Henry Adams and the American Scene, Part II

In London, at Harvard, in Washington and during his extensive world travels, Henry Adams elaborated his penetrating views on the nature of history and of the American experience. By John Raymond.

From Rome, in the summer of 1860, Henry Adams, aged twenty, made his way towards Washington, to act as his father’s private secretary. This was his introduction to the political capitol, and he ran the gauntlet between Senators Seward and Sumner, “trying to buzz admiration into the ears of each, and unaware that each would impatiently slap him from belonging to the other?” Private secretaries, as he later noted, are servants of a rather lower degree, whose business is to serve the sources of power.

William Henry Seward (1801-1872), Lincoln’s Secretary of State, is the first among the gallery of political portraits that Adams sketched with such a tender and tentative ferocity in the pages of his Education:

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