John Adams

John Adams

4.5 372
by David McCullough

ISBN-10: 141657588X

ISBN-13: 2901416575886

Pub. Date: 01/29/2008

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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

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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.

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Simon & Schuster
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Table of Contents

Part IRevolution
Chapter 1The Road to Philadelphia17
Chapter 2True Blue78
Chapter 3Colossus of Independence125
Part IIDistant Shores
Chapter 4Appointment to France167
Chapter 5Unalterably Determined228
Chapter 6Abigail in Paris287
Chapter 7London333
Part IIIIndependence Forever
Chapter 8Heir Apparent389
Chapter 9Old Oak467
Chapter 10Statesman515
Chapter 11Rejoice Ever More568
Chapter 12Journey's End615
Source Notes657

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John Adams 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 360 reviews.
SamFS More than 1 year ago
For anyone who loves history and especially this period of time in our country's life, this book is a must read. Additionally, for the times we live in, this book shows the intense feelings, the "Can Do" spirit, and the commitment and dedication these colonists each show one another. Brilliant minds all working together and warning us of the times we live in today...........Jefferson, Washington, Hancock & Franklin were outstanding and brilliant...............however, it took the noble lawyer from Boston to piece it all together..........

The other great value is the language used which is completely gone today.
I had to stop and keep the dictionary handy.............learned a great deal about our forefathers and the difficulties they faced in creating this country.
ALLISTOMULL More than 1 year ago
The life of John Adams is one I am glad I read about- filled with American history, the story is set through the American revolution and beyond, with an interesting look at our earliest presidents and their lives, and the policies they put in place over two hundred years ago that we still follow. I really enjoyed the incorporation of the Adams' letters to each other and others. Also, it was a good mix of history of the country and story of the man. I read this in the midst of our country's last presidential election, so it was interesting to see how different it was for our founding fathers and politicians of today.
c.spencer More than 1 year ago
David McCullough does a phenomenal job at bringing to life the larger than life person of John Adams. McCullough shows thoroughly the kind person John Adams was. He shows Adams to be a family man, a hard worker, an independent thinker, a dedicated stateman, a good father and husband, a farmer, and a man of faith. In addition to all these qualities, Adams had the foresight and integrity to stand against the degredations of slavery when so many of his contemporaries (e.g. Washington and Jefferson) helped to perpetuate the evil of slavery at a time when slavery was so in vogue and mainstream.

Adams was a man who was as dedicated as any to the birth of the New Nation. He traveled across oceans and continents in service and advocacy of the new nation. He sacrificed years and precious time with his wife and kids all in service of the new nation.

John Adams is a man who gets forgotten by many as one of the greatest Founding Fathers. Jefferson gets great credit as a key Founding Father, but to say that Jefferson was a man of greater character or importance than Adams is flat wrong. These two men were rivals for much of the later part of their lives, and I would argue that Adams was much the greater man. Adams face deserves to be on Mt. Rushmore as much as any of the four up there, save for Washington and Lincoln.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know that I can conjure up any more noteworthy praise for this biography of a great American than has already been done. All that I can do is encourage others to read it and make it part of their own library, so that it can be read multiple times over a life time. This is truly a fascinating read about a fascinating man as well as the fascinating men and women around him (I believe this is the first time I have used fascinating three times in one sentence.) There is so much brought into play such as Adams love for learning and his love for reading throughout his entire life. His interactions with the other founding fathers were immensely enjoyable. The author also enlightens us much about Abagail and John Quincy Adams as well and the influence they had on Adams life. There was much brought to light about John Adam's accomplishments that I was unaware of before. McCullough also writes in a highly enjoyable way and the book does not seem long at all. He also does touch some on Adams religious beliefs and how this affected his worldview, though I would have like to see him go even a little deeper. I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and imagine I will read it again within the next few years, Lord willin and the crick don't rise.
RMB1008 More than 1 year ago
I good friend read Adams last year and it took him six months but I was captivated by it that i completed it in last four weeks. I typically never watch a movie before reading the book but that was not the case with this book. And yet I was not disappointed what so ever. This book is a must read for any one who has a true interest in the creation of our country. McCullough has done another outstanding compiling such a story.
Nannie-Jo More than 1 year ago
A riviting biography, uplifting in it's description of a man, and his wife, both committed to the cause of freedom and the building of the United States. John and Abigail are an inspiration to me, especially in our current political climate, when all politicians seem to work first and foremost on their own careers, rather than for the country's benefit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David McCullough is the finest author of our time. I have read other books by several other authors and none compare to David McCullough. His unique way of writing history is truly inspiring and original and i only wish he would write thousands of more books because his words and the way he expresses himself through writing is fantastic. This book is truly amazing. it captures John Adams' life in its entirety and i would highly highly recommend it to anyone thinking of buying it. John Adams was truly a patriot and a terrific American. While he was tense and confrontational, Adams was also a magnificent politician and American and we owe a great deal to him. Without McCullough, a lot of people would not know how important Adams was to the formation of the original states. Unfortunately, Adams is not as remembered as the inspiring Jefferson or Washington but he was just as critical in the forming of our country.
glauver More than 1 year ago
David McCullough has rescued John Adams from the dusty pedestal his has been placed on. McCullough brings both Adams and his wife, Abigail, to life in the same way Edmund Morris has revived Theodore Roosevelt (subject of another McCullough book). I really cannot praise this biography enough. It will be read as the definitive life of Adams for a long time to come. I used to think a great fantasy dinner would feature TR and Thomas Jefferson together at the table. I now believe both John and Abigail Adams would also have to be present. I have also read McCullough's accounts of the Panama Canal and the Johnstown Flood.
DeAnne57 More than 1 year ago
I haven't seen the HBO mini-series, because I wanted to read the book first. I was so taken with this book that I could not put it down. It is wonderfully written. You get a real sense of the man, his thoughts, his politics and his love for his wife and family. A man often overlooked for the great things he accomplished as one of our country's founding fathers. Simply enjoyable from start to finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, fascinating view into the founding of our nation. Always timely - as you compare congressional and governmental activities then to life today. I highly recommend it!
DeniseE More than 1 year ago
I'm almost finished with the book and I'm teaching every adult friend or relative a little history....My conversation usually starts of with, "Did you know.........? Love the book, I really don't want it to end. I can't get over how much I didn't learn in school about John and Abigail Adams and I grew up just down the road from their home in West Quincy, MA.
Shulu More than 1 year ago
I love to read and when I purchased this book I was skeptical of how large a volume it was (in number of pages)........however, as I got towards the end, I didn't want the story to end! This is a fantastic and extremely well written book that takes the reader along for the complete journey! I am planning on rereading it sometime next year!
JosephNicholas More than 1 year ago
The story of America's second President, John Adams is brilliantly written in this detailed and inspiring biography. This book will henceforth be considered the authoritative volume on the life of John Adams. Thank you to Authors David G. McGullough and John Henrickson for your thoughtful masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose John Adams since I saw many people read it. Now I know why. McCollough shows you the life of one of the underheard of founding fathers, from farm boy to president and how he helped shape this nation.
dragonzwisard More than 1 year ago
David McCullough's "John Adams" paints an intimate portrait of our 2d president and one of the principle figures in the American Revolution. As usual, Mr McCullough's superb gift for story telling animates Mr Adams world, his relationships with other great actors on the world stage and is an essential ingredient in bringing Mr Adams' world to life. An excellently researched book, written by a master storyteller and superb historian "John Adams" should be an integral volume in a serious reader's library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read only one book about the founding of our great nation, read this one. It reads like a great novel, brings this historic period into clear focus and brings to life an amazing list of characters, John and Abigail Adams, their offspring especially John Q. Adams, Ben Franklin, King George III and of course Thomas Jefferson. Should be on the mandatory reading list of every university in America.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Adams was truly such a great man! And David McCullough is a great man for bringing this piece of history so deliciously to life! Adams' passion, intellect, and integrity are an inspiration. Equally important, the fact that he was 'human' -- he endured suffering, tragedies, humilitation -- just as the rest of us do. It was a joy to get a peek at the love affair he had with his wife who was so intelligent, so strong, and whose influence was so important to the history of our nation! I no longer feel like he and Jefferson and Washington are 'those men from long ago who wrote the Declaration of Independence'. I now feel like I am intimately acquainted with their personalities, their hobbies, the nuances of the lives they lived. Horrah for this book! I am recommending it to everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The freedoms we cherish, and that we have been so shockingly reminded continue to have enemies today, were before all else the ideas of a group of people in 18th Century America. One of the most significant of those creators was John Adams, and David McCullough¿s thorough and engrossing biography of him shows how the Revolution was truly fought as bravely on diplomatic and intellectual fronts as those fought by the Minutemen and Redcoats. The timing of ¿John Adams¿ is perhaps perfect. Just like Rudolph Giuliani has done by digging into the traditions of Winston Churchill, we must all seek role models as we band together to fight this newest and most complicated war. Ordinary citizens can take great pride in the fact that Adams was just that. He embodies what has always been truly great about the American Spirit; our second President was strong, flawed, loyal, humorous in the face of failure, and unafraid of having an outspoken and even more intelligent wife. He loved Abigail dearly, and by the end of the book one can¿t help but feeling like this is one of the greatest love stories ever told. I¿m a fan of McCullough¿s, so my praise for his work takes on the tone of gushing geek, but I am sure this will be known as his masterwork. ¿Truman¿ is a widely quoted text, and most fans of history I know have read ¿The Path Between The Seas.¿ I still count ¿Mornings on Horseback¿ among the best of all history books. Surely, though, the passion that flows through every page of this book is something McCullough discovered within all the fantastic exchanges between John and Abigail. Many seem to be hung up on the fact that the book is 751 pages long, including the very comprehensive index. I can¿t imagine a page that doesn¿t belong. I was impatient for the action to start, of course; my Generation X genes are strong. Once the Revolution did begin I was glad for the insight into Adams¿ character and entranced by his written accounts of his experiences. Every citizen should be issued this book as a lesson in the American Revolution and our country¿s early history. I was fascinated by the tales of political intrigue involving Hamilton, Jefferson, and a host of other friends and adversaries. That friendship with Jefferson is reverently described in this book. It would seem as though Adams had both the greatest wife and the coolest friend in the history of the United States. Jefferson is seen as a kind of brilliant doofus whose loyalty to his friend was temporarily sidetracked by Iago-esque political forces surrounding him. The relationship isn¿t simple, but that¿s of little surprise. The fact that they died on the very same day is a more than creepy coincidence. This is a book every American should read. Adams is the kind of American we should all be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fascinating in it's own right and the stories told here should be compulsory reading for all americans. However, this reading was especially impactful, at this time of sorrow for our nation, because it revealed the hardship and sorrow endured by John Adams in the name of freedom. Reading this book reinforced my belief that we will weather this storm as well and above all else it will be worth our suffering.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Adams never heard of the word 'spin.' This highly educated, decent man had persistent devotion to independence, commitment to balanced government, a clear distaste for war and foreign intrigue, fidelity to and appreciation of his wife and family and a clear conscience at life's end. David McCullough,a master of 18th century American History, gives new meaning to 'the good old days.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Now that I have read this wonderful book, I can no longer consider John Adams anything other than passionate, lively and totally an American Patriot. I was going to say that the author had brought to life a President that had once been obscure, but obscure he surely is not. McCullough brought to life, through some wonderful research, the wonderful Mr. Adams. But not only is Mr. Adams treated with such care, but all of the characters are as well. The wonderful array of Americans, French, British, and even Dutch are given equal treatment. You will love this book. It is somewhat long but every word is worth reading. Thank you David McCullough, I treasure your gift to Americans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is through the letters of John Adams and Abigail Adams that we get a sure sense of the unsteady beginning of our nation. Reading the letters between this husband and wife is equivalent to listening in on a telephone conversation today. Their opinions and attitudes bring them and the people they knew to life. The book is fascinating in its history, engaging in its humaneness. I was hooked by page 30 and was very sorry to see this more-than-600-page book come to an end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
David McCullough has obviously taken great pains in his research and development of this biography of the second U.S. President - pains that are rarely taken in today's world. The result is a work that exemplifies the term 'researh', and provides what could be called the greatest look at a man who is largely unknown. John Adams' presidency is often overshadowed by the events of the time. Most people don't realize the impact that he made while he served as the leader of the fledging nation that would evolve into the most prominent nation in the world. McCullough delves into the man, without really taking away from the myth, going into various details that have been sorrowfully left out of other writings. This book has an appeal to me as a personal student of history, as well as an author of my own accord. Mr. McCullough has exemplified the methods by which historical information is presented, and delivers his work in a manner that is enjoyable for all, regardless of their degree of interest in the period. As the author of Strike Hard, I would firmly recommend this book to anyone who would like to have a better understanding of what John Adams was like, what he went through, and where his true philosophies came from. The result is amazing, shocking, and altogether a wonderful experience that is one not to be missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Adams, probably our one forgotten founding father, may soon be recognized for his leading role in the founding of our country. A passionate man, who loved his country and its people before we were called Americans. He fought for what was right, he hoped we would become a nation of laws. John Adams did more than any other member of the Revolutionary generation to bring about the successful conclusion of the war and to promote the newly independent American state. In this new biography of a truly great American, we find John Adams the man, the politician, the president, the father, the son, the husband, and the Patriot. For too long he has languished in the background of American history, too long forgotten by this nation he loved so dearly. It is a great tribute to a truly Great American. To miss this book, is to deprive yourself of your history as an American
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for all those interested in American history. Not only do you get an accurate (and personal portrait) of the life of John Adams, you also learned interesting side notes of American history. Consider for example, 1. John Hancock wanted to be the general instead of George Washington 2. The first American foreign Embassy was built near Amsterdam 3. The smallpox vaccination was actually first used in Africa and it was an African slave who gave the vaccination treatment to John Adams' uncle who then distributed to America This book is a great reader and once you start, even though you know the outcome (we gain our independence, Adams becomes president, he dies), you still do not want to put the book down