If you haven’t heard from me on this site in a while, it is not because I haven’t been reading about the Presidents! I started writing this post after reading McCullough’s “John Adams” in January. Alas, many, many things prevented me from completing this post until now. Enjoy!
Poor John Adams! Reading David McCullough‘s remarkable John Adams, you feel a little sorry for the guy. He was a hard-working, diligent public servant, a man of humble beginnings and humble means. Frugal, industrious, and dutifully loving towards his soul-mate Abigail, he really had few faults as a man. Yet, he never seemed to measure up in the eyes of the public.
He served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, esteemed by his peers for his eloquence in the cause of liberty. He risked his life crossing the Atlantic to serve as an ambassador in France. On his second trip to France aboard the Sensible, the ship sprung a leak. Passengers and crew worked hand pumps night and day to keep the ill-fated vessel afloat as it limped to port in Spain. Undaunted by this detour, Adams and his entourage scaled the Pyrenees in winter by mule train. After a thousand mile journey, they arrived in Paris late, but unharmed. To say that this goes above and beyond the normal call of duty seriously understates his commitment to service.
In Paris, Benjamin Franklin, the famous and flamboyant American diplomat, ostracized Adams. At that time, Franklin was a somewhat doddering old man well past his prime. If his fractious relationship with Franklin hurt him, his pain was soothed by his growing friendship and affection for Thomas Jefferson. The two forged a life-long bond that would eventually be torn asunder over politics, but in their older years rekindled via a series of remarkable letters between the two founders. Adams went on to secure financial backing for the American cause from the Dutch government and financiers in Holland, bolstering the war effort financially.