". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Adams Family History

Working to make the New Year's deadline for Da List's subscribers' roundup of their best reading of 2013 -- not, it is emphasized, the best books published in 2013, but the books they read in 2013 that most impressed them for whatever reason.

This year mine concentrates on the, now shared with me by el V, growing adulation of 
the 4 generations of the remarkable, and generally underrated Adams family’s role in the history of the U.S. 

The other historian's works I'll write about are those of William Dusinberre.

Dusinberre bridges his brilliant work on U.S. slavery and the Adams family via his Henry Adams: The Myth of Failure(1980). Dusinberre deconstruct's Adams's historical methodology and rhetorical strategies, particularly in The History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison and The Education of Henry Adams.  

As an illustration of the hold the Adamses have on us, here is part of what we did as recreation during the holidays. We watched 1812 (2011) PBS. This series was devoted to the battles, with little or no discussion of any other aspects of the war. These are the same battles we’ve been reading, as described by Henry Adams in his history of Madison’s second administration. He covers all the battles, land and sea, north and south. 

We also watched The Adams Chronicles (1976) PBS 9-part dramatization of four generations of Adamses

John Quincy Adams Age 16
National Portrait Gallery
The most time was given to John Quincy Adams. Which leads us to Harlow Unger's 2012 John Quincy Adams: A Life. Like his family generally, John Quincy Adams has been underappreciated. For starters think about this: from his earliest boyhood, John Quincy had relationships with everyone who mattered during his lifetime in U.S. history, and very many who mattered in European history, as well as writers, artists, scientists, historians and philosophers.

I'm not exaggerating. He naturally knew George Washington, as his father, John Adams, was Washington's vice president. He and Jefferson became very close in the Paris years, so much so that his father, John, said that John Quincy was as much Jefferson's son as his own. He knew Abraham Lincoln, who served in the House 1847 - 1849. 

He saw close-up history be made, and then participated in history, for a remarkable 65 years, beginning in 1780 when he was 14. He was posted to St. Petersburg as secretary to Francis Dana, the American Minister to Russia.

Born in 1767, once President of the United States, now Representative John Quincy Adams died in 1848 two days after he collapsed on the House's floor, in the Speaker's Room.

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