My post for the 4th of July Holiday weekend was intended to be about the man I most associate with the holiday, but a blogger whom I regularly follow, beat me to it.
Eight or nine years ago, when I first read the terrific biography John Adams by David McCullough, I immediately became a huge fan of both the second president of the United States and this excellent author.
I’ll continue with what I’d planned, but first suggest you check out the post by my fellow blogger adopting james, and his post ‘Reading List for Patriots.’ It’s a superb recommended reading list with John Adams at the top of the list. It also includes McCullough’s book 1776 which I will be enjoying in the next few months, it having already been on my reading list for 2014.
McCullough does for John Adams and the Revolutionary War what Doris Kearns Goodwin does in her book Team of Rivals for Abe Lincoln and the Civil War – (Part of Team of Rivals being the basis for Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln). Both authors bring the men and their times brilliantly to life.
As I mentioned once before in a post, David McCullough wrote, talking about John Adams and his 10 year old son as they were traveling by ship to Europe during the revolutionary war. Speaking about John, and specifically about his wife Abigail Adams’ aspirations for their young son, McCullough said that they “wanted the boy to go to see history happening and to see his father in action, and to learn from his father and to experience the associations that she knew he would have with some of the greatest minds of that extraordinary 18th Century once they reached France.”
Reading this book, I feel like the young John Quincy Adams, apprentice to his father, learning about life along with learning about the amazing people that shaped that critical time surrounding the holiday we celebrate this weekend.
John Adams is known for saying, “We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it.”
Speaking about those ‘founding Fathers,’ McCullough stated, “the people who did all these things, these great accomplishments in our national common story, our national experience, weren’t gods, they were human beings. They had flaws, they had failings, they had inconsistencies, they were vulnerable. They made mistakes, they did things they regretted, some were exceedingly ambitious, overly ambitious, some could be jealous, vain. Some could be duplicitous at times. And the miracle is not that they did what they did because they were gods, because if they’d been gods they really wouldn’t deserve much credit, because gods can do anything. The miracle is that these imperfect human beings rose to the occasion, worked together and succeeded against the odds.”
McCullough presents the narrative at times as if he were writing a human interest story, though quite a long story. But it doesn’t really seem so long, because his readable style captures your imagination as good as any writer, fiction or non-fiction.
David McCullough’s John Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. I cannot recommend it enough for an enjoyable account of a great man and the people and events of his life. – Also check out the miniseries of the same name, based on the book, produced by Tom Hanks and staring Paul Giamatti. It’s very good; however I still prefer the book.
“When those delegates, those founding fathers we sometimes call them, signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their names to their own death warrants. They were declaring themselves historically, publicly as traitors. And when they said they pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor, those weren’t just words, that wasn’t pure rhetoric for effect, it was the literal truth. So the courage that they had is at least as important as any single factor to take into consideration in trying to understand that time and understand those people.”
– David McCullough