Readorama: ‘John Quincy Adams: American Visionary’ traces sixth president’s progressive history

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan

Only three of the first 16 presidents didn’t own slaves.

The three were John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln.

It’s not often appreciated that Lincoln and John Quincy Adams briefly served together in the U.S. House of Representatives in the late 1840s, said Fred Kaplan, author of “John Quincy Adams: American Visionary.”

“It’s a great moment in American history, these two men being in the same room together and voting almost the same way on almost every important issue,” Kaplan said.

“Both voted against the Mexican War. Both also supported federal investment in national infrastructure, building roads and dredging canals, whereas pro-slavery people who always feared a big federal government did not.”

Their opinions on slavery differed slightly, Kaplan said.

“Adams became convinced that slavery would destroy the Union,” he said. “That makes for an interesting contrast with Lincoln, who had hopes for African colonization, which Adams thought was folly.

“But both shared a similar vision of the future, which was for a united country in which slavery was eliminated and in which commerce, science and a national bank were essential components for progress.”

Lincoln also saw Adams die. Adams collapsed on the House floor on Feb. 21, 1848, and died in the U.S. Capitol two days later.

Kaplan will speak at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. His appearance is presented by the library with the Truman Library Institute.

‘Kennan Diaries’

It’s hard to imagine George Kennan ever having difficulty gaining Harry Truman’s ear. But that once was true for the diplomat and father of the Truman administration’s “containment” policy to prevent the spread of communism.

Kennan rose from his role as deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

“Kennan was considered a lower-level functionary,” said Frank Costigliola, editor of “The Kennan Diaries.”

That changed with Kennan’s “Long Telegram” of 1946, which described the Soviet Union as “more of a fanatical political force than a government of individual human beings,” Costigliola said.

“The Kennan Diaries” excerpts his diaries from 1916, when Kennan was 11 years old, through 2004. Kennan died in 2005 at age 101.

Costigliola will speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

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