Brett Williams's Reviews > John Adams

John Adams by David McCullough
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Per usual, McCullough’s writing is a breeze. His comparison of Adams and Jefferson was a great contrast, chronicled over the long life of their interaction. “Jefferson was devoted to the ideal of improving mankind,” writes McCullough, “but had comparatively little interest in people in particular. Adams was not inclined to believe mankind improvable. But was certain it was important that human nature be understood… [Jefferson] was never blunt or assertive as Adams could be, but subtle, serene by all appearances, always polite, soft-spoken, and diplomatic, if somewhat remote. With Adams there was seldom a doubt about what he meant by what he said.”

Two things stuck me most. One: how human these giants could be. They could say and do things I’d have thought only possible from the mind of a modern: impulsive, rash, poorly conceived. (Given their expansive knowledge of history and philosophy, I can’t include ignorant.) Especially from the perspicacious, laser sharp articulations of hot headed Adams himself without his Abagail. Second: on the heels of Enlightenment’s inspiration, the all-embracing commitment to their cause. From the risk of their own lives, hung from a tree by the king if they lost, to the long suffering of their families under the harshest conditions of war and disease. Despite Enlightenment’s elevation of the individual, these people still displayed the virtue of the ancients. A time and a people hard to fathom in today’s America. McCullough does a splendid job of handing us a clear mirror to reflect in.
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Reading Progress

July 29, 2016 – Started Reading
July 29, 2016 – Shelved
December 25, 2018 – Finished Reading

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