Nothing’s going well for John Adams in this week’s installment of David McCullough’s John Adams, which I am reading along with the gang over at Unputdownables.
I believe this chapter should be renamed Chapter Five: John Adams vs the World. Adams falls on some pretty hard times in this chapter. England hates him (he’s a traitor, remember?); France’s Comte de Vergennes and former pal Ben Franklin are out to ruin his career and/or reputation (whichever comes first), the Dutch are going out of their way to snub him, and poor Abigail is about fed up because she’s received maybe two letters in the past year. John Quincy takes off to Russia and leaves him alone with Charles. Even John Adams sounds like he’s a little sick of John Adams. Plus he gets malaria and almost dies. It’s a pretty bleak outlook overall.
Happily, and miraculously, it only takes Cornwallis surrendering his troops to Washington at Yorktown to transform Adams from Zero to Hero. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of him. The Dutch are putting his picture on everything they can get their hands on; he is the “Washington of Negotiation”. Where pockets (and doors) were firmly closed against him in Amsterdam before, now he’s the toast of the town and they can’t give him enough money for the fledgling US of A. Even Comte Vergennes breaks down and invites him to dinner with the Madame la Comte (what a party it must be being married to THAT guy!) Finally, the peace treaty is signed by one and all at Paris, and Adams and all his friends can breathe a sigh of relief that they’re no longer in line for the noose. That won’t last long, though. Now everyone is waiting with bated breath (and some disbelief) to see if the new country will make it. The odds are definitely against them. One thing is for sure, though…Adams promises Abigail he’s done doing the long-distance relationship thing. I’m glad. They are so cute together!