The seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophical movement that came to be known as the Enlightenment was once the crown jewel of the western intellectual heritage. It promised lives based on order and reason. It seemed to offer the promise of human perfectibility. Such claims, however, have for some time not gone unchallenged.
In Adams, Wills has chosen a slippery, famously evasive subject. Henry Adams (1838-1918) was an eccentric, morbidly private little man.
Study of the American founding fathers has become a hothouse industry. The capacity of the American reading public to absorb volume after volume on Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison, and others, has no limits in sight.