On the Horizon: Henry Adams’ Skeptic Faith in Democracy

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. "On the Horizon: Henry Adams’ Skeptic Faith in Democracy." Commentary Magazine, December, 1952.


Scion of the presidential Founding Fathers, Henry Adams himself had grave doubts about the future of democracy as he observed its operations in the America of his time, and he expressed his forebodings in one of the most influential of American autobiographies, The Education of Henry Adams, published after his death in 1918. Earlier, Adams had set forth his view of the American political system in a novel, Democracy, first published anonymously in 1880 and recently republished (Farrar, Straus, and Young, 246 pp., $3.50). Gertrude Himmelfarb here discusses the subtleties and contradictions of Adams’s thinking as they are revealed in this curious work of fiction.