Monday, November 17, 2014

A Short Recommendation of John Adams by David McCullough


Okay, I know this book was published twelve years ago, and I'm just getting around to reading it. I've enjoyed it, though, and recommend it. The book deserves a look if you haven't read it yet.

David McCullough writes popular biographies and histories, and remarkably, makes history accessible to readers everywhere. Sure, he's been criticized for some sloppy work, but he tells good stories.

This biography of John Adams is no exception. I've always admired the man who was at the front of the American Revolution and the architect of the American ideals of liberty. This book traces a moving story about a man who was driven, who worked hard, and who sacrificed nearly everything he had in order to make his vision of America a reality.

The book also has the added bonus of not trivializing John Adams' contributions to the formation of the US in order to score some kind of neolib points with modern audiences. I grow weary of biographies and histories that tear down the past because its men and women weren't progressives, or feminists, or gay advocates. I also weary of history (found in nearly every school textbook) that rips America and Americans for its supposed imperialism or for causing all the world's evils (including hangnail and baldness). I weary of biographies where the faults and shortcomings of humans are more important than their remarkable achievements.

No, McCullough doesn't have to resort to a cheap and completely inaccurate interpretation of John Adams in order to assuage the tender feelings of modern progressives. For that fact alone, I'd recommend this book. I'd also recommend this book because at the very least it shows John Adams' amazing abilities to work tirelessly on behalf of an idea - the formation of a nation based on the value of the individual.

The book is long, because John Adams lived a long time and accomplished a lot. He was the driving force behind the Second Continental Congress. He convinced all the state delegates to declare independence from Britain. He spent years, many of them futile, trying to bring the French and the Dutch in on the side of the Americans. He became the ambassador to England once the war was over. He became vice president, then president of the US. In between times, he farmed, he wrote, and he cared for his wife and children.

Through all his difficult work, he held onto and adored his wife, Abigail. They clung on to each other through thick and a lot of thin. They remained faithful to each other and to the cause of America during long absences and trials that have easily destroyed lesser marriages. In one sense, this book is also a love story.

In fact, it is Adams' relationship with Abigail that marks him as the best kind of men - faithful and true to his wife and children through all adversity.

Is the book perfect and the writing flawless? Hardly. But at the least, David McCullough's story about John and Abigail Adams is good history which should be read by anyone who, like I am, tired of the leftist propaganda that passes for history these days.