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John Adams by John Patrick Diggins
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May 23, 12

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Read on May 19, 2012

Second President of the United States, two-time Vice-President under George Washington, John Adams was long reviled and overshadowed in history. Rescued, as it were, from those shadows by an extensive biography by David McCullough, here in the American Presidents’ Series, John Adams is portrayed as volatile, impulsive, and yet also highly intelligence and shrewd. Following George Washington into the Presidency in 1797, John Adams was forced to deal with a complex international situation as American loyalties swerved from Britain to France and back to Britain again during the horrors of the French Revolution. Able to maintain neutrality and keep America out of a real war, he nevertheless created the Department of the Navy, consolidated the army and left the economy in a secure situation. Nevertheless, he is mainly known for beingthe last Federalist President and for losing the 1800 election to his former friend and often nemesis, Jefferson.

One of my goals this year is to read a book a month on one of the American Presidents. I have long been intrigued by these men who shaped so much of recent history, an interest solidified when I read a book called American Caesars last year (a book that I highly recommend as well). Last month I read His Excellency: George Washington and this month I found a nice short biography of John Adams in the American Presidents Series, a collection of short, interesting looks at the lives of the presidents I will most likely be coming back to in the course of this reading project.

This particular book was interesting, especially as I knew even less about John Adams than I did about George Washington. He came from a very different professional background than Washington, trained as a lawyer and serving as a diplomat in both Paris and London in the early days of the fledgling United States. The writers painted an interesting portrait, but there were a few shortcomings to the book – namely, a rather long passage that spent too much time debating the merits of John Adams’ various publications, as well as a section in the middle, which repeated a lot of information already given. This definitely took away from my enjoyment.

All in all, John Adams – The American Presidents Series is a competent biography that lacked the spark of His Excellency: George Washington. It made me want to read more about John Adams, so I may come back to David McCullough’s more extensive biography at some point this year. I enjoyed learning about this second of the American Presidents and if you have any interest in the subject and are looking for a quick, easy read, I definitely recommend it. I gave this 2,5 Federalist versus Republican beat downs out of 5.
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