Monday, March 21, 2011

John Adams

John Adams
David McCullough
651 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

I'll admit - I was hesitant to read anything by David McCullough, but his being the most popular biography of John Adams and the most accessible to me, I chose to read it.  I know he's popular, but I find it difficult for myself to read any book considered a history book when it has not been written by someone with an actual degree in history.  McCullough instead has a degree in English.  This obviously benefits him in that his book was written very well, but still, part of studying for a history degree is learning the proper way to go about research and how to represent history in a fair manner.  I am not trying to insinuate that McCullough doesn't know what he's doing, that he doesn't know how to write history (he certainly does), but I cannot be sure how much of his book he took liberty with.  How can he know for sure what some people were thinking?  How many times a letter was drafted and thrown away before the final was produced?  Though, I am sure overall that the historical accuracy of this book is spot on and general public need not be worried they're being mislead (not that any of them were concerned about that).

McCullough portrays Adams as a successful man who was at times unappreciated by his colleagues for his efforts.  At times I felt for Adams.  I wanted to pat him on the back and say "Good job!" when no one else would.  Though, by the end of his life he was recognized for what he did and appropriately lauded for it.

I loved the section where McCullough details the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Probably too many Americans believe it was written in a few days and then signed on the 4th of July in 1776.  False. The Declaration was accepted on July 2nd but not signed until August 2nd and it was not signed all at once.  The last signer of the Declaration of Independence did not do so until January 1777!

Additionally, I enjoyed the quotes McCullough collected from letters between John Adams and his wife, Abigail.  They were truly in love and were pained to be have to be apart so often and sometimes for very long durations.  I find their relationships to be charming and certainly something you don't see too often these days.

What struck me at the end of the book was rediscovering (because I'm sure I'd known this before at some point) that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, the 4th of July.  People at the time thought that was too much of a coincidence - surely it was God's way of acknowledging the United States as a great nation.  Maybe they were right.

It was a lengthy book to read and it took me a while to get through it.  It was dry at times, but at other times it read well.  Like I said, McCullough (despite me previous suspicions) knows what he's doing and does it well.  I won't hesitate to read any more books by him.

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