Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

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Overview

John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our nation and its second president, spent nearly the last third of his life in retirement, grappling with contradictory views of his place in history and fearing his reputation would not fare well in the generations after his death. And indeed, future generations did slight him, elevating Jefferson and Madison to lofty heights while Adams remained way back in the second tier. Now, in a witty, clear, and thoughtful narrative of Adams's later life at his home in Quincy, ...

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Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

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Overview

John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our nation and its second president, spent nearly the last third of his life in retirement, grappling with contradictory views of his place in history and fearing his reputation would not fare well in the generations after his death. And indeed, future generations did slight him, elevating Jefferson and Madison to lofty heights while Adams remained way back in the second tier. Now, in a witty, clear, and thoughtful narrative of Adams's later life at his home in Quincy, Joseph Ellis explores the mind and personality of the man, as well as the earlier events that shaped his thinking. Listeners will discover Adams to be both contentious and lovable, generous and petty, and perhaps the most intellectually profound of the revolutionary generation, whose perspective on America's prospects has relevance for us today.

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Editorial Reviews

Judith Shulevitz
His best book. . . . Ellis's knack for bringing historical figures to life seems to natural you can't imagine him doing anything else. —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Decreeing our second president the ``most misconstrued and underappreciated `great man' in American history,'' Ellis, a history professor at Mount Holyoke College, sets out to recover the Adams legacy obscured by the ``triumph of liberalism.'' His notable study focuses on Adams (1735-1826) in retirement in Quincy, Mass., starting in 1801. Drawing on Adams's correspondence, his journalism and his marginalia in the books he read, Ellis shows the one-term president during his first 12 years of private life fulminating over the country's direction, then mellowing. But Adams would remain oppositional and tart: ``Was there ever a Coup de Theatre that had so great an effect as Jefferson's penmanship of the Declaration of Independence?'' Ellis argues that Adams, incapable of political self-protection and with an insufferable personal integrity, internalized what he viewed as the nation's failings--ambition, lust for distinction, etc.--and struggled to keep a check on such qualities within himself. He and Jefferson differed fundamentally on the meaning of the American Revolution; their disagreement, according to Ellis, was not about means but about ends: Jefferson made ``a religion of the people,'' Adams proposed that democratization should be evolutionary. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
Of all the brilliant cast of characters who brought the United States into being, none is more noteworthy or more controversial than John Adams. In this biography, Ellis (history, Mount Holyoke) focuses on the last part of Adams's life in an attempt to dissect and illuminate the contradictory nature of this great man. In this detailed yet readable account, the reader is told that ``Adams did not just read books. He battled them.'' One of his favorite authors was Bolingbroke, but he considered Voltaire a ``liar.'' A man like Adams is heard loudly through the centuries; collections of his letters will always be invaluable, but Ellis's work is an appropriate and well-researched adjunct to the original sources. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-- Katherine Gillen, Mesa P.L., Ariz.
The New York Times
Impassioned and erudite. . . . A captivating portrait of this Massachusetts native as a wonderfully contrary genius possessed of an uncommon moral intelligence and farsighted political wisdom.— Michiko Kakutani
Wall Street Journal
The best portrait of a Revolutionary-era statesman.— Evan Thomas
Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times
“Impassioned and erudite. . . . A captivating portrait of this Massachusetts native as a wonderfully contrary genius possessed of an uncommon moral intelligence and farsighted political wisdom.”
Evan Thomas - Wall Street Journal
“The best portrait of a Revolutionary-era statesman.”
From Barnes & Noble
A witty, clear, and thoughtful narrative of John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our nation and its second president. Sheds light on the man who was both contentious and lovable, generous and petty, and intellectually profound.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441719522
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/17/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

JOSEPH J. ELLIS is the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College. Educated at the College of William and Mary and Yale University, he served as a captain in the army and taught at West Point before coming to Mount Holyoke in 1972. He was dean of the faculty there for ten years. Among his previous books is Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. The author lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with his wife, Ellen, and three sons.

Tom Parker (a.k.a. Grover Gardner) is an award-winning narrator with over 650 titles to his credit. Named one of the "Best Voices of the Century" and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he won the prestigious Audie® Award in 2009, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned more than twenty Earphones Awards.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations 9
Preface 11
Memories: A Prologue 19
1 The Education of John Adams 26
2 History and Heroes 56
3 Irreverencies and Oppositions 84
4 The American Dialogue 113
5 Erudite Effusions 143
6 Intimacies 174
7 Legacies 205
Prophecies: An Epilogue 233
Notes 243
Index 273
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2001

    An American Hero Re-discovered

    This book paints a wonderfully-intimate portrait of John Adams as a geniune human being. Ellis avoids the idolatry that many historians seem to fall victim to when writing about the 'Founding Fathers' in portraying Adams as an important and unique member of these leading Americans while also preserving the humanity of his character. I've read many historical biographies, and this one stands out as one of the best.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2000

    Thank you Joseph Ellis

    I only wish all history books were as well written as this. The greatest compliment I can offer, is that this book turned me into a history buff. I strongly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    To sage

    Hey babe

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2013

    Sage

    Hey

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted December 18, 2009

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    Posted June 19, 2012

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    Posted May 4, 2011

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    Posted May 10, 2009

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