John Adams by David McCullough

Summary

  1. Good biography on John Adams, his contributions, life, personality
Key Takeaways
  1. Adams was a lawyer and a farmer, was brilliant, extremely hard working, self absorbed, prone to depression, proud, quick to anger, stubborn, ambitious, an early revolutionary and supporter of American rights and liberties who would become one of the most powerful and influential of the founding fathers
  2. His wife, Abigail, was also very politically involved and influential. They were equals in many respects and marrying her was one of the best decisions he made. She was very smart, candid, and hard working. They were very close and loving and their constant separation due to the war and other political matters caused both a lot of anxiety
  3. Adams was instrumental in getting Washington elected to lead the American army
  4. Adams entered Harvard to become a minister but soon changed his mind to become a lawyer. He lost a case early on which was embarrassing to him and his family and after that he devoted much more time and energy to his profession
  5. Adams was one of the key actors in both the First and Second Continental Congresses
  6. Adams was one of the first and strongest supporters of independence. Him, more than any other member of th Congress, helped unify the colonies and sell the vision for independence. He also was an early advocate for slave’s and women’s rights
  7. Jefferson and Adams were key allies and friends in the Continental Congress and throughout the early parts of the American Revolution. Him and Jefferson were instrumental in drawing up the Declaration of Independence
  8. Adams was sent to Paris to serve as US Envoy to France. He was woefully unprepared for this post but his ambition and duty compelled him to accept. He spent much time with Franklin who was universally adored in France, especially for his scientific prowess
  9. Adams, after coming back from France and rejoining his family, was selected to write the Constitution for Massachusetts which was one of the most successful ever written. It is the oldest functioning constitution in the world
  10. Adams was soon called back to France again but due to a leak in the ship, he had to stop in Spain and make the rest of his way to Paris over land. He soon butted heads with French politicians and even Franklin himself and made his way to Amsterdam to see if he could secure a large loan for America. He met a lot of resistance in France and the Netherlands but finally got backing from the Dutch when it was quite clear the Americans would win the war with Britain
  11. Abigail and the rest of the family eventually moved to Paris to be with John and the sons who had come with him. Abigail at first detested Paris and the pretentious people but soon came to love the opera and some of the people including the Lafayettes. During their time in France, the Adams and Thomas Jefferson became very close
  12. Adams and his family soon moved to London as Adams was named the American ambassador to the UK. Once this stint was over, the family moved back to the US where they found a very different America from they had left years earlier. Adams would eventually become VP, behind George Washington and then President and then lose the presidency to Jefferson and the Republicans
  13. Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, traveled extensively with his father and was very well read and ambitious. He was eventually assigned to be minister to the Netherlands, later a senator, then ambassador in Russia and would later become the sixth president of the US
  14. There was much worry about the French Revolution and America almost entered into a war with France but Adams was able to take a long term view and kept the peace between the two nations which helped Jefferson later be able to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon
  15. Soon after Jefferson was elected president, a sex scandal with one his slaves, Sally Hemings, broke and hurt his reputation
  16. Jefferson and Adams stopped talking for a while but made amends towards the ends of their lives
  17. Jefferson and Adams lived very long lives and both fought through their old age to make it to one last 4th of July. Both died July 4, 1826. Adams left a modest estate and Jefferson in quite a lot of debt
What I got out of it
  1. Wanted to read after getting through Hamilton by Chernow and found it helpful to get Adam’s point of view on many of these events