Wednesday, July 20, 2011

John Adams

This was my first installment of presidential biographies. I decided not to do them in order because 1) I was already reading this book when I made the decision 2) I don't want to be constrained by something as silly as chronology.

I don't have a very high opinion of politicians. I think most of them are liars and fakes. I tired to believe that there can be good politicians, but I don't feel like I have met one yet. (My sample size is very small.)

But I like John Adams. Maybe because during his time he wasn't so much a politician as he was a diplomat. But from what other people wrote about him, I don't get the feeling that he was fake. There were several people who wrote about his flaws, but praise him for his convictions and patriotism. They were aware he wasn't perfect and so was he.

As someone who has trouble reading non-fiction books, I thought this book was well-written. It was able to hold my attention and almost read like a story. I could have done with a more condensed biography of John Adams, but David McCullough is a good author.

I loved the letters between John and Abigail Adams. They spent so much apart and wrote hundreds of letters. He is also one of the Founding Fathers who never owned slaves. The only time John and Abigail had a slave working in their house was when Thomas Jefferson's daughter came to stay with them awhile and brought her own slave.

I marked two of my favorite quotes by John Adams.

Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it; others will not... Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, though every stage of his existence... My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.

And when he was praised for the accomplisments of his son John Quincy Adams, who was also elected president, he said, "My son had a mother!"