2 John Adams

DiscussãoUS Presidents Challenge (USPC)

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

2 John Adams

Este tópico está presentemente marcado como "adormecido"—a última mensagem tem mais de 90 dias. Pode acordar o tópico publicando uma resposta.

Editado: Ago 14, 2010, 10:43am

Here's our progress on the first President Adams .....

John Adams by David McCullough
Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
John Adams Architects of Freedom by Anne Husted Burleigh
Giants of America, the Founding Fathers: John Adams by John T. Mores, Jr.

1796 Election Adams (71 electoral votes) vs. Jefferson (68) Pickney (59)

Adams was one of two Presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams was a second cousin to Samuel Adams, and a third cousin to his own wife, Abigail Smith Adams.
Adams was one of two presidents to live beyond his 90th birthday.
Adams was one of three presidents not to attend the inauguration of his successor. Not only was Adams disappointed in losing to Jefferson, he was also grieving the death of his son Charles.
Adams was the great-great-grandson of John and Priscilla Alden, Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.
The Adams' were the first residents of the White House. They moved in in November 1800 while the paint was still wet.
When Adams and his family moved to Washington to live in the White House, they got lost in the woods north of the city for several hours.
Mrs. Adams would hang her laundry in the East Room to dry.
He was named after his father

Dez 11, 2008, 12:15am

One of his nicknames was "His Rotundity".

Dez 15, 2008, 10:25pm

McCullough, David: John Adams
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. Although McCullough obviously admires (loves?) his subject he presents him realistically without down playing some of his “faults” that interfered often with his effectiveness and not shying away from describing areas where Adams was not as successful as he might have been. You get a rounded picture of both the private and public man who as much as possible remained true to his principles and his beliefs, including his religious beliefs. McCullough also give a very complete picture of the United States during its formative years and the many personalities that had a hand in shaping its beginnings. I knew very little about John Adams before reading this book and ended up admiring, yes even loving him and being astonished at how much he influenced the course of our nation. I also learned quite a bit more about Thomas Jefferson than I already knew and don’t think it is my imagination that leads me to believe that McCullough admired Adams more than Jefferson. I have never been a huge fan of Jefferson and this book didn’t change my mind.

Editado: Dez 15, 2008, 10:55pm

Thank you Carolyn. I also loved the David McCullough bio of John Adams although there are several who find it too flattering. I for one think that while admittingly curmugeonly, Adams is one of the underappreciated founding fathers, and I, like you, enjoyed McCullough's portrayal of his warts as well as his brilliant mind. He certainly wasn't a polished diplomat as many claim Jefferson was, nor did he exhibit some of the crassness (particularly for the day) of Franklin, but his ability to envision what this country could become, and the sheer guts and personal sacrifice he and his family displayed to help make the vision a reality makes him a real hero in my book.

Of course, his exquisite correspondence with Abigail makes for wonderful extra reading, and I'll post several suggestions on the First Ladies thread. I've probably read more about her than him, but one can certainly learn a lot about a man by the way he addresses his wife, and by the way she responds to him.

Down the road, I'd like to read another Adams bio, but I'm thinking I'll see how he is treated in biographies of John Quincy. I'm sure that will be a different perspective.

Dez 15, 2008, 10:51pm

I picked this one up from the library today too. I have start my Washington so I can get to it soon.

Dez 15, 2008, 10:51pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Jan 4, 2009, 9:10am

I just saw the McCullough biography in a book shop here at O'Hare, and was tempted to pick it up (it will fit nicely into my 999 Challenge category of 'books bought in airport shops'). First, of course, I wanted to check in here and see what everyone thought. Thanks for the reviews - I feel comfortable lugging it on the plane with me now!

Jan 4, 2009, 2:55pm

I am in complete agreement with everyone on the McCullough book. I read it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Adams is a very under appreciated president and I thought it showed his warts and all. It was also extremely interesting to see how little things have changed in government over the years. It seems sometimes that they are still arguing over the same things and having the same scandals as they did many years ago.

Jan 4, 2009, 2:55pm

I read it a bit ago. It's quite good, and I'm planning to re-read it for my Adams book next month.

Jan 4, 2009, 4:21pm

I listened to the abridged audio version when I was having to make a long commute and really liked it.

Jan 5, 2009, 12:48am

I read the book when it first came out and enjoyed it. The TV miniseries based on the book that was broadcast last year (or year before?) was very good, too.

Editado: Jan 11, 2009, 5:53pm

I made it through John Adams by David McCullough
It was a great book about a great man.

It is a true shame that John Adams did not get the credit for which he was due because he was squeezed between the presidencies of Washington and Jefferson. This book by David McCullough displays the fortitude and greatness of the man who helped build our nation.
The narrative shows the life that started him on his road from his early life until his end. He is shown to be the true patriot, apparently hanging on to life to reach the 4th of July anniversary.
It amazes me how the author is able to bring to life not only President Adams' abilities as a diplomat but his attributes as a person, husband, father, grandfather.
I personally never really thought much about John Adams since he was so overshadowed by Washington and Jefferson. I now have had to rethink my appraisal and move him up on the greatness scale. His efforts throughout his life to always think more of what was better for the fledgling nation then for himself makes him indeed a great man. (4½*)

Jan 30, 2009, 1:19pm

I, too, liked John Adams, and I learned a lot and gained a larger appreciation for what he did leading up to and including his presidency. Upon reflecting on it, (I read it a year or two ago) I recall thinking that it was a bit too flattering - he did after all, sign the Alien and Sedition Acts, though he did avoid war with France. There were all sorts of allusions to his vanity and ego, though I can't recall many instances where McCullough really drew my attention to them, suggesting to me that he was glossing some things over a bit. On the whole, though, McCullough writes really well when he has the room to run, as he did with John Adams.

Fev 5, 2009, 12:32pm

I am beginning my reading with John Adams and it sounds as though I have made a good choice. I'm not sure about what I should do with the ticker on this thread. I will be back to make a thread with my own ticker for my reading but I thought I read something about the ticker being put on the thread on the individual presidents pages. Anybody? Thanks, Mary Beth

Fev 5, 2009, 2:36pm

Mary Beth, my sister Cheli (cyderry) is 'the keeper of the tickers.' Since she started the group and posted these tickers, only she can edit them. However, we each can edit our own challenge ticker if we're keeping one. Happy reading. Hope you enjoy John Adams. I know I did. Tina (aka tututhefirst)

Fev 5, 2009, 3:38pm

Mary Beth,
I check the threads every day to make sure that any update that is needed for the tickers is made. As soon as someone indicates that they have finished a book for a president, I update the ticker. Your separate ticker on the Ticker thread is the only one you need to worry about. If you want any changes, or have suggestions, let me know.

Fev 15, 2009, 7:40pm

Here's another for McCullough's John Adams. This was a re-read for me, and I was curious to see if it held up under a second reading. It did. I too would like to find an alternate sometime to see how a different biographer might present some of the material.

Abr 3, 2009, 2:52pm

I loved McCullough's John Adams, one of the best presidential biographies I've read. It was fast paced, and easy read, interesting and poignant. But, frankly, I love anything written by McCullough.

Editado: Abr 4, 2009, 2:02pm

So far, everybody has read John Adams by McCullough. I'm wondering if there is any other book out there that someone is going to read?

Abr 4, 2009, 1:44pm

Cheli, I haven't read McCullough's John Adams yet. I will probably start it later this month. After that, I'll read one of those two books about the election of 1800 and then move on to Jefferson.

Abr 4, 2009, 2:03pm

I thought you were partying this weekend.

Abr 15, 2009, 4:46pm

I am really enjoying the John Adams book by McCullough (even though my Kindle says I am only 6% through it). I read and read and read though the percent bar barely budges.

What a great storyteller!! I loved the tales about John and Abigail's courtship, for instance. If he can do that now, I can hardly wait to get to Adams' presidential career.

Abr 15, 2009, 8:12pm

No wonder this is the only book on Adams that the group hsd read!

Abr 23, 2009, 9:48am

who's seen the miniseries on John Adams with Paul Giamatti? I haven't yet, but am wondering what people thought about it, how it compared to the book, was it as flattering of His Rotundity as McCullough was in his biography, and any other notes or reviews of the visual version?

Abr 23, 2009, 10:39am

#24 I watched it on DVD from the library, so I saw the episodes back to back over the course of 3 days. It was very good, and seemed to follow the book pretty closely (as I recalled the book - it had been several years since I'd read it). My husband watched it with me and enjoyed it very much, but had not read the book. He was surprised at how outspoken Abagail was and suspected that of being staged for video - I tried to assure him that, by all accounts, she actually WAS that outspoken. I thought they did a good job (as did McCullough) of showing Adams "warts and all" - a real person who is not either all good or all bad. I enjoyed the way the relationship between John and Abagail was portrayed, and John's devastation at Abagail's death. I also thought they did a good job casting the other players - Washington, Jefferson, Franklin. Overall, I would recommend it very highly.

Abr 24, 2009, 1:00am

>24 GoofyOcean110:
The acting was quite good, chemistry was believable between Giamatti and Laura Linney. Adams' personality was annoyingly realistic, which felt true to the book and to the reputation. I liked it quite a lot, which is saying a lot from someone who has the parade-raining tendency of finding that which to critique!

Abr 27, 2009, 9:58pm

John Adams
by David McCullough

At long last, after more than two weeks, I've finished McCullough'a biography of John Adams.

Five stars, in my book. This is quite a masterpiece, easily one of my favorite books of the year and probably the best presidential biography I've ever read.

Before this book, I didn't know all that much about Adams but learned so much through this book and, in particular, through Adams' letters, as well as those of his wife, Abigail.

This book is a gem. Highly recommended!!!

Abr 27, 2009, 10:35pm

#27 glad to see you enjoyed McCullough's Adams. Are you moving on to Jefferson, or back to a mystery next? :-)

Editado: Abr 28, 2009, 7:19am

Probably read something light next like a mystery. I'm on vacation and we're driving today from Southern IL to Mississippi so I might read a book on the South (on my Kindle).

I want to start on Jefferson fairly soon, though. I have 4 or 5 books I'd like to read about him, including one on the election of 1800.

Maio 12, 2009, 10:53pm

Just finished John Adams by David McCullough and I have to agree with the crowd. I thought it was excellent. Adams is definitely overlooked as one of the great Presidents. On President's Day his name certainly does not come to mind first. I will be thinking about him with new respect. In the book, I particularly liked the way McCullough used Adams's letters to build his story. I learned many details of Adam's life that I had no idea about. I enjoyed the book so much that I added the DVD to my queue on Blockbuster Online!

Jun 7, 2009, 3:32pm

I have not finished this book yet (probably another couple of days) but if someone is looking for a different type of read about John Adams, My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams definitely fits into that category. The book is basically the letters between John and Abigail Adams over a 30+ year span including before they were married. There is some explanation about the letters, but for the most part, the editors let the letters do the "talking." If you want to read a letter from John Adams listing all of Abigail's faults (including the way she walks) this is the book for you. Also, Abigail is such a great woman on her own and makes for a great equal to John.

Jun 8, 2009, 5:18pm

That does sound interesting. I've been going on elsewhere about Adams' and Jefferson's letters in Ye will Say I am no Christian. There was a letter from Adams when Abigail was on her deathbed in which he refers to her as his lover, when they were both past 70. He was obviously still crazy about her and his heart was breaking, my kind of guy.

Jun 11, 2009, 12:17pm

I'm about halfway through John Adams by David McCullough, and thoroughly enjoying it. This is the first detailed book I've ever read about any President except for Woodrow Wilson when I was in high school and enamored of the 14 Points and the League of Nations.

A very good experience so far. It's just taking forever. I don't want to skim so am reading slower than I normally would.

Jun 11, 2009, 5:14pm

Karenmarie...I love the fact that this challenge has such a long time frame. Like you, I want to read and learn, not race thru a list of books to get to the finish line. If it takes me 10 years, so be it.

Jun 11, 2009, 11:27pm

tutu, I'm thinking that same thing. If I were just trying to "finish," I'd read one short book about each president.

Instead, for instance, I will likely read 7 or 8 Jefferson books. Each book I read seems to put me in the mood to add another to my list. Alexander Hamilton, Abigail Adams, and now, Henry Knox are just some of the contemporaries I want to read more about.

Jun 12, 2009, 3:29pm

at most you can have 8 years (if Obama is re-elected) after that you will have to add another President to continue.... that's the penalty.

Editado: Jun 12, 2009, 7:03pm

#35: For those of you wanting to learn more about Henry Knox, Montpelier his home, is only 2 miles from moi. I have visited several times, and find it quite interesting--particularly its round room. They have quite a museum, and often host Revolutionary War re-enactments. Let me know if you're coming this way!

Ago 5, 2009, 8:31am

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis - finished 8/5/2009

I thought this one by Joseph J. Ellis was great, much better than His Excellency : George Washington which I suspect was a bit rushed followup to his best selling Founding Brothers. It covers the years after 1800 with flashbacks to his younger days as school teacher, patriot, and president.

Ago 6, 2009, 10:56am

>37 tututhefirst:
I was hoping it would be near Montpelier VT, as I'm going by there in a few weeks! :-(

Editado: Ago 11, 2009, 8:28am

I think the best book on Adams is definitely John Adams by David McCullough. He was much better at everything else he did than the Presidency -- much like his friend/foe Jefferson. Adams deserves high marks as President perhaps only for standing against the popular tide and resisting war with France, which would have unleashed a destructive force upon the young Republic it may never have recovered from.

I admire Adams more than many of the founders because he was principled, often obnoxious and always spoke from his heart. (He liked to piss people off!) These are terrible attributes for a politician, which I suspect is what doomed his Presidency more than anything else.

Editado: Ago 29, 2009, 9:50am

John Adams by Anne Husted Burleigh
I have not read McCullough's book of the same name. I probably won't. The information I was looking for I found in this one. Anne Burleigh's treatment was, in my opinion, journalistic which was not really surprising as that was her expertise. The story seems fairly complete. The part I enjoyed most was towards the end when he and Jefferson were exhorted by Benjamin Rush to reawaken their old friendship. I'm glad it happened and it probably went a long way towards keeping Adams alive and kicking into his 90s. The major impression of the man I got from the book was of a brilliant paranoid who frequently thought that everyone was against him. But such brilliance was in the right place at the right time for the rest of us who enjoy the USA that has evolved.
By the way, the picture of Ms. Burleigh on the back cover shows an extremely beautiful woman with really intelligent dark eyes.

Ago 29, 2009, 11:40am

I never heard of the Burleigh book and I can't find a review for it online. Sounds interesting although from my broad studies of Adams I would never have considered him paranoid.

I will say without humor that there were times when almost everyone was against him, especially during his troubled presidency. Adams resistance to calls for war with France is his most enduring legacy of his otherwise sub-par perforamce as the nation's chief executive, although we should not overlook the part that he played in ensuring the first smooth transfer of power to a rival bitter political foe in the election of 1800, our most consequential national election until 1860.

Ago 30, 2009, 9:07pm

Finished John Adams by McCullough

Ago 30, 2009, 10:39pm

Marge what did you think? I was pretty impressed overall by the treatment

Ago 31, 2009, 9:28am

>44 Garp83:

I was impressed overall too, although it was long for a general bio. My eyes glazed a few times (political theory isn't my strong suit), but it held my attention and kept me reading. The excerpts from his writing, in particular, were a fascinating introduction. I can see myself reading a collection of his letters to Jefferson and/or Abigail at a later time (when I can go back and fill in around the presidents I find most interesting), so if you have a recommendation I'll put it on my wishlist.

I think I'd have found Adams a delight to know for short visits (the verbosity would have worn thin, but his intelligence and knowledge, as well as sense of humor and love of family, would have won me over). He put himself and his family completely at the country's disposal, despite many thankless periods, and for that he belongs right up there with the greats. Abigail, too. I need to reflect more on his presidency before making a final call. As with reading about Washington's time in office, I feel I have too little knowledge of the period to put it into perspective yet.

One thing that struck me repeatedly was the Fox talk show approach to criticism used by all the papers of the time towards opponents of their candidates: hateful, and independent of fact or potential consequences. It was comforting, in a way, to know it's nothing new.

Editado: Set 1, 2009, 8:31pm

By the way, of John Adams I have read:

John Adams by McCullough.

I have also read a number of books where Adams is a critical character, including Founding Brothers by Ellis and America Afire by Weisberger

Set 11, 2009, 2:56pm

I'm almost done reading Stacy Schiff's A Great Improvisation about Franklin's diplomatic years in France. Here's a nice little quote about Adams she attributes to Ben Franklin:

"But late in July he finally offered up the analysis of his colleague on which no one has improved. Adams meant well for his country, 'is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.' "

It's probably worth noting that by this time in their lives there was no love lost between Franklin and Adams.

I've also never forgotten Joseph Ellis' description of Adams in Founding Brothers as one of 'enlightened perversity'.

All this is very much on my mind since I just finished watching (and enjoying) the mini-series based on McCullough's book. I want to read my bio of Washington first before starting on Adams. It will be a few weeks since I have other things in my queue before I can start in earnest.

Set 15, 2009, 3:04pm

I finished John Adams by David McCullough a few weeks ago. It was a very interesting book. I had read Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation about George Washington and wondered what Adams was like.

Now I'm curious to read more about Franklin, and of course Jefferson.

It was somewhat encouraging and depressing at the same time to see that politics of personality hasn't changed and both sides then and now so often seem determined that the other side is just out to destroy the whole nation.

I have a bio of Franklin, 1776 by McCullough, and Undaunted Courage about Lewis and Clark (and Jefferson) on my desk. Plus someone recommended Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention so I will be immersed in this time period for awhile.

Set 15, 2009, 9:51pm

>48 lauranav:
I enjoyed Benjamin Franklin, The First American by HW Brand. Picaresque but thorough account of the life and times. especially strong in the early years, in the early colonial period.

Mar 10, 2010, 9:01pm

I started to read John Adams by McCullough. Am I the only one that thinks it reads like a dissertation. The quotes, while informative and usefull, really break up the flow of read.

Editado: Mar 10, 2010, 9:52pm

50-CGW: I read this one several years ago, and don't particularly recall it being very dissertation like. I remember really enjoying it.

Mar 11, 2010, 12:50pm

I agree, Tina. I read John Adams last year and thought it was the best nonfiction book I read that year.

It started slowly, I thought and, at first, I couldn't believe that people raved about it. Overall, though, I thought it was terrific.

Mar 11, 2010, 3:18pm

I'm about halfway through John Adams at the moment, and I'm very much enjoying it, although it does seem to be the never-ending book - the more I read, the longer it seems to get - lol!

Abr 7, 2010, 12:38pm

50-53: I think i listened to it and it was well read and thought it flowed really well. But I dunno what a dissertation in history would read like; I haven't read any to compare. I would imagine it would be somewhat more focused on a particular angle of his life or arguing that he could be viewed through a particular prism.

Maio 7, 2010, 2:26pm

I have read the McCullough biography, really liked it.

I also have read Giants of America, the Founding Fathers: John Adams by John T. Mores, Jr. I would put this book in the catergory of the Americian Presidents Series. It was a good, if breif bio of John Adams. I finished this book 12-24-2007.

Bill Masom

Maio 10, 2010, 3:30pm

For those still looking for a Franklin book, I would suggest Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin. Awesome! Franklin clearly disdains Adams and the feeling is mutual, although you get the sense they respect each other. What we tend to like about Adams -- his independence, ideological courage, principled stands, unshakeable integrity -- are all the things that made him such an unsuccessful politician.

Maio 30, 2010, 4:44pm

Finally finished McCullough's John Adams. Loved it, even though it took me forever to get through (entirely my fault and not at all the book's or the author's).

Maio 30, 2010, 7:29pm

I also read John Adams by David McCullough and loved it!

Jun 1, 2010, 10:10pm

I just finished John Adams (in a group read with BJ - thanks BJ that was fun!). Very good book. It did take me awhile to read - I didn't have any long business trips, where I can usually get a lot read - so it took me all of 2 months (with a 766-page ER thrown in...lol).

Jul 21, 2010, 10:17am

Nothing to add on McCullough's work. It is one of the finest books I've ever read.

John Patrick Diggins' work in the American Presidents Series is solid. It really delves into the philosophical roots of Adams' thinking, and lays out Adams' presidency well.

Ralph Adams Brown has crafted an excellent framework for the Adams Presidency in the Kansas University series. He delves deep into the foreign policy questions of the time, and into the opposition of Jefferson and Madison's Democratic Republicans. A good companion piece to the more literary work of McCullough.

Ago 4, 2010, 12:26am

My first message in the group. I was planning on doing this on my own but I'm glad there is a group full of others who can keep me motivated. Working on David McCullough's John Adams right now, which apparently almost everyone else decided to read too.

Is it because it really is that good of a book? Or has no one else been able to write even a decent biography of the man? (I'm leaning towards McCullough just writing that good of a book.)

Ago 9, 2010, 10:10pm

I indeed have finished John Adams. It was wonderfully written, providing great insight not only into the life of John Adams, but everyone around him. My only issue with the book has to be that I believe David McCullough may have been too nice to Mr. Adams. I understand that writing such a tome as he did, he may have become a little partial to the man, but an accurate portrait should still be produced. Other than that, great biography and I cannot wait to begin my next work, His Excellency.

Editado: Ago 27, 2010, 4:32pm

John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

For the biography of the second president I chose a book with the same publisher but a different author from the Washington biography. The tome was a great read and a great companion piece to George Washington: A Life. Whereas Washington was from Virginia and was involved in the military actions of the Revolutionary War, John Adams hailed from Massachusetts and spent the war years serving first in Congress and then as a diplomat. I found Adams to be a very interesting and influential man. In one sense, I could see a bit of myself in him. Adams had quite an ego and had a tendancy to neglect his wife and kids for his career. Also his accomplishments never quite matched his ambitions. Where the similarity ends is that my wife has never let me get away with such neglect and Mr. Adams ended up being a very influential and accomplished man. (Though his achievements lacked the prestige of those attained by General Washington.) Mr. Ferling did a very good job of presenting Adams' life, as well as taking the time to give capsule biographies of those involved in his life. You not only get a biography of John Adams, but also a peek into his generation. Another book to get on my shelf, should I seek to increase my collection of history books.

Ago 28, 2010, 10:36am

I own the Ferling book but never read it. He is a great historian but alas he is no McCullough as a writer. I think the reason so many loved McCullough's treatment of Adams is because McCullough is such an outstanding writer who enlivens his subject in a way that only a few other historians -- Joseph Ellis comes to mind -- is capable of achieving.

Ago 28, 2010, 2:44pm

Yeah, as I was reading through this thread I definitely got the feeling that I should check out McCullough's book.

Set 10, 2010, 8:44pm

Reading John Adams now by David McCullough and loving it. I am learning many new things. He has not really been made to be a hero of a President as Washington and yet is really the main reason we have the Declaration today. My husband is getting his Master's right now and his professor has been lecturing the same truths that correlate with this book.

Has anyone read Mornings on Horseback by the same author? Great read as well.


Set 11, 2010, 11:55am

McCullough is great. Keep in mind when reading about Adams that while he was indeed a great man and McCullough does a great job of presenting him as such, he was a terrible President -- except for his refusal to allow the passions of the electorate to drag us into a war with France, which would have been a disaster. It was his singular accomplishment as Chief Executive. Like his friend/bitter rival Jefferson, his achievements beyond the oval office far outshone his performance in that role.

Also, don't allow Adams views on Jefferson or Franklin to influence your evaluation of these men who were each great American Founders, even if Adams took issue with them. Jefferson certainly was a flawed character, but Franklin was in many ways a greater man than Adams, whether or not Adams recognized that.

When it comes to the Founders, the team was indeed greater than their individual members.

Set 23, 2010, 8:27pm

I just finished John Adams by David McCullough. I bought it in large part due to the praise given to it in this forum. I, unlike everyone else, was disappointed. I found it to be a tedious read. I now think much less of Adams after having read through the book. I would not have been able to get along with him at all. He seems to extremely arrogant, too obnoxiously loud, and overall too annoying. I think that he did some great things, and served a great role, but was not very personable. His signing the Alien and Sedition Acts was an act that can never be ignored. His blatant disregard for our freedom of speech is horrific. Jefferson's greatest presidential achievement is probably the reversal of those acts. I think that it is also worthy to note his single term. I find it interesting that five of the first seven presidents served two terms. The only exceptions were the two Adamses. There must be a reason. I am glad that I read the book. I learned a lot. My opinion has been lessened of Adams. This is due in part to the obvious worship given him by McCullough. I bought 1776 to see if I disliked Adams, or if the author were the biggest issue with me.

Set 24, 2010, 9:28pm

Just purchased John Adams, looking forward to it as I love all of McCullough's work. Take it from me, when you get to Harry Truman, you can't do better than his Truman. Absolutely the best book I've read in the last two or three years. Long, but I almost didn't want it end.

Jan 21, 2011, 1:53pm

It sounds like David McCullough's John Adams is the one to go to for this president. Off I go!

Jan 21, 2011, 6:18pm

Interesting. I don't remember this from the David McCullough book but John Adams actually imposed the first health insurance mandate. I guess they didn't wonder about what the Founding Fathers thought. They WERE the Founding Fathers.


Jan 23, 2011, 12:55am


Jan 23, 2011, 9:29am

#71 Linda -- great article -- thanks!

Jan 26, 2011, 2:14pm

Yup. Not only did Adams sign that bill, but Jefferson, who loved to cut spending, actually expanded that program.

Garp, I think Adams is an underrated President because he kept us from going to war with France despite the passions of the nation. I think Adams problem was that he didn't really care for politics. He was a policy guy.

Jan 27, 2011, 6:58am

Ted, that was indeed Adams' greatest accomplishments as POTUS. In fact, none of the founders made good Presidents, with the exception of Washington whose whole life was leading up to it. It makes sense too, because all of the Founders' intellect and skills were wrong for that office, where you must be both the BOSS and be willing to compromise. None of those guys were cut out for that. There is a lot to admire about Hamilton, but he would have been a terruble POTUS. Perhaps Franklin was best suited for it, had he been a younger man (or not deceased!) when the opportunity was apparent.

I read somewhere that the men best suited for the rabble rousing for the Revolution -- Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry -- were the least qualified to be part of the later constitutional process. In the same way, it seems that those veterans of nation-building like Adams and Jefferson and Madison would have been better suited to not seek to rule in the country they made.

Editado: Jan 29, 2011, 7:03pm

I think the number one thing that makes George Washington so great is that he quit twice.

Two times in his carrer he could have been the absolute ruler of America. First time was after the Revolution, when he could have became King, but he didn't, he gave up the reigns of power and became just an ordinary citizen.

The second time was as POTUS. He could have been president for life, instead he again gave up the reigns of power again. He left that job and again became an ordinary private citizen.

The greatness of Washington was his ability to quit.

Constrast the American Revolution with the French Revolution. One of the biggest differences between both of them, and I think, why they ultimately turned out so different, was the fact that our early "fathers" knew when to step aside. They handed the reigns of power to someone else, without bloodshed, with out being forced.

The great thing about America is that after the Revolution, power has transferred peacefully. And George Washington modeled that twice in his life time.

Bill Masom

Jan 30, 2011, 1:01am

> 76 I agree that part of GW's greatness was eschewing the power he could have taken. He was consistent, committed to his ideals, those that were the basis of the revolution for which he fought.

Though I think it should be pointed out that giving up the presidency was not something he did out of a sense of duty or rightness. On a personal level, he was exhausted and drained of worldly ambition. He may indeed have had less ambivalence about the first term; by the second he had to be vigorously persuaded to accept, and did so largely because others convinced him the country would be riven with party factionalism without him.

His membership in the The Society of the Cincinnati was not arbitrary. The example of Cincinnatus had great appeal. By the early 1790s, he deeply hungered to retire to his home, his family and his fields.

Jan 30, 2011, 8:04am

#76 Bill & 77 stellar -- excellent points!

Mar 24, 2011, 6:17pm

Finished John Adams by David McCullough!

Editado: Maio 4, 2011, 11:12am

Has anyone read John Adams by David McCullough? I ahve also read Passionate Sage and Founding Brothers. The one thing I maight be able to add to this thread is Revolutionary Characters by Gordon S Wood. Adams was a fascination manand his contributions have become more recognized in the last ten years or so.

Maio 4, 2011, 11:09am

Has anyone read John Adams by David McCullough? I ahve also read Passionate Sage and Founding Brothers. The one thing I maight be able to add to this thread is Revolutionary Characters by Gordon S Wood. Adams was a fascination manand his contributions have become more recognized in the last ten years or so.

Maio 5, 2011, 12:30am

I have read John Adams by David McCullough just like at least 90% of everyone commenting. I confirm the consensus that it was excellent so instead of harping on that I give the suggestion of a new set of books. It’s a two volume biography called John Adams by Page Smith. It is an older biography but from the little I have read it is quite excellent and it will be interesting to get a perspective that is not from current times. If you want a bit more on Adams than the McCullough book offers this set is probably for you. I got quite lucky and got a box set at a Half Price Books. I didn’t even look at the price out of fear but finally summoned the courage(in college so dont have much money to spend on books). It turned out to be only 5 dollars. The books were even in perfect condition no page damage at all although the box itself was hardly pristine. I can hardly complain for that price not to mention that they have almost reached a half-century of age.

It seems unfair to me that George Washington gets the privilege of being considered the only Non-Party President. It seems to me Adams was quite independent and had the considerations of the nation and his own judgment well before those of the Federalist. If he had fired his cabinet at the first sight of their disobedience and perpetual loyalty to Hamilton perhaps he like Washington could have had a bipartisan Administration (not that it worked out very well). I was very impressed with Adams although not quite with Hamilton. It will certainly be interesting to contrast this book with the perspective of the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow.

Throughout the book there was no sign of religious tolerance that I desperately hoped a man with a character like John Adams would have. I was worried that McCullough might not be mentioning this because it was a blotch on an otherwise pristine character. I was glad to be proven wrong when near the end of his life he sponsored an amendment guaranteeing religious freedom for the Massachusetts constitution that he had written (amazing that it is the oldest constitution still in use).

There is only one mistake that I can point towards as a definite oversight. It should be no surprise that it is the Infamous Aliens and Sedition Act. But when judging men we must place them in their historical times. In this context this mistake it is not quite as bad as our modern preconceptions would lead us to believe. When we look back in time with our modern assumptions of that which is sacred and untouchable in a democracy (freedom of the press) our judgment may be a bit harsher than is justified. After all we live during an age in which we can call upon precedents. John Adams did not have this liberty and lived in a newly founded nation with principles never before exercised in an actual government. The “absolute” freedom of the press was not a long resolved issue as it is now and at his time was very much an unanswered question. Anyone who has read about politics in the early republic knows that it may have been the most vitriolic period for political newspapers. With George Washington newspapers wouldn’t dare raise an opposition although even Washington was not completely immune from criticism. John Adams was the first president to be under full siege from opposition newspapers whose only goal was the defrauding of his character whether it took lies or not. With this knowledge it is more understandable that when the Aliens and Sedition Act crossed John Adams desk he did not waver over its signing into law. After all why is the outlaw of false claims in newspapers an assault upon democracy. Should not democracy be strengthened by the firm foundation of a citizenry informed with newspapers that cannot misinform them? Of course those of us with the hindsight that history bestows know that this law would become a political tool and that in the end the lesser evil after all is the absolute freedom of the press.

We of the present often times use the lessons that only thousands of years of human misery and struggle can teach us and then fashion those very lessons into ammunition for use against the very humans that have lived through those times. I would like to see someone look through a mirror directly into their own eyes and profess on all that is good that they would have known those “self evident truths” that have been passed through the ages if they had lived during the times in which they were forged. For the majority of humanity I have serious doubts as to whether an affirmative could be truthful. How many among us could do that which even the elite of humanity took centuries of generations for only periodic glimpses of that which we in the present take for granted.

I believe it is a shame that all I can remember from public school American History class of John Adams was that he passed the Aliens and Seditions Act. John Adams may not be the most distinguished president but his firmness on peace while the people insisted upon a war that would have been very undesirable for the new born nation certainly makes him overall a good president despite the Aliens and Sedition Act. There can be no doubt that he was an excellent human being insisting upon public service even when this required sacrifice of health and distance from family all the while maintaining frugality. The only president I have read about so far with such insistence upon public service was Theodore Roosevelt who was also of very high quality moral fiber (It is no surprise that Theodore Roosevelt looked up to Adams partly due to his insistence on a stronger navy). John Adams' excellent example deserves a more prominent place in the public consciousness of the United States.

I apologize for the length. This is my first post on the forums so if this length is grossly inappropriate let me know.

Editado: Maio 5, 2011, 8:08am

Excellent, articulate, reasoned post, FordStaff, and certainly not too long. It is a pleasure to read such a well thought-out analysis. I agree with much of what you say, although I am less willing to give Adams a pass on the Aliens and Sedition Act simply because Adams was brilliant and he knew a damn sight better than to let something like that cross his desk with a signature. Still, it is wrong to let that nefarious act be emblematic of his entire Presidency, and you rightly note his singular accomplishment of keeping us out of what would have been a disasterous war with France. That singular accomplishment, however, might also be his "single" accomplishment as POTUS, but I also give him credit for being the first POTUS that did not have near-universal support -- as Washington did -- and that he weathered that deserves some credit, as well. Yet, his distinguished career outside of the Oval Office -- like Jefferson's -- far outshone his time as President and it is for these many contributions that he deserves to be remembered as a truly great (to borrow from Ellis) "Founding Brother."

Maio 5, 2011, 1:04pm

Fordstaff, I would agree, your thoughs are well articulated and sound. I would also agree that while the Aliens and Sedations act was a mistake, Adams should not be judged by 21 century standards. I do want to point out that I reaized that most people her had read McCullough's John Adams, I just thought I was being funny and I can't promise that I wont do that again in the future.

Maio 5, 2011, 5:31pm

I agree with you Garp83 that Adams should by no means want receive a free pass on the Alien and Seditions act. I merely wanted to point out that when we scrutinize the lives of those long dead our judgments will have significant bias if we are not careful.
While the Aliens and Sedition act was not well received in John Adams time the reaction then would be only a grain of sand on a beach compared with the reaction it would receive today (perhaps a tiny bit of exaggeration there). The freedom of the press is considered untouchable by modern standards (In the USA at least, don’t know about other countries). This is the bias in particular that I believe takes a black spot on John Adams Presidency and drops a can of black paint over it. We must remember that this freedom was not cemented into the foundation of our democracy at his time. Also John Adams sincerely meant for this law to be used to stop the dishonesty on both sides unlike many of his federalist brethren who aggressively used the law to persecute political opposition.

I may be a bit overly defensive of John Adams but let it be known that I do not mean to say that anyone in particular here is biased if they consider this a terrible decision on John Adams part. With this I myself agree. He should have realized that the Aliens and Sedition act would become a corrupt political tool and this was a definite lack of foresight.

It is difficult enough to accurately judge oneself. It only becomes more difficult when it is necessary to cross the boundaries of culture and time. The best treatment available is to cast aside prejudice and preconceptions before we judge others. If everyone could do only this many misunderstanding in the world would cease to exist.

Maio 5, 2011, 6:46pm

I would add that no POTUS trampled upon our liberties like Wilson did after our entry into WWI. I really only despise two Presidents and Wilson is one of them. Compared to the way he derailed our constitutional rights, the Alien and Sedition Acts are nothing.

Also, I well agree with you that people should be judged by their time, not by ours. But we need to be sure we understand their time and not use it as an excuse. Jefferson knew slavery was a terrible evil -- he wrote about it as such -- so we can't give him a pass because he was man born into an 18th century slave aristrocracy. Yet, we can perhaps grant Lincon a pass for favoring colonization of freed slaves because in his time even the bulk of abolitionists were racist by our standards. It is in this sense that I hold Adams to account, for he was a lawyer, a signer of the Declaration, a key player in both the Revolution and the early republic he helped forge, a man with such integrity that he represented as defense attorney the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre. The Alien & Sedition Acts represent one flaw in judgment, and his whole career should not be besmirched by this one flaw, but nevertheless he earned the reprobation he received for it.

Maio 6, 2011, 12:09am

Perhaps you are correct in your assessment. I tend to be more forgiving towards some of the questionable decisions of Presidents than is deserved. Part of this is because the conclusive picture I am getting that the Presidency is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Just look at pictures of presidents before and after the task of the Presidency. It is amazing how much older most of them look (part of this is because they are actually older). The only president I have yet to read of who enjoyed it was Theodore Roosevelt.

I am interested in the other President you despise besides Woodrow Wilson. I unquestionably agree that no President has ever assaulted civil liberties more than Wilson. How on earth he even gets to grace the top half in polls concerning the position of presidents in terms of their performance. Sometimes he is even TOP TEN. He deserves at least bottom ten. Not even the issues with which he was ahead of his time make up for being the President who is first and foremost an enemy of civil liberties.

Maio 6, 2011, 1:19am

> 87 I feel fairly confident that the other President despised by Garp -- and he is not alone on this -- is a recent one.

Maio 6, 2011, 8:13pm

You know Stellar, you might be right ... he might have been President back around three years ago, for example ...

Maio 6, 2011, 10:29pm

At least he knew what the definition of "is" is.

Maio 7, 2011, 1:55am

> 90 Perhaps his greatest achievement.

Maio 7, 2011, 6:56am

I'm just grateful he is now a "was" ...

Maio 15, 2011, 6:57pm

Many people are arguing that Adams should be judged according to his time: I agree. However, this does not excuse him from signing into law this horrible abrogation of our rights. Even in his time, the first ammendment existed. Whether or not the right was completely cemented in the minds of the people is irrelevant. He ignored the constitution, intenionally abridging the freedom of the press. While his motives may have been good, the result is still the same. A proverb comes readily to mind. That proverb is, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." While we have to be eternally thankful for the good things that Adams did, e.g. pushing us towards independence, signing the Declaration, his time as ambassador, we have to judge him for his lack of concern for the Constitution; in this one instance at least.

Jan 6, 2013, 6:57pm

Read John Adams by David McCullough.

First Family: Abigail and John by Joseph Ellis

Founding Gardners by Andrea Wulf Adams was not the land owner that Washington and Jefferson were with their plantations, but he strived to improve his knowledge in this area and tried to improve the agriculture he did do.

Trying to get caught up with all the posts and reading since I've just joined this group.

Fev 16, 2013, 11:54am

John Adams by David McCullough (4 stars)

This book won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in the category “Biography or Autobiography” and it’s easy to see why. This story about John Adams’ life is engaging, interesting and full of historical details that really make it come alive. I especially loved the part where Adams is in the Netherlands, as it gave me a look at my own country through the eyes of an American – both Adams’ view as the author’s view came through in the writing. The author clearly likes his subject, but he does not overlook John Adams’ flaws, making this a very balanced book.

However, sometimes McCullough gets into so much detail it becomes an unnecessary tangent. I think the book could have been a more reasonable size of about 400 pages with a bit more editing. It’s well written and interesting, but it could have done with 200 pages less, which would also make it much more attractive to readers who might find the size daunting. I did not mind the size, as the story remained interesting, but even I recognize some more editing could and perhaps should have been done in some places.

But despite that one flaw, this was a very good book. For me, as someone with no knowledge of John Adams and almost no knowledge of US history, this was a very readable book. There was never a moment where I was confused about what was happening or why it was happening. So all in all it was a well written, engaging book and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in US history, US presidents, or John Adams in particular.


As an aside, I found it very interesting to read the happenings surrounding the US independence from another point of view – as opposed to Washington’s, which I read in Founding Father. This is only my second presidential biography, but it certainly showed me the value in reading the presidents in order. Because all the president’s lives overlap each other, you get a unique view of history – a continuous story from one president to another that shows the making of a country from the fight for independence to the present day.

Fev 16, 2013, 1:04pm

89 -- Too soon to judge W. Try again in 50 years.

Fev 16, 2013, 1:09pm

Ever see 1776 the musical on DVD? Very good. I skipped the musical numbers, but the rest of the movie is excellent. Adams really comes out on top, ahead of Jefferson. A good way to be introduced to the founding.


Fev 16, 2013, 4:08pm

#97 I saw 1776 live in Broadway when I was a kid in its original run. Awesome!

#96 I wonder if that was said of Caligula at one time? In 50 years it could only go down lower, not up, but it's hard to imagine much of a change ...IMHO

Editado: Mar 22, 2013, 10:50pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Jan 21, 2014, 4:21pm

Just wanted to mention My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams. Very interesting seeing what they wrote to one another when they were apart.

Editado: Out 25, 2016, 12:47am

I read John Adams by David McCullough two years ago for my RL bookclub. I did not find it an easy read and only so so enjoyable. I came away really likin Adams, he was humble, blunt, and in love with America. I found this to be really more about the movement for independence that about John Adams, but that was okay!

Dez 20, 2017, 12:34am

John Adams by David McCullough is an amazing book about which I probably cannot add anything that hasn't already been said. Personally, I think one better understands and appreciates him when read in conjunction with Thomas Jefferson. Books about their rivalry like Adams vs Jefferson are important to understand so long as you don't forget their friendship, such as Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon Wood. Not only did these two men do so much together, but their fights helped define the choices and battles of our nation's early days. Even more importantly, they provided the first example in the world of a sitting elected government passing the baton after defeat to the opposition without the nation disintegrating. Finish it off with a charming correspondence about farming and philosophy between two old men who deep down valued the others until their deaths--and neither Dickens nor Hugo could have gotten away with that coincidence.