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Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy's champion, was an aristocratic Southern slave owner while Adams, the overachiever from New England's rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis in their friendship and in the nation writ large as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men and beyond.
But late in life, something remarkable happened: These two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled over the course of hundreds of letters. In their final years, they were the last surviving founding fathers and cherished their role in this mighty young republic as it approached the half-century mark in 1826. At last, on the afternoon of July 4, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration, Adams let out a sigh and said, "At least Jefferson still lives." He died soon thereafter. In fact, a few hours earlier on that same day, far to the south in his home in Monticello, Jefferson died as well.
Arguably, no relationship in this country's history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America's collective story.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 12-22-17
A Great Read
This is a double biography that recounts the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It also recounts the creation of the republic. This is primarily a book about ideas as represented by two of the founding fathers. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author has a variety of topics and goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Adams and Jefferson. I learned a lot about both men as well as a good review of the founding of this country.
These two men, more so than other presidents, could be called philosophical statesman. There is a theme about the New Englander who never owned a slave and the Virginian who own many slaves. I found it interesting that both men read widely and collected libraries of classical and modern thinkers. These two men were quite different but found common ground in books and inquiring minds. Woods states that over the past two centuries Jefferson has become more popular and Adams has almost disappeared. I have to declare a bias on my part of being fascinated by John and Abigail Adams.
The book is well-written and meticulously researched. Wood finds relevance in one of their most arcane interest in political theory. Gordon S. Wood is a history professor at Brown University. He does a great job demonstrating the improbable friendship, estrangement and reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson. Woods states that Jefferson told Americans what they wanted to hear. Adams told them the truth and what they needed to know, which the Americans did not want to hear.
The book is fairly long at about eighteen hours. James Lurie does a great job narrating the book. Lurie is an actor and voice-over artist as well as an audiobook narrator.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful