CRB: Respecting the respectable

We continue our preview of the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books courtesy of our friends at the Claremont Institute. I have chosen one essay and three reviews for your consideration, but I had a hard time choosing among the riches on offer in the new issue. You can do your own choosing at the heavily subsidized price of $19.95 a year. Subscribe by clicking on Subscription Services at the link and get immediate online access thrown in for free.

Yesterday we featured Bill Voegeli’s assessment of “What’s at stake” in the election of 2016. I haven’t read anything better of its kind this year.

I have also chosen three reviews that share certain features in common. The reviews address worthy books. They reviews are themselves interesting and instructive. In one way or another, they also bear on the theme of greatness. They help us to elevate our sights in a sordid season.

Today we turn to Angelo Codevilla’s review of the new biography of John Quincy Adams by James Traub. The review is by Angelo. The book is about Adams. Enough said.

However, let’s not leave it at that. Let us consider Angelo’s quick profile of the young John Quincy Adams:

So fully did he make his parents’ expectations his own that Adams was found, at age 14, more fit than any American in Europe to act as secretary to Francis Dana, the newly appointed U.S. minister to Russia. He, not Dana, actually transacted embassy business because he, not Dana, spoke and wrote French, the diplomatic language. Two years later, in 1782, he was his father’s assistant in the negotiations for the treaty by which the United States gained its independence. There followed diplomatic interludes in London and Paris, during which the young man dined as an equal with the great men of the age, and formed a lifelong friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Meanwhile, he translated Suetonius from Latin to French. By the time he entered Harvard, he had accomplished more than most successful men do in a lifetime.

Angelo zeroes in on Adams’s personal discipline and his political principles. Here is the personal:

Exercise daily. Walk for an hour or two whether it’s 30 below as in St. Petersburg or 95 above as in D.C. And when it gets too hot, swim naked in the Potomac even when you’re president of the United States or over 70. Read the Bible and pray. Be financially responsible for yourself and for all who depend on you. Pass up the love of your life, brokenhearted, because you have not yet secured a solid independent livelihood. End up supporting parents and ne’er-do-well siblings, children, grandchildren, and relations-by-marriage. Work: Christ’s parable of the talents must have been burned into his brain, because using God’s time for the advantage of truth, goodness, and beauty was his constant preoccupation. Telling the truth come what may was the bridge between his personal and political principles.

I hereby resolve to learn more of the life of John Quincy Adams, and to learn from it!

Read the whole thing here.

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