Author: Henry Brooks Adams

Henry Adams, c. 1858

The great-grandson and grandson of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, respectively, Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918) was an author, historian, and journalist. After graduating from Harvard University and taking a Grand Tour of Europe, he served as personal secretary to his father, who President Abraham Lincoln had appointed the US Minister to the United Kingdom. While abroad with his father, he also wrote for the New York Times as its anonymous correspondent in London. In 1870, he became a professor of medieval history at Harvard, a position he left seven years later when he and his wife moved to Washington, DC. A frequent contributor to American newspapers, Adams also authored a nine-volume history of the United States between 1801 and 1817, two works of fiction—Democracy: An American Novel (1880) and Esther (1884)—and, most famously, the autobiographical The Education of Henry Adams, which was circulated among friends in 1907 and published following Adams’s death in 1918. The following year, it won the Pulitzer Prize and has since been consistently labeled as one of the best works of nonfiction of the 20th century. 

A Trip to Mount Vernon

Henry Brooks Adams

Not everyone in the American past has stood in awe of George Washington. As the country prospered and as manners became more democratic, here and there envy and resentment took aim at his elevated standing. Some prominent people who might have esteemed him begrudged his reputation for moral excellence, inasmuch as it stood as a permanent rebuke to their own moral weakness.