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.
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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 ...