Chapter Two of David McCullough’s epic John Adams drops us right into the thick of things in Philadelphia, the city Adams is stranded in for several months as the men we’ll come to know later as Founding Fathers work out whether or not to declare independence from England. Amazingly, not everyone’s on board with this whole independence thing. You would think after being taxed on everything without any say in the matter and having to keep stinky British soldiers in your house for months at a time that the idea of independence would be sweeping the nation, but it wasn’t until Thomas Paine’s Common Sense came out that people really began to think about what it would mean to be a separate nation from Britain. Still, Adams is having a hard time convincing his fellow Congressmen to make the leap, especially one John Dickinson, a Quaker from Philadelphia who really thinks that if they just ask George III nicely, the two countries might still be able to kiss and make up. Months later, with British ships pouring into New York, and realizing that no reconciliation is possible (or really desired, by that point), Adams and his friends turn to the quiet, lanky Thomas Jefferson to draft a Declaration of Independence from England, as he’s a Virginian and is well respected in the Congress. Jefferson definitely joins Adams in the ever-growing ranks of the Founding Fathers I Wish I Could Have Met For a Drink Somewhere Club, since it sounds like he’s a cultured bookworm, inventor, architect and wine collector. He also has freckles. What’s not to love?
My favorite part of this chapter was when Abigail Adams, who was probably light-years ahead of most of the other Revolutionary Era ladies, (jokingly) mentions to her husband that while they’re working on this whole independence/new government thing out there in Philadelphia while she struggles to keep her family fed and the farm going, they should “remember the ladies” and “not put unlimited power in the hands of husbands”. I just love her, the more and more I read about her. Adams’ response is even more hilarious, as he reminds her that “in practice you know we are the subjects”. Right on!
Eighteenth century Philadelphia sounds amazing. Did anyone else want to wander the streets, poke their heads into bookshops and taverns, and grab one of Benjamin Franklin’s newspapers? Seriously, I think I was born in the wrong era. 🙂
Continuing to love this book. The only downer is that it’s not on my new e-reader. 😦