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John Adams by David McCullough – Review

John Adams is best known as the first Vice President and the second President of the United States of America. However, he was much much more.

Master historian David McCullough’s John Adams was published in 2001 and earned the Pulitzer Prize in Biography or Autobiography. His thorough account of the life of John Adams shines light on this great American and Revolutionary.

John Adams, like many of the founding fathers, had an almost crazed level of energy and determination. More importantly, he believed without doubt in the country of America before it was even a country.

McCullough chronicles John Adams’s struggles and self-doubt as he helped to produce what would become a new government for a new country as well as his extensive time spent overseas in France, Holland, and England, seeking diplomacy and support for the fledgling country.

John Adams by David McCullough

Throughout the political career of John Adams, his wife Abigail was ever present and supportive even while they were separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Abigail Adams ran the Adams farm and household for years by herself while raising 5 kids, one of whom, John Quincy Adams, would become the 6th U.S. President. A great deal of information about John Adams is due to his correspondence with his wife during their many times politics kept them apart.

The Massachusetts Constitution, written entirely by John Adams, played a huge role in the forming of the U.S. Constitution. The focus on freedom, equality, and education still ring strongly as what makes America so great.

Adams was greatly ridiculed by other politicians, most of which was unwarranted and out of political spite. Adams was intense and opinionated, but claims he was a monarchist or didn’t have the country’s well-being in mind were completely ignorant. McCullough points this out showing Thomas Jefferson to be quite disingenuous and oft times mean. Senator Maclay even commented that Adams resembled a monkey put into breeches.

One of the most interesting things about John Adams was the almost entirely one-sided rivalry with Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, while a respected statesman, was not of much use as Adams’s vice president and would later benefit from efforts to beat Adams from a second term as President.

For many years after, Adams and Jefferson stopped or greatly limited correspondence and not until they were both well aged would they regain their friendship. They would respect with their differences of opinion to the end. Both died on July 4th, 1826.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelein.

John Adams

John Adams by David McCullough is thorough and beautiful in describing not only the life of Adams but the critical lives around him that influenced him. Most notably are his wife Abigail and his close friend, the famous physician Benjamin Rush.

This book would not be possible, not to this extent at least, without all the letters John and Abigail wrote to each other plus a slew of other relatives and their propensity to write letters and keep diaries. Adams was an amazing American and John Adams is a wonderful read.