Have you ever played the game where you choose famous people (dead or alive) who you’d most want to invite to a dinner party? Well, after reading this superbly written and immensely entertaining biography, John Adams would be first on my guest list. Adams was incredibly well read, a brilliant debater, peacemaker, legal mind, patriot, diplomat, and devoted husband, as witnessed by the celebrated correspondence with his wife Abigail, a brilliant mind in her own right.
McCullough’s prose is a pleasure to read. Every chapter contains interesting information I’d either forgotten or never knew. Without bogging down in the minutia of politics, McCullough clearly outlines the steps to independence taken by Adams and his fellow delegates to the Continental Congress, as they negotiated, debated and drafted the foundation for what would become the United States of America. Time and again, Adams was called upon to take a leadership role in shaping the course of events.
In between his work on the Continental Congress and the Presidency, Adams served as an Ambassador in France and England, where he was continually frustrated by Ben Franklin’s rock-star popularity and poor work ethic, and secured financing from the Netherlands when the United States was desperately in need of funding for their war against Britain.
A fascinating aspect of Adams’ life was his love-hate relationship with friend and compatriot Thomas Jefferson. Though history has proven Jefferson the more beloved founding father, McCullough makes a compelling case for Adams, equaling the match-up between these two great minds. He does it without smoothing over Adams’ character flaws, painting a full, rich picture of the man.
Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d so enjoy a book about John Adams, let alone put it on my list of all-time favorites. After reading McCullough’s book—the first of many by this author I’m sure to read—I’m fascinated by the character, accomplishments and rich personal history of this sorely under-appreciated and nearly forgotten founding father.