John Adams…Chapter One

Drawing depicting the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770

I am so excited to be part of the Read-A-Long at Unputdownables!

Chapter One of David McCullough’s phenomenal book, John Adams, introduces us to life in the late eighteenth century colonial America through the lively eyes of one of its burgeoning patriots, John Adams, born in Braintree, MA in 1735.

John Adams didn’t grow up wealthy. As a child, he actually wanted only to be a farmer. His clergyman father had other ideas, though, selling some land to send him to Harvard at 15 years old. Adams worked hard to start his law career from the ground up, sometimes taking cases no one else would (such as defending the soldiers who fired into the crowd during the Boston Massacre) in order to uphold the rule of law and justice.  He met and married his true soul mate, Abigail Smith Adams, even though his first impression of her had been a bit under par, and started a family, in the same town where three generations of Adams had lived before him. He loved to read and write.

McCullough delves into the minutia about Adams most history books don’t include, but which tell you more about the man than any textbook could.  His observations and writings describing people and events around him are testimony to his incisive powers of observation and insight into human nature. Although he is portrayed as overly chatty, somewhat self-absorbed and vain, he is also described as having “a brilliant mind”, as “the tenderest of husbands” and desiring of only “my farm, family and goose quill” to make him happy.

Reading books about this time period make me long for the days when people had good conversation about intellectual things, like writing and reading. There were no televisions, cell phones, and video games to distract family members away from each other. They played games together, read books and newspapers aloud to each other, and discussed the day’s events with friends by a roaring fire with a glass of good Madeira. Granted, people had to go outside to use the bathroom, hardly ever bathed, and rarely lived into their 60’s back then. So it wasn’t all rosy….but still. Something about the simplicity of the time period appeals to me.

I wonder what it would have been like to be alive during that time period, where everything you had ever believed and everything you had ever known would change so drastically in such a short period of time.  Basic items like sugar, tea and even pins were difficult to come by, and taxes you had never voted for were levied on everyday items during a time when many, including John Adams, struggled to make ends meet. Basic rights and freedoms were stripped away without recourse. Reading about Abigail watching the Battle of Bunker Hill up on the hill with her son Johnny, I felt so fortunate that the ugliness of war has never come to our doorsteps here in the US like it has in so many other countries. And I felt so horrible reading about how family members and friends were torn apart due to differing beliefs. Following the Battle of Boston, many of Adams’ friends would depart America for England forever, hazarding the perils of a long sea journey rather than living amongst rebels.

I am so excited for the next chapter, as the country rolls closer to revolution. Can’t wait to see what my fellow read-a-longers have to say!

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4 thoughts on “John Adams…Chapter One

  1. Yes, I think there are parts of that century that I wish we still had. The slow pace and value of learning are right up there on the top of the list.

    Funny that you said reading about Abigail watching the battle made you thankful we didn’t have war here… I read it thinking how crazy it was that we did have war here (French and Indian, Revolutionary, Civil), since it’s no longer customary. I totally understand what you meant — and it’s valid, of course — just interesting how we were thinking two very different things. (That’s what I love about read-a-longs).

  2. Just like you and Wallace, when I think about the major ideological shift that had to occur, I do get all nostalgic thinking about great minds conversing on these big ideas which would change the shape of the world. And then I get a bit teary-eyed thinking about how nice it would be to live in a time when so much was changing.

  3. Great post! I too find myself wishing for more simple days. Even when I was growing up in the 70s/80s, families were a lot different back then…before the onslaught of total technology immersion. John Adams really is a role model, even though he lived over 200 years ago.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you liked it. I enjoy meeting fellow history lovers. I wrote down your book recommendations…thank you for them.

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