David Mccullough'S "John Adams": A Historian'S Gem

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In David McCullough’s 2001 book John Adams, the life of the famous founding father is told through Adams’ perspective the lenses of the people around him. The man known most for being the second president of the United States had much more impact on the shaping of the country. He became part of the First and Second Continental Congress and was known as a thorough writer. This writing would lead him to be one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence.

Adams also was a big piece in relations with other countries. He met up with the commander-in-chief of the British Army, William Howe, to discuss an offer before any blood was spilled but it did not fall through and his relation skills would be used to help get reinforcements from the French. After going on a second trip to France, he finds himself tied up with France’s Foreign Minister when troubles in European power erupt. From here he heads to Holland to find some extra support that was becoming a disaster to get from the French. As the war came to an end, Adams was able to get money from Holland, make treaties with France and even create formal arrangements with Great Britain, who would finally recognize America’s independence, with the help of John Jay and Benjamin Franklin.

At home, he became Vice President under war hero, George Washington, and be part of the Constitutional Convention. Things looked up, but when Thomas Jefferson made it very obvious of his hate and despise for Adams, political rivals started to form. Things continued to get worse, as back over in Europe France and Britain are at war, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are beheaded. This war was making politics choose sides and divide them even more. Adams is then elected President in an ugly and brutal race with Jefferson. France was infuriated with America, but Adams continued to push for peace, and after lots of tension, Adams is finally able to create peace once again with the French. The life Adams lived to help create a free country goes unnoticed by most people, as most work was done behind the scenes, but the outlook and commentary McCullough uses shows how much more important Adams’ work was than what it is seen as today.

Throughout the book, McCollough spends a large portion of his writing focused on Adams’ ability to make good relations with other countries. In Part II Adams spent most of his time in Europe, where he met with Benjamin Franklin and others to discuss war negotiations with the French. After many conversations, he was finally able to make the French content after the revolution. McCollough writes, “Were it not for John Adams making peace with France, there might never have been a Louisiana Purchase” (McCollough 586).

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Although it had been Jefferson who had purchased the land, without a good relationship, Napoleon would have used the land to build a French empire. This very bold statement about Adams shows how much of an impact his negotiating had on America. Many other historians also feel this way, one stated that the push of a stronger naval force was not just for the American’s safety but, “his goal was to demonstrate American resolve and, he hoped, bring France to the bargaining table” (UVA, Miller Center). Adams was willing to try anything to get an ally back, especially with the strength of Napoleon now leading the country. McCullough does not cut Adams short in explaining how influential he was. Pushing the point that Adams’ name should show up more often in textbooks.

McCullough also shows how important writing was to Adams, throughout his life Adams always went to writing to vent and create ideas. With all the time he spent away from home he wrote many letters to his wife and these letters were very full and in-depth, the true feelings were spread out over the page. These letters have been put together and published as a book, showing how influential their writing has been on people to this day. McCullough quotes Adams multiple times on how much he loves writing, one stating “Pen, ink, and paper and a sitting posture are great helps to attention and thinking” (McCullough 66). This attention drawn from writing helped him finish Thoughts on Government, where he talks about forming a perfect government for America. His way of writing questions if any form of government can be perfect and even writes, “Fear is the foundation of most governments” (Thoughts on Government).

Adams continues off of this and goes on to show how a single assembly government and representative assembly have flaws. These ideas continue to flow on, going right along with McCullough’s outlook on how great of a writer Adams’ was. The influence from Thoughts on Government helped spark ideas for the constitution and the formation of the Federalist group. McCullough’s confidence in Adams’ writing is shown throughout the novel with how much other people praised him for it, even being an author of the Declaration of Independence. Even with all this praise, very high-honored people showed their respect for Adams in other ways.

This biography pushes the limits and shows the feelings of many other individuals throughout the book. McCullough’s uses a significant amount of examples to show the praise that people had for him. His political ideas did not go unnoticed as McCullough states that Adams brought up a new notion, that “republican government public officials should serve without pay -- an idea that had been supported by both Franklin and Washington” (McCullough 400).

These two are some of the most well-known individuals in American history, and the support shows how alike these people were in terms of political status. Franklin’s praise did not end there, and in a letter wrote that Adams “means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one” (Loyola University Chicago, 1943). This adds to McCullough mentioning so many honorable people praising him, Franklin was one of the wisest people of his time and to call Adams wise mean he is very honorable himself. McCullough fulfills the true publicity that Adams deserves by the people around him showing how truly special he is.

McCullough’s main goal was to show truly what John Adams did for this country. In an interview with PBS he was asked if Adams has been misunderstood in history books he replied with “not so much misunderstood as just forgotten, neglected” (PBS). He shows throughout this book how much would be different if it was not for John Adams. The whole shape of the nation could be different, it does not look good on the people when heroes are forgotten like this. The true history shown by this book is phenomenal, the history books do not even stand close to this.

Not all the information from this book needs to be in textbooks, but some it definitely important to the creation of this new nation. This book leaves with one main idea that should be known by any historian, with any history textbook, authors only show a broad amount of information that goes over main events and the people involved, leaving the reader to believe that only certain people are found to be heroes. However, true heroes that are rarely spoken of are found when history is dissected and looked at from the inside to the outer world.

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David Mccullough’S “John Adams”: A Historian’S Gem. (2021, April 19). WritingBros. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/david-mcculloughs-book-john-adams-a-historian-gem-about-the-life-of-the-founding-father/
“David Mccullough’S “John Adams”: A Historian’S Gem.” WritingBros, 19 Apr. 2021, writingbros.com/essay-examples/david-mcculloughs-book-john-adams-a-historian-gem-about-the-life-of-the-founding-father/
David Mccullough’S “John Adams”: A Historian’S Gem. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/david-mcculloughs-book-john-adams-a-historian-gem-about-the-life-of-the-founding-father/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
David Mccullough’S “John Adams”: A Historian’S Gem [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Apr 19 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/david-mcculloughs-book-john-adams-a-historian-gem-about-the-life-of-the-founding-father/
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