A Lunch Community

Yankee Doodle Pit Bull

  • Jul 10, 2002
  • by
I recently re-read two biographies. The other is Edmund Morris's biography of Theodore Roosevelt. However greatly their two subjects differ, both are written with the narrative skills of a novelist, the discipline of a consummate historian, and an objectivity which enables the reader to absorb and digest the abundance of information without manipulation by the biographer. Whereas Morris limits his attention to a period which extending from 1901 when Roosevelt became President after McKinley was assassinated until 1908 when Roosevelt vacated that office rather than seek another term, McCullough examines Adams' entire life (1735-1826). I was especially interested in McCullough's portrayal of Abigail Adams' many admirable, in some instances heroic qualities, notably her courage and determination when separated for extended periods of time from her beloved husband. McCullough also offers a vivid, sometimes poignant portrayal of the great personal sacrifices which John Adams also made during the years preceding and following the Declaration of Independence.

McCullough carefully Adams' relationships with Washington (with whom he served as Vice President for eight years) and, of course, with Jefferson whom McCullough reveals to be -- at times -- a selfish and self-serving (when expedient, hypocritical) person who was unwilling and/or unable to make the same personal sacrifices in service of the new nation which others did. Adams made certain that the government in which he served sustained a delicate but essential balance between and among "an independent executive authority, an independent senate, and an independent judiciary power, as well as an independent house of representatives." Adams lived until the age of 90, the longest life of any President. Eventually, he and Jefferson re-established their friendship. Both Jefferson died on the same day: July 4, 1826...the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

This is indeed an epic biography as well as a probing and comprehensive examination of the society in which Adams lived. McCullough enables his reader to accompany Adams throughout what was, arguably, the most stressful and productive period of American history. Drawing upon a wealth of research resources, including correspondence and especially the letters which Abigail and John Adams exchanged, he is also able to reveal the defining qualities of Adams' character which were not always evident in his interaction with others. Even those who found his company on occasion intolerable also noted and admired his impeccable integrity. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read Ellis' Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams and Ferling's Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the American Revolution.

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
More John Adams (David McCullough b... reviews
review by . November 30, 2012
John Adams was an 80-year-old former President and still constant patriot when his beloved wife wrote these words, as reported in McCullough's masterful biography: "Your father's zeal for books will be one of the last desires which will quit him," Abigail observed to [son] John Quincy in the spring of 1816, as Adams eagerly embarked on a sixteen volume French history. It is most fitting, then, that this founder, who has no monument in Washington, DC to mark his place in the pantheon …
review by . January 10, 2004
The book is written in an easy-to-read narrative which will  capture the interest of any American history enthusiast.   John Adams was a graduate of Harvard College, a United States  President and busy advocate for legal clients. In 1772, he   appeared in over 200 Superior Court cases with famous clients  like John Hancock. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress.  Jonathan Sewall concluded early that Adams was headed for   greatness. …
review by . June 28, 2010
It took me several months to get through this book. It is well-researched but VERY lengthy and dry at times. Don't start it unless you are a history buff with a lot of time on your hands.      Overall, the book matched the trajectory of Adams' life. I was interested to learn about his early career as a lawyer in Boston - he defended some of the British soldiers involved in the Boston massacre. His logic for representing them is actually quite moving to read and reflect …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
McCullough shows Adams to be one of the more boring men of rthe time. Unable to make a sucess in many fields, such as farmer, lawyer, diplomat so they made him the Presidnet
review by . July 01, 2010
This was an incredibly inspiring read.  The very foundation of our nation is unveiled.  John Adams was at the forefront of our nations beginnings, he is a hero and is hailed as such in this inspiring read. I would recommend this book in heartbeat to anyone.  The book reads like a novel, Mccullough writes as if he lived right along side John Adams.  He knows things that could only be attained through long and arduous research.  This book is exciting, it makes you feel proud …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
David McCullough has an insight when it comes to historical figures.
Quick Tip by . June 11, 2010
Awesome book and history, Good read.
review by . March 01, 2009
McCullough has done a great service in reminding us what an important influence John Adams had in the founding of our nation. He is too often a forgotten figure in our nation's pantheon of founders. Adams' importance in securing our independence and protecting and perpetuating the federal government under the Constitution is arguably greater than Thomas Jefferson's. Among Adams' accomplishments: (1) He was an important influence in the committee that revised Jefferson's draft of the Declaration …
review by . August 31, 2001
David McCullough's volume was of great satisfaction to me. Mr Adams and his son John Quincy have always been personal heros of mine. Just as Amistad gave the country a look at John Quincy, Mr. McCullough give us a look at John warts and all. The warts are few. Over and over we see a man singing the praises of virtue, frugality, honesty, in short CHARACTER! I suspect that the success of this book has something to do with the times. Adams (and his son and wife) are just the type of examples and heroes …
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book


Pulitzer Prize winning biography of the 2nd President of the United States, John Adams (October 30, 1735  – July 4, 1826).

Left to his own devices, John Adams might have lived out his days as a Massachusetts country lawyer, devoted to his family and friends. As it was, events swiftly overtook him, and Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders. He found reason to dislike sectarian wrangling even more in the aftermath of war, when Federalist and anti-Federalist factions vied bitterly for power, introducing scandal into an administration beset by other difficulties--including pirates on the high seas, conflict with France and England, and all the public controversy attendant in building a nation.

Overshadowed by the lustrous presidents Washington and Jefferson, who bracketed his tenure in office, Adams emerges from McCullough's brilliant biography as a truly heroic figure--not only for his significant role in the American Revolution but also for maintaining his personal integrity in its strife-filled aftermath. McCullough spends much of his narrative examining the troubled friendship between Adams and Jefferson, who had in common a love for books and ideas but differed on almost every other imaginable point. Reading his pages, it is easy to imagine the two as alter ...

view wiki


ISBN-10: 0743223136
ISBN-13: 978-0743223133
Author: David McCollough
Genre: American History,Biography, Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: September 2002
Format: Hardback,Paperback
First to Review

"Excellent biography!"
© 2015 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
The catholic reader is part of the Lunch.com Network - Get this on your site
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since