Kurt's Historic Sites

Brooks Adams

Brooks Adams

Interment Location Visited  
Quincy, MA June 10, 2019  

Photographed June 10, 2019.

Historian Brooks Adams, like many members of his lineage, was a complicated individual. His views on economics and geopolitics varied, evolved, and conflicted in ways that have made accurately labeling him anything other than an “independent” a seemingly insoluble endeavor — although writers certainly have tried. Best known for his 1895 book The Law of Civilization and Decay: An Essay on History, Adams is among the 44,000 who rest at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Adams’s flat grave marker was covered with lichens when I visited it in spring 2019, but its inscription was still legible. His epitaph recalls him to have been an essayist and historian who “set forth the truth as he saw it, undeterred by precedent, undeterred by criticism[.]” Brooks’s writings and thought process were partially influenced by dialogues with his older brother, Henry, who was also a noted historian. Henry Adams is buried in Washington, D.C., but Brooks is joined at Mount Wollaston by his wife, Evelyn, and his parents, Charles Francis and Abigail. Brooks’s famous grandparents and great-grandparents — the presidents and first ladies Adams — are entombed a mile southeast at the United First Parish Church.

Photographed June 10, 2019.
Photographed June 10, 2019.

Brooks’s death in February 1927 ended a four-generation tradition of Adamses living at Peacefield, which had been their residence in Quincy since 1788 (a year which predates the establishment of Quincy itself). After Brooks died, the homestead was left in the hands of the Adams Memorial Society. Comprised of family members, the society stewarded Peace field until 1946. At that point, its care was transferred to the National Park Service, which operates it seasonally today as part of the Adams National Historical Park.

Fast Facts

Born: June 24, 1848 in Quincy, Massachusetts

Spouse: Evelyn Davis Adams (m. 1889-1926)

Died: February 13, 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts

Age: 78

Interment: Mount Wollaston Cemetery, Quincy, Massachusetts

"Only yesterday Mr. Atkinson, in the [Boston] Herald, called all men who believed in silver 'criminal.' I forbear to express my opinion of this sort of writing. I confine myself to saying that a man who speaks thus of those who differ from him, including in this case all bimetallists, or about nine-tenths of the population, is beyond the pale of decent society. Therefore, I announce, once and for all, that in the future I shall disregard all communications of Mr. Atkinson on this or any kindred topic."
- Brooks Adams
August 25, 1896, in a letter to the editor of the Boston Evening Transcript, written in response to a man who criticized people who supported backing currency with silver

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Bieri, Dan R. “Brooks Adams and His Politics in the Nineteenth Century.” M.A. diss. University of Montana, 1964. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2733&context=etd.

Hirschfield, Charles. “Brooks Adams and American Nationalism.” American Historical Review 69, no. 2 (1964): 371-392. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1844988.

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