Thursday, February 08, 2007
John Adams by David McCullough
By odd coincidence, Mom and I ended up reading John Adams at the same time. I've been nibbling at it since Thanksgiving, mostly reading it in between other books. After just finishing it, I am astonished at how much he gave for our country, all to be repaid in scandal and rumor. He said that if he had to do it all over again, he would have been a shoemaker. I didn't know that he and Jefferson were so close, and that after Jefferson used ever device possible to undercut Adams, they could still be the closest of friends; they even died on the same day, July 4th, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He tried always to improve the world, never once writing, or encouraging to be written, a disparaging remark about any of his opponents, and was, well, loquacious, which makes for a good biography. People just don't write letters like they used to.
All in all, it put a face on all of these scraps of history that I had floating around in my brain, left over from Mr. Sink's AP American History my junior year of high school. For example, I remembered there was such a thing called the XYZ Affair, but who can remember exactly what it was all about? (Tyler's recollection limited it to 'what you say when someone's fly is down.)
It is long, however, and for most of it, it isn't exactly riveting. It is more of a ponderous thing than any sort of quick read. But it can be used rather successfully as a conversation piece, which device I have seen and you have probably heard Mom employ, and you sound very smart and well read. Not that that's why I read books.
John Adams makes me feel not only like I should be doing more, but that I can do more. Said he, "Admire and adore the Author of the telescopic universe, and and esteem the work, do all in your power to lessen ill, and increase good, but never assume to comprehend."