JOHN AND ABIGAIL ADAMS did not just hope that their son would become President of the U.S. They raised him for the position. Watching the Battle of Bunker Hill from a distance as little John Quincy Adams held her hand, his mother could not have known that both her husband and her son would hold the highest office. But three years later, in 1778, Abigail told eleven-year-old Johnny that his embattled country might one day ask him for leadership.

In John Quincy Adams and the Union (Knopf; $8.75). the second volume of his big and authoritative biography of the sixth President,...

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