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050 David McCullough: John Adams

The life and legacy of the second President of the United States, John Adams.

David McCullough: John Adams


"John Adams" is a comprehensive biography of John Adams, the second President of the United States. The book explores Adams' life, including his childhood, his career as a lawyer and politician, and his presidency. It also delves into his relationships with his wife, Abigail Adams, and other prominent figures of his time, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Through extensive research and vivid storytelling, author David McCullough presents a compelling portrait of this remarkable and often overlooked historical figure.


Title: John Adams

Author: David McCullough

Year of publication: 2001

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length in hours: 08 hours and 46 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. John Adams was a key figure in the American Revolution and played a significant role in securing independence from Britain.
  2. Adams' relationship with Thomas Jefferson, while initially fraught with tension, ultimately became one of the most important friendships in American history.
  3. Adams' presidency was marked by a number of significant events, including the Quasi-War with France and the signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
  4. Adams' close relationship with his wife, Abigail, was characterized by deep affection and intellectual partnership.
  5. Despite being one of the most accomplished Founding Fathers, Adams' legacy has often been overshadowed by that of his contemporaries, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
David McCullough: John Adams

5 funny quotes

  1. "I'm a public servant, and I'm paid to be disagreeable."
  2. "We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them."
  3. "From all that I had read of history and government of human life and manners, I had drawn this conclusion, that the manners of women were the most infallible barometer to ascertain the degree of morality and virtue of a nation."
  4. "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
  5. "I have a great deal of respect for John Adams. But the Continental Congress does not vote for, nor does it appoint, Commander-in-Chief."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
  2. "I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."
  3. "Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak."
  4. "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."
  5. "I have no relish for civil wars & I have no relish for private quarrels."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing personal beliefs and loyalty to the nation.
  2. The role of women in society and their impact on morality and virtue.
  3. The tension between the power of the federal government and individual states.
  4. The challenge of establishing a new form of government and ensuring its success.
  5. The struggle to maintain unity and avoid civil war during a time of great change.

5 examples

  1. John Adams - Second President of the United States
  2. Abigail Adams - Wife of John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson - Third President of the United States
  4. George Washington - First President of the United States
  5. Benjamin Franklin - Founding Father and diplomat

Referenced books

  1. "The Federalist Papers": Quoted or referenced to examine the debates and ideas surrounding the formation of the United States Constitution, in which John Adams played a significant role.
  2. "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine: Quoted or referenced to explore the intellectual and ideological influences on the American Revolution and the ideals of independence espoused by Adams and his contemporaries.
  3. "The Diary of John Adams": Referenced as a primary source to provide firsthand accounts and insights into John Adams' thoughts, experiences, and relationships.
  4. "Abigail Adams: A Biography" by Phyllis Lee Levin: Quoted or referenced to delve into the life of Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife, and her influential role as a confidante and advisor to him.
  5. "The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89" by Edmund S. Morgan: Quoted or referenced to provide a broader historical context for the events and challenges faced by John Adams and the founding generation.

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"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak."

David McCullough: John Adams
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