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John Adams

John Adams

by

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot -- "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him -- who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than one thousand surviving letters between John and Abigail Adams, nearly half of which have never been published, provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.

As he has with stunning effect in his previous books, McCullough tells the story from within -- from the point of view of the amazing eighteenth century and of those who, caught up in events, had no sure way of knowing how things would turn out. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, the British spy Edward Bancroft, Madame Lafayette and Jefferson's Paris "interest" Maria Cosway, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the scandalmonger James Callender, Sally Hemings, John Marshall, Talleyrand, and Aaron Burr all figure in this panoramic chronicle, as does, importantly, John Quincy Adams, the adored son whom Adams would live to see become President.

Crucial to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, born opposites -- one a Massachusetts farmer's son, the other a Virginia aristocrat and slaveholder, one short and stout, the other tall and spare. Adams embraced conflict; Jefferson avoided it. Adams had great humor; Jefferson, very little. But they were alike in their devotion to their country.

At first they were ardent co-revolutionaries, then fellow diplomats and close friends. With the advent of the two political parties, they became archrivals, even enemies, in the intense struggle for the presidency in 1800, perhaps the most vicious election in history. Then, amazingly, they became friends again, and ultimately, incredibly, they died on the same day -- their day of days -- July 4, in the year 1826.

Much about John Adams's life will come as a surprise to many readers. His courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits that few would have dared and that few readers will ever forget.

It is a life encompassing a huge arc -- Adams lived longer than any president. The story ranges from the Boston Massacre to Philadelphia in 1776 to the Versailles of Louis XVI, from Spain to Amsterdam, from the Court of St. James's, where Adams was the first American to stand before King George III as a representative of the new nation, to the raw, half-finished Capital by the Potomac, where Adams was the first President to occupy the White House.

This is history on a grand scale -- a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

Title:John Adams
Edition Language:English
ISBN:0743223136
Format Type:
Number of Pages:751 pages
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    John Adams Reviews

  • Stephen

    MESSAGE TO BIOGRAPHERS: Tidy up your prose, sharpen your story-telling, knowledge up on your source material and bring your entire bag of game, because the gauntlet has been chucked, the bar has been ...

  • Elyse

    I LEARNED SO MUCH........ I'm moved - deeply moved...... at this 'book' and 'partly' at myself. SOMETHING HAS SHIFTED INSIDE ME THROUGH THIS READING EXPERIENCE. A handful of books have done this for m...

  • Mary Etta

    Since reading John Adams I have continually been reminded of my delusion of our country's history. Today as I saw the conclusion of the John Adams' series on HBO I realized I was one of those John Ada...

  • Diane

    This is a must-read for anyone interested in the American Revolution. I would call this David McCullough's masterpiece, except I've read several of his remarkable books, including Truman and The Wrigh...

  • Michael

    A solid and satisfying biography of a key leader in the birth of the American Republic. This book helps make him my favorite of the bunch because of his paradoxical mix of humility and ambition, ideal...

  • Chrissie

    I haven’t read a book this good in years! I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this book. This is a book about a man, John Adams, but it is also much, much more. It is a book about American ...

  • Rachel

    John Adams is an extraordinary book, and an excellent political history of the beginning of the United States. This is the first book I've read by David McCullough, and I'm impressed at his ability t...

  • Kay

    "No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it," wrote John Adams, and this superb biography by David McCullough makes it clear why Adams was undoubtedly sin...

  • Book Riot Community

    I began reading John Adams four years ago, if you can believe it. Somewhere along the way I set it down and failed to pick it up again until a few weeks ago. I was a fan of David McCullough before I r...

  • Jean

    Adams always seemed like a dumpy old president, but the man was incredibly physically and intellectually rigorous, and without his undaunted labors that were often overlooked, we might not have had th...