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David McCullough. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. 656 pp.
David McCullough was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1933, and educated at Yale where he graduated with honors in English literature. McCullough lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts with his wife, Rosalee Barnes McCullough. They have five children and fifteen grandchildren. He is the author of Truman, Brave Companions, Mornings on Horseback, The Path Between the Seas, The Great Bridge, and the Johnstown Flood. He has received the Pulitzer Prize (in 1993, for Truman), the Francis Parkman Prize, (this award promotes literary distinction in historical writing, and is presented annually for the best book in American history). He has also won the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and is twice winner of the National Book award, for history and biography. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House, as part of the White House presidential lecture series. He is also one of few private citizens to be asked to speak before a joint session of Congress. David McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public television- as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and numerous documentaries including The Civil War and Napoleon.
John Adams is a biography about the second president of the United States. McCullough originally set out to write a dual biography of Adams and Jefferson. David McCullough has successfully incorporated the life of Thomas Jefferson into this biography. The idea was to explore their interlocking lives and careers. The two men first met as fellow patriots united in the cause of independence in the mid-1770s. As fellow diplomats in Europe in the 1780s they became close friends. In the 1790s they became political rivals and didnt speak to each other for more than ten years. They reconciled in their retirement years, and then launched into one of the great exchanges of letters in American history. They died on the same day- July 4th, 1826, fifty years after the Declaration of Independence. Though this began as a dual biography it quickly became an Adams biography. McCullough realized that after a year and one half of research that Adams was in every respect a more fully developed, three-dimensional, warm-blooded, and compelling character than Jefferson. McCullough wants his readers to gain an appreciation of this colorful, and important man who affected how we all live today. McCullough also wants his readers to get the feeling of having been alive in that earlier time, when Adams and Jefferson lived. The author gives the sense that among people today their belief is that our founding fathers were just like us. In many ways thats true, but in many ways they were also different from us. After reading this book I came away with a far greater understanding of those differences, and a greater measure of respect and admiration for what those men achieved. John Adams is a book about politics, war and social issues. It is about love, religious faith, ambition, friendship and betrayal. Above all, John Adams is about one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived. This book was an overview of the first several chapters that I have studied in this American Government class.
The purpose of this biography is to give the reader a better understanding of Adams and how he lived, and his relationships with other founding fathers. It is rumored in history that Adams was thought of as an obnoxious person, by other members of the second Continental Congress. McCullough could not find any documentation from the members of the second Continental Congress- the Congress that created the Declaration of Independence- and found no reference by anyone of Adams being obnoxious. Those of his compatriots who wrote about Adams universally praised him for what he did. It is no surprise that Jefferson described him as ” the colossus of independence.”
This is a powerful, epic biography; David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams. This story about John Adams ranges from the Boston Massacre to the Philadelphia in 1776, from Spain to Amsterdam, from the Court of St. James, where Adams was the first American to stand before King George III as a representative of the new nation. With his ten-year old son, Adams journeyed to France to assume his appointment as commissioner to the court of King Louis XVI. McCullough brilliantly describes Adams voyage to France across the Atlantic on the ” Boston” in the midst of winter, 1778. Vital to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, born opposites- Adams a Massachusetts farmers son, and Jefferson a Virginia aristocrat and slave master. This is also a story about a man who rose to become the second President of the United States, saved the country from unnecessary war, and whose marriage to Abigail Adams is one of the most moving love stories in American