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1 Local Warehouse US History- Adams, John (and Abigail)

John Adams

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Reading Group Guide

John Adams by David McCullough

Reader's Group Guide

1. John Adams had an insatiable desire to explore human nature. In defending the British soldiers involved in The Boston Massacre, Adams says to the jury, "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." How has his decision to defend the British Army, even under suspicion of political treason, prepared him to draft a strong argument for independence?

2. In Thoughts on Government, Adams begins to formulate thoughts on public education. Adams writes, "Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful..." When Adams was a young boy he dismissed the idea of education and only wished to be a farmer. How has his background influenced his opinion on education? Why did he see education as essential to the farmer as to the statesman in the pursuit of an independent nation?

3. On slavery, Abigail Adams writes, "It always seed 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." Even Adams with his great display of integrity during The Boston Massacre trial, has managed to omit the issue of slavery from the Declaration of Independence. Who in Congress owned slaves and who did not? How could the abolition of slavery have helped The American Revolution? What stakes were involved?

4. John Adams' voyage to France along with ten-year-old John Quincy took an incredible toll on Abigail. How has Abigail been an inspiration to her "good friend"? Why does their relationship seem an anomaly in this time period? How has his relationship with Abigail influenced his admiration for French women? Would you call john Adams a feminist? Why or why not? Give examples.

5. John Adams led an obstinate quest to gather military and economic support from both the French and Dutch governments with little financial or moral support from Congress. Adams' feels very isolated at this point in the struggle for independence and often feels like he is running a one-man-show despite the fact that his ability to secure a loan from the Dutch was undoubtedly dependent upon the British General Cornwallis' surrender at Virginia. After reviewing the larger picture, what are the events and circumstances in Adams' life during this time that has made him feel politically isolated? Was he in fact running a one-man-show? Explain.

6. In London, Adams publishes, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of The United States of America. The crux of this pamphlet stresses the necessity for a government to establish a check and balance of political power. Adams writes that there is "a natural aristocracy among mankind... These were the people who had the capacity to acquire great wealth and make use of political power, and for all they contributed to society, they could thus become the most dangerous element in society..." In the current state of the United States Government, some would argue that it is ruled by the aristocracy, some may even go so far as to argue that the U.S. is currently ruled by a monarchy. What are your thoughts on the government of the United States? Is the United States realizing John Adams' dream? Why or why not?

7. In 1783, the United States is officially recognized by the world as an independent nation upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris. During this time, Adams recognizes a moral shift amongst the American people. James Warren writes that patriotism has been abandoned to money and materialism. How has the institution of slavery influenced the morale of American people? Does the economic value of slavery make creating a unified government more challenging? Why?

8. Adams displays a bit of apprehension toward his nomination for Vice President of the United States. Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution states that "[the Vice President] shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided." It would seem as though Adams, a man so firm in his opinions, with the plainness of a teacher and the persuasion of a lawyer would be perfect for the Vice Presidency. Why didn't he think so? Why do you think he won by such a small margin?

9. In 1798, the United States prepares to go to war with France. Adams' initial interactions with France during the Revolutionary War led to his apprehension on entering into a hasty relationship with the French. In a letter to Roger Sherman Adams warned of excessive attention to what the French thought, what France wanted, and writes that there was "too much [French] influence in our deliberations". What was the turning point in the United States relationship with France? What left the United States so vulnerable to the French?

10. On Adams McCullough writes, "...he seems not to have viewed the presidency as an ultimate career objective or crowning life achievement. He was not one given to seeing life as a climb to the top of a ladder or mountain, but more as a journey or adventure... if anything, he was inclined to look back upon the long struggle for independence as the proud defining chapter." What do you think was driving the life of John Adams? What were his motivations?

11. There is still much speculation over Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings. In a letter to Jefferson, Abigail Adams felt that a president should serve as an example on the manners and morals of the nation. What are your thoughts on Abigail's statement?

12. Abigail Adams dies on October 28, 1818. At her beside John Adams says, "I wish I could lie down beside her and die too." To John Adams and his peers Abigail was much more than Adams' wife she was a colleague, and many remarked on her wit. As stateswomen, how has her role in politics paved the way for the first ladies that will succeed her, what do you feel is the role of the President's wife?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Krismaer, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Krismaer)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about our second President. I knew little about him before reading this account, but I have such an admiration for what he and his family sacrificed for the survival of our country.
The biggest eye openers to me were the strong marriage that Abigail and John had, even through many seperations and the character of Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson has always gotten hero worship status in our country, but if he had had his way I don't think this country would have lasted at all.

The last big thing I can take away from this book is that even though we may think today we have the most dysfunctional government and Congress, it has always been with us. If you want easy government than go with a dictatorship. A democratic republic will always be harder to govern.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Krismaer, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Krismaer)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about our second President. I knew little about him before reading this account, but I have such an admiration for what he and his family sacrificed for the survival of our country.
The biggest eye openers to me were the strong marriage that Abigail and John had, even through many seperations and the character of Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson has always gotten hero worship status in our country, but if he had had his way I don't think this country would have lasted at all.

The last big thing I can take away from this book is that even though we may think today we have the most dysfunctional government and Congress, it has always been with us. If you want easy government than go with a dictatorship. A democratic republic will always be harder to govern.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Krismaer, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Krismaer)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about our second President. I knew little about him before reading this account, but I have such an admiration for what he and his family sacrificed for the survival of our country.
The biggest eye openers to me were the strong marriage that Abigail and John had, even through many seperations and the character of Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson has always gotten hero worship status in our country, but if he had had his way I don't think this country would have lasted at all.

The last big thing I can take away from this book is that even though we may think today we have the most dysfunctional government and Congress, it has always been with us. If you want easy government than go with a dictatorship. A democratic republic will always be harder to govern.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780684813639
Author:
McCullough, David
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Author:
McCullough, David
Location:
New York
Subject:
Biography
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Presidents
Subject:
United States - Revolutionary War
Subject:
Presidents & Heads of State
Subject:
Presidents -- United States.
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Subject:
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Subject:
John Adams, second president, declaration of independence, Continental Congress, constitution, revolution, revolutionary war, boston tea party, abigail adams, sam adams, george washington, thomas jefferson, benjamin franklin, alexander hamilton, john quin
Subject:
John Adams, second president, declaration of independence, Continental Congress, constitution, revolution, revolutionary war, boston tea party, abigail adams, sam adams, george washington, thomas jefferson, benjamin franklin, alexander hamilton, john quin
Subject:
John Adams, second president, declaration of independence, Continental Congress, constitution, revolution, revolutionary war, boston tea party, abigail adams, sam adams, george washington, thomas jefferson, benjamin franklin, alexander hamilton, john quin
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Series Volume:
106-511
Publication Date:
January 2001
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Rough front; family tree; 1 8pg b/w, 1 8
Pages:
752
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.25 in 42.035 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Historical
Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » US History » Colonial America
History and Social Science » US History » Presidents » Adams, John (and Abigail)
History and Social Science » US History » Revolution and Constitution Era
History and Social Science » US History » US Presidency

John Adams Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 752 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780684813639 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Given that your average American learned much of his country's history at that show at Disney World with the scary automatons in goofy Amadeus-era tights, it's no small feat that this narrative succeeds so marvelously well at rendering all these players of early American history human....Here is a book that's so good it'll make you shiver." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read Esquire's entire review)
"Review" by , "Here a preeminent master of narrative history takes on the most fascinating of our founders to create a benchmark for all Adams biographers."
"Synopsis" by ,

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 — "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him — 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.

Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than one thousand surviving letters between John and Abigail Adams, nearly half of which have never been published, provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.

As he has with stunning effect in his previous books, McCullough tells the story from within — from the point of view of the amazing eighteenth century and of those who, caught up in events, had no sure way of knowing how things would turn out. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, the British spy Edward Bancroft, Madame Lafayette and Jefferson's Paris "interest" Maria Cosway, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the scandalmonger James Callender, Sally Hemings, John Marshall, Talleyrand, and Aaron Burr all figure in this panoramic chronicle, as does, importantly, John Quincy Adams, the adored son whom Adams would live to see become President.

Crucial to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, born opposites — one a Massachusetts farmer's son, the other a Virginia aristocrat and slaveholder, one short and stout, the other tall and spare. Adams embraced conflict; Jefferson avoided it. Adams had great humor; Jefferson, very little. But they were alike in their devotion to their country.

At first they were ardent co-revolutionaries, then fellow diplomats and close friends. With the advent of the two political parties, they became archrivals, even enemies, in the intense struggle for the presidency in 1800, perhaps the most vicious election in history. Then, amazingly, they became friends again, and ultimately, incredibly, they died on the same day — their day of days — July 4, in the year 1826.

Much about John Adams's life will come as a surprise to many readers. His courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits that few would have dared and that few readers will ever forget.

It is a life encompassing a huge arc — Adams lived longer than any president. The story ranges from the Boston Massacre to Philadelphia in 1776 to the Versailles of Louis XVI, from Spain to Amsterdam, from the Court of St. James's, where Adams was the first American to stand before King George III as a representative of the new nation, to the raw, half-finished Capital by the Potomac, where Adams was the first President to occupy the White House.

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.

"Synopsis" by , In his first book since "Truman", one of America's most distinguished and popular biographers breathes life into history with this compelling look at the second president of the United States, John Adams. More than just a biography, this book looks at the birth of a young republic and explores the extraordinary factors that transformed 13 colonies into a united nation. of illustrations, many in color.
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