meaning of the unsettling changes in American life and values.

Each of the two novels, Democracy and Esther, chooses a woman on whom to center the effects of social change. In Democracy, Madeleine Lee, an emancipated and idealistic young widow, moves to Washington to learn the nature of political power and is disillusioned upon discovering the intrigues of rampant corruption. The free-thinking heroine in Esther, caught in the warfare between science and religion, finds that she cannot surrender her moral independence, even to marry a clergyman.
 
Adams, though a man of the modern world, remained in temperament a child of the eighteenth century, his political ideals shaped by his presidential ancestors, great-grandfather John Adams and grandfather John Quincy Adams. The failure of those ideals to withstand the challenges of an industrialized America drove him to seek refuge in the study of the medieval age of faith in France. Out of it came his skeptic’s “Prayer to the Virgin of Chartres.” Her presence dominates the book that followed—Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. In evocative and sensitive prose Adams moves from the architecture, sculpture, and stained glass of Chartres to the religion, literature, politics, social order, and crusades of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Adams translates the poetry of courtly love and recounts the drama of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life and the timeless love of Abelard and Heloise. The narrative rises at the end to the brilliantly re-enacted drama of St. Thomas Aquinas’ victory over the rival philosophers.
 
If Mont Saint Michel portrayed a world unified by a common faith, The Education of Henry Adams portrayed a world irresistibly moving toward chaos. The world once unified by the Virgin was now ruled by the impersonal Dynamo and was already confronted by the “metaphysical bomb” of radium and the prospect of infinite energy for man’s use. Adams balances, with extraordinary urbanity and wit, the rival claims he found as much in himself as in modern civilization. Together, these two works still pose an urgent question: can the human mind ultimately control the monstrous aggregates of power which it has wrung from nature?

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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