These articles were published in Chapters of Erie and Other Essays *1871). The mediocrity of the nation’s “statement” constantly irritated him. Adams liked to repeat Pres. Ulysses S. Grant’s remark that Venice would be a fine city if it were drained.
Adams continued his reformist activities as editor of the North American Review (1870-76). Moreover, he participated in the Liberal Republican movement. This group of insurgents, repelled by partisanship and the scandals of the Grant administration, bolted the Republican Party in 1872 and nominated the Democrat Horace Greeley for president. Their crusade soon foundered. Adams grew disillusioned with a world he characterized as devoid of principle. He was disgusted with demagogic politicians and a society in which all became “servant(s) of the powerhouse.”
Americans, he wrote, “had no time for thought; they saw, and could see, nothing beyond their day’s work; their attitude to the universe outside them was that of the deep-sea fish.” His anonymously published novel Democracy, an American Novel (1880) reflected his loss of faith. The heroine, Madeleine is introduced to the democratic process. She meets the President and other figures who are equally vacuous. After her contact with the power brokers, Madeleine concluded: “Democracy has shaken my nerves to pieces.”
In 1880 Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard College appointed Adams professor of medieval history. He was the first American to employ the seminar method in teaching history. In 1877 he resigned to edit the papers of Thomas Jefferson’s treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin. Pursuing his interest in U.S. history, Adams completed two biographies, The Life of Albert .Gallatin (1879) and John Randolph (1882). He continued to delve into the nation’s early national period, hoping to understand the nature of an evolving American democracy.
This study culminated in his nine-volume History of the United States of America during the administrations of Jefferson and Madison (1889-91), a scholarly work that received immediate acclaim. In this work he explored the dilemma of governing an egalitarian society in a political world in which the predominant tendency was to aggrandize power. In 1884 Adams wrote another novel, Esther. Published under a pseudonym, Esther dealt with the relationship between religion and modern science, a theme that engaged Adams throughout his life. – (C.McH.)