I am advancing on from John Adams, but believe in doing so, I made a mistake in my planning. This founding father and Voice of the Revolution has been marginalized by history and somewhat by me during my reading. I did read two biographies of Adams’s life, John Adams (review here) and John Adams: A Life (review here), but could have undertaken a more in depth investigation on this patriot. I attempted to gain a full appreciation of Adams by adding two other books to my reading plan- Passionate Sage (review here) and Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (review here), but missed out by not examining the works by Page Smith. I should have taken the time to read these two volumes on Adams and have added it to my future reading category.
John Adams was a great man, instrumental in the revolution against Great Britain in the 1770’s. He gained notoriety after his successful defense of British soldiers who killed colonials during the Boston Massacre. While not a fan of the English crown, Adams believed all people need an equal defense before the law. A few years later, he was present in Philadelphia during the Continental Congress and influential in cementing a break between the colonies and London. He served as a diplomat to France and England, becoming close friends with Thomas Jefferson. Adams returned to the United States and finished second in the initial presidential election and served two terms as Vice-President for George Washington. In 1796, Adams was elected over Jefferson and others to be the second Chief Executive of the young country. Adams was a good president, sacrificing his career in politics by preventing a war with France, which was unpopular with many in the Federalist party. Adams spent much of his post-presidential life mending fences with former friends after leaving Washington DC. Part of this rapprochement was with Thomas Jefferson, whom he had a falling out over politics. The letter writing exchange between these two giants of the revolution has proven to be priceless. Adams died on the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in his home.
The first book I read was John Adams by David McCullough. McCullough is a highly regarded historian and this biography shows why. The book is well written and its adaptation into a HBO mini-series has elevated the reputation of John Adams. I would recommend this to the casual reader who wants an entertaining telling of Adams’s life that does not get bogged down by reading like a history book. McCullough keeps a fresh perspective by including a high volume of correspondence between John and Abigail Adams.
John Adams: A Life by John Ferling was my second selection and my favorite biography on Adams. Ferling really brings to life this complex man. I appreciated the even handed treatment of Adams from start to finish. The author writes in a more “historical” tone than McCullough, but the book can easily relate to non-historians.
The third book I read was Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph Ellis. I was disappointed in the book and cannot be counted as a fan. The book is hard to read and jumbled leading to confusion for the reader. I found myself bored by much of the examination of the post-presidential life of Adams. As I mentioned in my review, there are good nuggets of information, but the reader has to pay attention to find them. I would not recommend this book for the casual reader when there are better books on Adams.
I finished reading about the second Commander-in-Chief with Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History) by John Ferling. This is a really fun book to read for anyone who thinks politics turned bitter in 2016. The ground work laid out by Ferling from start to finish was excellent. Ferling was able to avoid showing partiality to any of the participants in the election. I really was disappointed when I finished this book up.
Thank you for reading my book reviews! I am really excited to move to Thomas Jefferson who in the past has been one of my favorite Presidents.
Favorite Book: John Adams: A Life by John Ferling
My Future reading: Page Smith’s two books on John Adams