John Quincy Obama

Daniel Walker Howe on the enduring problematics of technocratic governance in the United States:

[John Quincy] Adams’s difficulties did not simply result from his crotchety temperament, nor from any refusal on his part to engage in political calculation. They stemmed most obviously from the determination, ruthlessness, and skill of his opponents, especially Martin Van Buren. Adams’s program of government activism had a fighting chance for adoption on the strength of its merits and was not inevitably doomed. But his administration suffered from an incompatibility between the president’s means and ends. Adams wanted to govern by consensus, as Monroe had done, but at the same time he wanted to press an agenda of major policy innovations. The president’s goals, openly avowed, proved too controversial to permit implementation by consensus. The Monroe model of governance did not fit with Adams’s bold program in domestic and foreign affairs.

The more things change….