The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams


Henry Adams was born in Boston in 1838 a great-grandson of the Second President John Adams and grandson of the 6th President John Quincy Adams. He was a professor at Harvard and editor of the North American Review.

 The book ‘The Education of Henry Adams” is an autobiography that focuses on his own and the countries, development from 1838 to 1905. It is a critic of the 19th century approach to education as well as well as many of the political and technological changes that took place between the civil war and the first world war.  

In Chapter 25 he says, “Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts” He then adds that “historians undertake to arrange sequences, called stories or histories, assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect.

 Of the year 1862 and the civil war Henry Adams “could never bear to think without a shudder.'' His father had been appointed as Minister to Great Britain and Henry went with him as a secretary and he experienced first-hand the English governmental feeling that strongly favored the Confederacy.

 ''Resistance to something was the law of New England nature; the boy looked out on the world with the instinct of resistance; for numberless generations his predecessors had viewed the world chiefly as a thing to be reformed, filled with evil forces to be abolished, and they saw no reason to suppose that they had wholly succeeded in the abolition; the duty was unchanged. That duty implied not only resistance to evil, but hatred of it. Boys naturally look on all force as an enemy, and generally find it so, but the New Englander, whether boy or man, in his long struggle with a stingy or hostile universe had learned also to love the pleasure of hating; his joys were few.”


  • “Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.” ...

  • “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

  • “Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” ...

  • “No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.”