In this urbane, gracefully written biography, James Grant wages the kind of tough, uphill battle that his tough-minded subject would appreciate, acknowledging Adams's weaknesses and character flaws, appraising his political blunders coolly but in the end leaving the reader with a richer appreciation of the Adams that Abigail and Jefferson saw, a man of firm principles who, for most of his very long life, labored tirelessly for the country-in-the-making whose future he never doubted, even when those around him wavered and trembled.
The New York Times
The Founding Fathers boomlet continues unabated. We can't seem to read enough about this group of men who had not only great talents but great luck: Few men are so privileged as to get to create a form of government. One of those favored ones, John Adams, has already been given sympathetic treatment by David McCullough; in John Adams: Party of One,, he receives another nuanced portrait, this time by James Grant, who has previously written on financial history.
The Washington Post
This new biography by Grant, who has written previously on financial history (Money of the Mind), gives us John Adams's life in vivid detail. In his New England childhood, the amorous and bookish Adams grew up in a four-room farmhouse, the eldest of three children by prevailing standards of fertility, almost an only child. The heart of the book chronicles Adams's involvement in the Revolution, from his early praise of the Boston Tea Party through his stint as postwar diplomat in France. His presidency seems almost an afterthought, with almost as much space devoted to fleshing out the details of his narrow victory . One might have liked a richer depiction of Adams's friendship, falling out, rapprochement, and brilliant correspondence with Jefferson. But if that storied friendship gets short shrift, Adams's personal thoughts about wealth, and his worries about luxury corrupting the American republic, are afforded just the sort of detail one expects from a writer with Grant's financial acumen. He ably joins the shelves of recent books on the founding fathers. For Grant's sake, one hopes that David McCullough whetted, rather than sated appetites. If this biography is not quite as grand as McCullough's, it is every bit as eloquent and deserves a wide reading. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
After years of undeserved neglect, John Adams has recently reemerged as a popular member of the Founding Fathers. In 2000, Joseph J. Ellis's Founding Brothers identified Adams as a key figure among the Founders, while 2001 brought David McCullough's John Adams, an excellent biography of the man that also drew sharp portraits of Jefferson and Hamilton. With this work, Grant, the author of several books on finance and financial history and editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, presents a more traditional biography of the second president. Using some of the same primary sources as McCullough, Grant offers a study of Adams's personal life in some ways richer and more complete that McCullogh's, but it lacks the insightful analysis of Adams's relations with Jefferson, Washington, and their compatriots. A complement to McCullough, this is worth purchasing by libraries wishing to expand their collections on the young American Republic. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/04.]-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
An agile life of Adams, "the unbeloved 'president by three votes.'" Historians have been paying greater attention to the hitherto-overlooked second president in the wake of David McCullough's magisterial John Adams (2001) and the contested presidential election of 2000 (see David Ferling's John Adams vs. Jefferson, 2004). Financial historian Grant (Money of the Mind, 1992, etc.) focuses on Adams as a politician and revolutionary, but also as an economic thinker and sometimes ambivalent philosopher. Raised a Puritan, for instance, Adams had no lack of work ethic yet was, at least in his youth, "dull, lazy, unobservant, and confused"; when he was supposed to be studying or working, Adams could often be found eating, smoking, "gallanting the girls" or drinking. On the last matter, Adams was especially of two minds; fond of a dram himself, he was unsure whether to campaign against the taverns of Braintree, Massachusetts. Marrying Abigail, with whom he had a tender and playful relationship, was a step in the right direction, and when it came time to draw up the Declaration of Independence, Adams was no stranger to hard work. Grant points out that Adams served on more than 30 congressional committees, was active in drafting American foreign policy, and was constantly on the run even while predicting that he would soon die from sheer exhaustion. Though most of his pages are devoted to events before 1781, Grant gives generous coverage to Adams's post-revolutionary career, when, first, he became vice president and wrestled with the fundamental cheapness of a people that did not wish to be taxed and a Congress that did not want to spend, then became president-by a slender margin indeed-and facedwith difficulties of establishing a secular, democratic government in a God-haunted nation that, even then, was beginning to crack apart under the weight of slavery. A well-researched complement to McCullough's somewhat more accessible life: of much interest to students of the early Republic and the revolutionary era.