Book Talk: John Quincy Adams’s Evolving Views on Slavery

"Adams and the Politics of Slavery" by David Waldsteicher & Matthew Mason

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will present David Waldstreicher and Matthew Mason discussing their recent book, John Quincy Adams and the Politics of Slavery: Selections from the Diary. The book sheds light on Adams’s shifting views about slavery, which evolved over a period of time that included both the birth of the United States and the foundations of the conflicts leading to civil war.

The presentation and book signing will be Wednesday, July 19 from noon to 1 pm. The event will be held in Ketchum Hall of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building (200 Maryland Ave. NE; Washington, DC 20002) and is free and open to the public. PRE-REGISTRATION is requested. A limited number of books will be available for purchase.

In the final years of his political career, President John Quincy Adams was well known for his objections to slavery, with rival Henry Wise going so far as to label him “the acutest, the astutest, the archest enemy of southern slavery that ever existed.” As a young statesman, however, he supported slavery. How did one man’s beliefs come to change so drastically over the course of a career? By juxtaposing Adams’s personal reflections on slavery with what he said—and did not say—publicly on the issue, the authors offer a nuanced portrait of how he interacted with prevailing ideologies during his consequential career and life.

David Waldsteicher (Courtesy Paula Vlodkowsky)

David Waldsteicher (Courtesy Paula Vlodkowsky)

David Waldstreicher is distinguished professor of history at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center whose work spans political history, cultural history, slavery and antislavery, and print culture in the early republic of the United States. His books include Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification and Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery and the American Revolution. He is the editor of A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams, A Companion to Benjamin Franklin, and The Struggle Against Slavery: A History in Documents.

Matthew Mason (Courtesy BYU Photo)

Matthew Mason (Courtesy BYU Photo)

Matthew E. Mason is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University. He has written and co-edited several books, including Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic, The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson; and Contesting Slavery: The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation.