The acclaimed historian engages in a compelling examination of the complex relationship of the Founding Fathers who eventually served as the second and third presidents of the United States.
It is well-known that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived long lives and famously died on the same day, July 4, 1826. But what might be lesser known is that these two men of vastly different personalities and political views went from close allies to enemies to late-in-life friends. Adams was a self-made man who could seem abrupt and did not win admirers easily. Jefferson, on the other hand, was born to a life of privilege and honor, and he acted diplomatically almost without fail. Northerner Adams felt certain that humans could never achieve full equality, but he opposed slavery. Southerner Jefferson seemed to believe in the possibility of equality yet owned slaves. A leading historian of the Revolution and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, Wood (History/Brown Univ.; The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States, 2011, etc.) traces how these two remarkable yet flawed men viewed each other through the decades and how the changing nature of their relationship influenced the public policy of their fledgling nation, at home and overseas. The author is especially adroit at explaining how Adams’ ambassadorship to England and Jefferson’s ambassadorship to France altered their views of the world and to some extent accelerated the conflicts between them. Wood also clearly explains Jefferson’s popularity among nonhistorians, while Adams often seems overlooked in lay discussions of early American history. Among the other well-known personages in the narrative are Abigail Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Rush, all portrayed vividly by the author, whose approachable writing style is equal to his impressive archival research.
An illuminating history of early Americans that is especially timely in the ugly, partisan-filled age of Trump.