Friends Divided

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Gordon S. Wood, 2017 . 973.3092 WOO . Beaverton Library

I sampled about 40% of this book. Adams and Jefferson are fascinating people, but there is much to read and too little time.

The book is a combined biography of these two men, their collaboration during the Revolutionary War and as ambassadors to France (pre and post revolution), their split into the the Federalist and Republican ( ~= modern Democrat) factions, and their reconciliation. I was most interested in the reconciliation; cleverly arranged by Benjamin Rush, the epistolary reconciliation was quick and almost painless. Afterwards, Adams was occasionally irascible, but Jefferson was accomodating; as long as one party is patient, a conflict can fade away.

.p18 Jefferson, 1785, northerners "cool, sober, laborious, persevering, independent, jealous of their own liberties, and just to those of others, interested, chicaning, superstitious, and hypocritical in their religion." southerners "fiery, voluptuary, indolent, unsteady, independent, zealous for their own liberties but trampling on those of others, generous, candid, and without attachments or pretensions to any religion but that of the heart."

Adams was sorely vexed by the calumnies of the election that replaced him (prematurely in his expectations) by Jefferson. Most historians believe Jefferson accomplished far more in his 8 years than Adams could have. However ... we don't know what might have occured during a second Adams term; perhaps a great expansion of the US Navy, or steps toward a more rapid end to slavery. Slavery ended economically with automation, emerging from industrialization in the North.

Chapter 11, Reconciliation, starts on page 357; a few letters later, by page 364, the retired friends are frequently swapping letters, though a larger number from Adams, who had far fewer correspondents compared to internationalist and scientist Jefferson.

.p367 Jefferson dismisses Plato's Republic as full of "sophisms, futilities, and incomprehensibilities". Adams is compared to Horace: "What forbids a man to speak the truth by joking."

AdamsJefferson (last edited 2022-01-03 06:01:28 by KeithLofstrom)