Prologue: The End of Earth
hey called him Old Man Eloquent, but he was more thanthat, more than eloquent; he was resolute, canny, cantanker-ous. And though he liked to quote the Bible and Shakespeareand to rame an irreutable argument, he could also be eloquentlybrusque. In act, he had just uttered one unwavering word that day inthe House.
, he had said, and “no” summarized how John QuincyAdams had spent his long lie— and where, in a sense, his countrywas heading: to a series o negatives, or good and or ill, that brookedno compromise or conversation.No: “No is the wildest word we consign to the language,” asEmily Dickinson would say. The sixth president o the United States,eighty-one years old and a crusty member o the House o Rep-resentatives, had spoken loud and clear. It was the early aternoonon Monday, February 21, 1848. With his bald head ringed witha crown o white hair and a permanent scowl carved deep into hisbroad ace, Adams struck his colleagues as the same as ever— hale,hearty, orthright— despite o course the minor stroke he had su-ered not too long ago. Yet he still could pursue an objective withunrelenting, single-minded ocus. His grandson Henry Adams longremembered the summer day when he had been about six or sevenand had rebelled against going to school until his grandather, having
EcstaticNation_i_xii_1_724.indd 16/10/13 10:33 AM