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John Adams
Suggested Reading



"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

America's First Dynasty : The Adamses
(Richard Brookhiser)
In the spirit of his earlier books, Alexander Hamilton: American and Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, Richard Brookhiser produces an elegant, concise volume drawing on previous scholarship but offering a fresh perspective on four prickly generations of Adamses. Until David McCullough's John Adams became a surprise bestseller, the United States' second president and his descendants seldom had good press. Acknowledging John's essential role in the American Revolution and his son John Quincy's principled fight against slavery, contemporaries and historians nonetheless judged both men poor presidents, characterized by haughty pride and stiff-necked dislike of compromise. Charles Francis Adams, John Quincy's son, lost an almost certain chance to run for president as a Republican in 1872 by disdainfully announcing "that he would reject any nomination that had to be negotiated for;" the most famous book by Charles's son, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), implicitly blames Henry's failure to achieve the prominence of his forefathers on the loss of meaning and coherence in the modern, fragmented world. Tracing the lives and careers of these four men, Brookhiser strikes a balance between their struggles with a daunting heritage and battles with the often unappreciative outer world, identifying "the constant companion of the Adamses" as "the idea of greatness. Am I as great as my ancestors? As great as my contemporaries? Why doesn't the world recognize my greatness?" This proves a sensible organizing principle for his graceful reappraisal of a well-known but not often well-understood family.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
(JOSEPH J. ELLIS)
In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly duel, Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams’ administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison’s attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation’s history.

John Adams
(David McCullough )
TIME BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history. This is history on a grand scale -- a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

John Quincy Adams: Policymaker for the Union
(James E. Lewis Jr.)
Focusing on John Quincy Adams’s extensive role in American foreign policy, including his years as Secretary of State and as President, this new book provides a brief but comprehensive study of Adams’s foreign policy. In particular, the book analyzes Adams’s accomplishments between 1817 and 1825—the eight years he was secretary of state during the negotiation of the Rush-Bagot Agreement and the Transcontinental Treaty, the recognition of the Spanish-American republics, and the development of the Monroe Doctrine. The book also scrutinizes Adams’s single term as President from 1825-1829. The core belief that defined Adams’s long and complicated career in foreign policy is his understanding of the nature and function of the American union, which emerged from the crisis of the 1780s and the years of embargo and war between 1807 and 1814. Like many of his contemporaries, Adams believed that the existence of a single political union encompassing all of its independent states was necessary to prevent North America from repeating the European experience of political, commercial, and military conflict among sovereignties. Adams believed in the centrality of the union to American happiness. This book casts new light on the logic behind many of Adams’s accomplishments and also exposes the sources of some of his failures.

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
(Joseph J. Ellis )
A fresh look at this astute, likably quirky statesman, by the author of the Pulitzer Award-winning Founding Brothers. "The most lovable and most laughable, the warmest and possibly the wisest of the founding fathers, John Adams knew himself as few men do and preserved his knowledge in a voluminous correspondence that still resonates. Ellis has used it with great skill and perception not only to bring us the man, warts and all, but more importantly to reveal his extraordinary insights into the problems confronting the founders that resonate today in the republic they created."151;Edmund S. Morgan, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University.

Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution
(John Ferling)
Setting the World Ablaze is the story of the American Revolution and of the three Founders who played crucial roles in winning the War of Independence and creating a new nation: George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Braiding three strands into one rich narrative, John Ferling brings these American icons down from their pedestals to show them as men of flesh and blood, and in doing so gives us a new understanding of the passion and uncertainty of the struggle to form a new nation. A leading historian of the Revolutionary era, Ferling draws upon an unsurpassed command of the primary sources and a talent for swiftly moving narrative to give us intimate views of each of these men. He shows us both the overarching historical picture of the era and a gripping sense of how these men encountered the challenges that faced them. We see Washington, containing a profound anger at British injustice within an austere demeanor; Adams, far from home, struggling with severe illness and French duplicity in his crucial negotiations in Paris; and Jefferson, distracted and indecisive, confronting uncertainties about his future in politics. John Adams, in particular, emerges from the narrative as the most under-appreciated hero of the Revolution, while Jefferson is revealed as the most overrated, yet most eloquent, of the Founders. Setting the World Ablaze shows in dramatic detail how these conservative men--successful members of the colonial elite--were transformed into radical revolutionaries.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams
(Lester J. Cappon)
An intellectual dialogue of the highest plane achieved in America, the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spanned half a century and embraced government, philosophy, religion, quotidiana, and family griefs and joys. First meeting as delegates to the Continental Congress in 1775, they initiated correspondence in 1777, negotiated jointly as ministers in Europe in the 1780s, and served the early Republic--each, ultimately, in its highest office. At Jefferson's defeat of Adams for the presidency in 1800, they became estranged, and the correspondence lapses from 1801 to 1812, then is renewed until the death of both in 1826, fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence.

Lester J. Cappon's edition, first published in 1959 in two volumes, provides the complete correspondence between these two men and includes the correspondence between Abigail Adams and Jefferson. Many of these letters have been published in no other modern edition, nor does any other edition devote itself exclusively to the exchange between Jefferson and the Adamses. Introduction, headnotes, and footnotes inform the reader without interrupting the speakers. This reissue of The Adams-Jefferson Letters in a one-volume unabridged edition brings to a broader audience one of the monuments of American scholarship and, to quote C. Vann Woodward, 'a major treasure of national literature.'

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
(John Adams, Frank Shuffleton, Abigail Adams)
The Letters of John and Abigail Adams provides an insightful record of American life before, during, and after the Revolution; the letters also reveal the intellectually and emotionally fulfilling relationship between John and Abigail that lasted fifty-four years and withstood historical upheavals, long periods apart, and personal tragedies. Covering key moments in American history-the Continental Congress, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and John Adams's diplomatic missions to Europe-the letters reveal the concerns of a couple living during a period of explosive change, from smallpox and British warships to raising children, paying taxes, the state of women, and the emerging concepts of American democracy.

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