Two Friends, Two Americas

Gordon Wood, regarded as the foremost historian of the American Revolution, has written a very fine account of the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Though strained at times, their friendship extended through the turbulence of the War for Independence and through the adoption of the Constitution, went off the rails with the development of American political parties, and was set back on track by the intervention of a mutual friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush.  In retirement, they rekindled their friendship, lasting to their deaths on the same day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826.

This dual biography treats both men fairly, but in the end Wood sides with Jefferson.  Though Adams stood with giants like Washington and Franklin as well as with Jefferson and was the foremost advocate of American independence, he is little appreciated today.  Few people realize that it was John Adams who swayed the Continental Congress to pick Washington to general the army.  And while Jefferson got all the glory (which he cultivated assiduously) as the author of the Declaration of Independence, it was John Adams, again,who convinced him to write it.  Somehow, Adams seems always to get the short end of the stick.  Even his physical stature was diminutive.  In comparison with the stately Washington and Jefferson, both of whom stood well over six feet in height, John Adams...

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