Mercifully Short Book Review #2: John Adams, by David McCullough

I’ll have to be honest on this one.  I’m totally biased in regards to John Adams, as he is my great great great great great great grandfathers cousin.  The image above is from the Adams (my Gran’s maiden name) family tree, so I have proof!

Regarding the book, it did win a Pulitzer, so I guess that speaks for itself as far as the quality of the book goes, but this book ended up being a lot more than just a great book for me.  The story of John Adams, through the revolutionary war, the presidency and beyond provides some incredible insight and perspective into multitudes of areas from education, politics of course, faith, and principled character, of which Adams had an incredible amount.

Beyond that, Adam’s love and respect for Abigail his wife, his “best, dearest, worthiest, wisest friend in the world” was and is an inspiring love story brought to life through thousands of letters written between the two of years of long separations.

I’m starting to feel the desire to become long-winded, so back to the whole ‘mercifully short” thing.

Ones biggest takeaway, for someone who was such a leader in the founding of our country was his humility and character in spite of being so instrumental in an almost literal shifting of the worlds foundations of power.  Adams was always guarded against the avarice and ambition normally present in politics.  To the end, he was firm on not campaigning, nor stooping to the level of political opponents.

If by ambition you mean the love of power or a desire of public offices, I answer I never solicited a vote in my life for any public office.  I never swerved from any principle, I never professed any opinion – I never concealed even a speculative opinion – to obtain a vote.  I never sacrificed a friend or betrayed a trust.  I never hired scribblers to defame my rivals.  I never wrote a line of slander against my bitterest enemy, nor encouraged it in any other.

Its Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday today, so I’d be remiss to not say that beyond his political principles, Adams and his wife were resolutely against slavery, Abigail putting it best when writing him…

I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province.  It has always seemed a most iniquitous scheme to me-[to] fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.

The book goes thoroughly through Adams entire life, career, family, successes and failures all the way to his death in 1826.  In concert with his devout Christian faith, it seems almost divine that he would die on July 4th, on the 50th anniversary of Independence Day, along with his close friend (then bitterest enemy, then friend again) Thomas Jefferson, the last two surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence.

You don’t leave this book without being affected by Adams wisdom and character.  For someone who experienced so much, wrote tirelessly, and who’s mind stayed sharp through his final years, President Adams offers incredible insights from his 90 years of life.  Among hundreds of quotes worth memorizing, some of his greatest wisdom came in a letter to his grand-daughter…

The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly, This is enough…

Of course I highly recommend this book. No matter where you lie on the political spectrum, left, right, or indifferent this book does a great service to a man without who’s service, the United States may never have become the greatest force for good and freedom our world has ever known.

You can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or check out your local independent bookstore!


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