Posted by Shelbi
American Phoenix, by Jane Hampton Cook, is—in a nutshell—a biography of John Quincy Adams (pre-presidency) and his wife Louisa, a history of the War of 1812, and a good look into an early-1800’s Europe being terrorized by Napoleon Bonaparte. The book is rather long (512 pages), very well written, and both enjoyable and educating. I didn’t know much about the War of 1812, so I was surprised to learn that it really can be seen as America’s second war for independence from England.
The thing I liked most about the book, though, was its study into the life of Louisa Adams. Her strong patriotism and love for her country, coupled with devotion to her husband, led her to leave her home and two children for six years (1809-1815) in order to accompany her husband to Russia, where they together represented the Republican United States in a monarch/dictator-run Europe. As America struggled to be recognized as an independent nation by the rest of the world, the Adamses worked tirelessly on the other side of the world to promote that end. Their fascinating encounters with European royalty and interesting brushes with Napoleon often took place in the midst of personal tragedy (Louisa Adams gave birth to a daughter in Russia, who died 13 months later) and extreme anxiety about their children and family in America, who lived in some of the very cities attacked by the British. Their quest to see their beloved country achieve honor, dignity, respect, and recognition from the other nations of the world was ultimately successful. Speaking of America, Louisa Adams wrote in her diary, “I trust in God that the day of retribution is not far off and that glory which yet awaits us will far, far outweigh the disgrace which has hitherto attended us.” A godly Christian woman, she penned these words a few years before her death:
“And when it is His will that I lay me down to sleep; that sleep, from which we wake no more in this world; may I die in my Savior Jesus Christ; in the fullest hope of those divine promises, which lead the purified soul to heaven forevermore.”
The book runs a little lengthy, and I did think that the same amount of information could have been condensed into a smaller space. That issue aside, American Phoenix is a wonderful re-telling of important American history that should not be forgotten.