The Jeffersonian TransformationPassages from the "History"
by Henry Adams, introduction by Garry Wills
The ideal introduction and companion to Adams’s “massive and magisterial” history of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, presenting an indelible picture of America’s startling rise to world power.
Henry Adams’s nine-volume History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison is the first great history of America as well as the first great American work of history, a work that rivals Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empirein its eloquence and sweep. But where Gibbon told of imperial collapse, Adams recorded the rise of a new, unanticipated power, America, which, he shows, beat every odd to expand in a mere sixteen years—1800 to 1817—from a backward provincial outpost to international eminence. What made this transformation all the more remarkable was that it occurred under the watch of two presidents who were frankly skeptical about its benefits, and yet whose policies served to promote it. Thus America not only found its footing in the world, but took on a divided identity—at once isolationist and interventionist—that it continues to display to this day.
Famed historian and political commentator Garry Wills’s recent, widely reviewed, and well-receivedHenry Adams and the Making of America introduced readers to the splendors of Adams’s history and the rigors of its analysis. This ample new selection from Adams’s History is the first to bring together its powerful opening and concluding sections. Together with Wills’s thoughtful introduction, it offers readers a chance to experience the magnum opus of one of America’s outstanding writers and thinkers.
Wills...often displays a genius for the unexpected...He is prodigiously informative, consistently stimulating, and incapable of writing a dull paragraph.
— The Los Angeles Times
An eminent historian...of American freedom whose writings have breathed new life into the words of Jefferson and of Lincoln.
— The New York Times Book Review
Wills helps to renew and extend the pertinence of Adams's History from his time to our own.
— Andrew Delbanco, The New Republic
The perspective is breathtaking...unfailingly vivacious and pertinent.
New York Review Books Classics has published an excellent abridgment of Henry Adams' nine-volume History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison as The Jeffersonian Transformation...The word "magisterial" is tossed around whenever anybody writes a ponderous tome with any claim to definitive status. But Adams' book truly deserves the term, both for his grasp of the overall, and his prose, which has a gorgeous rolling cadence.
— Austin American-Statesman