Susan Dunn, the Parish Third Century Professor of Humanities at Williams, is the author of Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison, and the Decline of Virginia. Her most recent book is 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm. (June 2014)

Angry, Icy, Enlightened Adams

Louisa Catherine and John Quincy Adams; paintings by Charles Robert Leslie, 1816
John Quincy Adams was a highly principled, hardworking, and patriotic man of great intelligence and integrity. He was complex and full of contradictions, frigid and hot-tempered, confrontational and thin-skinned, devoted to public service and egocentric. He yearned for acclaim and strove for achievement and high political office, but had a personality quite unsuited for a life in politics.

The TR Show

Ida Tarbell at her desk at McClure’s magazine, New York City, 1894
“I’ve had a bully time and a bully fight. I feel as big and strong as a bull moose,” Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt ebulliently told reporters when he returned to New York after the famous charge up San Juan Hill in the summer of 1898. Avid for publicity, Roosevelt had arranged for two photographers to accompany him and his Rough Riders to Cuba and had led favored reporters with him into battle.

The Other Franklin

A scene from Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela, in which Mr. B. comes upon Pamela writing; painting by Joseph Highmore, 1744. Benjamin Franklin printed an edition of Pamela in 1742, and Jill Lepore writes that it is likely he gave a copy to his sister Jane.
“I blame myself for not sooner desiring you to lay in your Winter’s Wood,” Benjamin Franklin apologized to his seventy-five-year-old sister Jane in the fall of 1787. He was concerned that she might not have enough firewood to get through the rough New England winter. “But I have been so …

When America Was Transformed

Thomas Jefferson; aquatint by Michel Sokolnicki, after a portrait by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, early 1800s
Far too many congressmen were ignorant and unlearned, complained Benjamin Latrobe, President Jefferson’s surveyor of public buildings, in 1806. Philadelphia and its suburbs, Latrobe said, had not sent a single man of letters to Congress. Well, it was true that one representative was a lawyer—though he was of “no eminence”—and …