HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas…
Loading...

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (edition 2017)

by Gordon S. Wood (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
316867,807 (4.23)6
New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017 From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy's champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England's rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men, and beyond.  But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters. In their final years they were the last surviving founding fathers and cherished their role in this mighty young republic as it approached the half century mark in 1826. At last, on the afternoon of July 4th, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration, Adams let out a sigh and said, "At least Jefferson still lives." He died soon thereafter. In fact, a few hours earlier on that same day, far to the south in his home in Monticello, Jefferson died as well.  Arguably no relationship in this country's history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America's collective story.… (more)
Member:pauldanielhenning
Title:Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
Authors:Gordon S. Wood (Author)
Info:Penguin Press (2017), Edition: 1st, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:None

Work Information

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I've tried reading Gordon S. Wood several times but found his style was too academic and analytical. I enjoy a more narrative style, especially when reading about the American Revolution, its Founders, and documents.

But "Friends Divided" was an excellent comparison of the lives, beliefs, and relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. I've read much about both men but found much new presented here. Well worth the read! ( )
  Jarratt | Jan 15, 2022 |
Summary: An account of the sometimes troubled and unlikely friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

They could not be more different in many respects. One irascible, the other sophisticated. One a modestly successful New England lawyer and farmer. The other a southern plantation owner. One inclined toward aristocracy. The other toward people. One was a prosaic writer, the other had a gift for elevated prose.

They also shared some things in common. Both were inveterate readers, among the most widely read of their times. Both knew tragedy in their lives. They came together around declaring their country’s independence from England. They worked together to foster their country’s relationship with France. Both were part of the first administration of George Washington, and both in turn were presidents.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Gordon S. Wood has written here what may be the definitive account of this friendship that spanned over 50 years, ending July 4, 1826, when both men died on the Jubilee anniversary of the country’s Declaration of Independence, drafted largely by Jefferson and signed by both of them. He traces the parallel courses of their lives, the differences and misunderstandings that frayed their early friendship, and the wonderful reconciliation of their latter years giving us one an exceptional correspondence (perhaps rivaled only by that between John and Abigail Adams).

Wood begins with the very different circumstances in which they grew up, their early careers and marriages and then recounts the crisis that brought them together as signers, and then emissaries for their fledgling country in France. Adams it seemed, never understood French ways, nor had he the skills to negotiate them well. Jefferson did, so much so that he fell in love with the country. Adams always remembered his American commitments. All this becomes evident in their very different assessments of the French Revolution. We see the first signs of strain here–the monarchical tendencies of Adams, the republican ones of Jefferson, who could not see the dangers of revolution.

These strains became worse in Washington’s administration as fault lines between what became known as the Federalists and the Democrat Republicans became evident and worsened when Adams became president and Jefferson vice-president. Adams inclined toward the Federalists, although was never fully one of them, costing him the next election. Jefferson believed in the people. About the only thing the two agreed on is that they both distrusted Hamilton.

Wood covers the campaign of 1800 in which Adams lost to Jefferson. The charges and countercharges appeared to cost them their friendship. It was perhaps the first truly contentious campaign, revealing the emergence of parties. If anything the misunderstandings between Abigail and Jefferson, especially over the Alien and Sedition Act, was even worse. Jefferson and Adams wouldn’t speak for another decade.

A mutual friend, physician Benjamin Rush, played the key role of clearing the way for the famous correspondence of these two men, each explaining himself to the other. Wood recounts this developing correspondence and the most famous passages between the two. He also narrates the shift in fortunes of the two from Jefferson acclaimed while Adams forgotten to Jefferson’s financial difficulties in his last years and Adam’s increasing esteem in the eyes of his countrymen, particularly after the election of John Quincy to the presidency in 1824. Jefferson became more pessimistic about the unfolding commercial trends in the country while Adams became more sanguine.

Wood deeply regards both of his subjects, but in the end is drawn to the expansive mind of Jefferson and his vision of forging one nation out of all the varieties of people that make up our country. Yet I found myself wondering if in fact his book articulates the need we have as a nation for both kinds of leaders, both those with lofty visions and those of rock-ribbed integrity with two feet firmly planted in American soil, both those who believe in the people, and those who value institutions, and recognize the existing inequalities of people who enjoy equal rights. Without Adams, Jefferson was inclined to build “castles in the air.” Without Jefferson, Adams may have tried to fashion himself a monarch. Perhaps what Wood has given us in the story of these two men is a parable for our country, especially in this divided time. ( )
  BobonBooks | Oct 18, 2020 |
Two men, founding fathers, united in the fight for independence, but clearly divided in their politics of how to run the new government. This is the story of two great men, and how they worked together to help win the American Revolution, but became bitter rivals in the world of government and politics. Doesn't that seem to always be the case? Fortunately, this story does not end there. These rivals were able to but aside their differences later in life to become great friends through their letters and correspondence for the rest of their lives, and give a lasting example of, not only their thoughts and beliefs, but how to reconcile differences and rekindle the friendship that brought them together in the first place. Gordon Wood brings this story to life as he has done many times in his earlier books. ( )
  TBatalias | Feb 22, 2020 |
When I saw this book I groaned, because I realized I would need to add it to the list of Gordon Wood books I wanted to read, when I thought I was making good progress on that list. This book only confirms my admiration for this great historian. Wood is a great writer and a superb historian who manages to open up new perspectives on topics that seem to be exhausted.

This book is essentially a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams, organized more around themes and roughly in chronological order. I'm impressed by the narrative coherence despite the occasional event out of chronological order. However, the downside is that some parts get a bit repetitive, since the same event (and sometimes quote) shows up in multiple places in the book.

Wood is an intellectual historian who writes about the ideas and methods of thinking of Jefferson and Adams. While many of the main points can probably be extracted from Wood's essays on the two in Revolutionary Characters, I still recommend the book as adding enough value to be worth reading in its own right. In particular, I was surprised to learn that Adams's defense of the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre was initiated by his cousin Sam Adams (the "famous Adams") and other sons of liberty who wanted to demonstrate the rule of law in the colonies. Wood notes Adams's law practice actually improved after the trial, though notes that the political climate may still have made the defense a risky move for Adams personally. I found Wood's treatment of the causes of the revolution interesting. Wood calls it an imperial crisis, and roots it in the colonial rejection of the British political conception of parliamentary sovereignty. The colonies argued that parliament had no power to tax the colonies but did have the power to regulate trade. In response, the British government thought shifting domestic taxes to import/export taxes would alleviate the political crisis. The colonials responded that taxes with the intent to raise revenue were illegitimate, while taxes with the intent to regulate trade but with incidental effect of revenue generation was acceptable.

I won't repeat the points that I learned from Revolutionary Characters, but this book gives one extra reason why Adams and Jefferson had different conceptions of aristocracy in the United States. Jefferson was born into a wealthy plantation family and never worried about his position in society, while Adams was born middling in a relatively equal New England and constantly worried about his position in society. This lead Adams to be much more certain that an aristocracy would arise in America and be destabilizing since people of different orders would compete for dominance. Wood postulates that Jefferson is remembered but Adams is not, since Jefferson was an eternal optimist who thought America had a special role in Revolutionary History (with capital H), while Adams thought Americans were just as greedy and corrupt as any other society in history. I appreciated the contrasts between the cool politically savvy Jefferson and the honest and intemperate Adams. Wood does an interesting job of contrasting their views on religion, art, and marriage. Adams, a descendant of Puritans saw America as a continuation of the protestant reformation and the wider cause of liberty, while Jefferson did not think highly of organized religion and only referenced history to call back to an idealized Anglo-Saxon farming society to prop up his ideal agrian republic. Jefferson was obsessed with bring good taste to America, priding himself on his taste and collections of art but showing little personal enjoyment of art, while Adams obsessed over the sensational effect of art on its viewers. Adams has a more attractive view of marriage to modern eyes, he was a faithful husband who saw Abigail as an equal intellectual partner (though Wood notes that the famous quote, "think of the ladies" was not an actual call for political equality, but a saucy tease by Abigail who had 18th century conceptions that women are masters of the home and were entitled to their opinions), while Jefferson tried to seduce his friend's wife in his youth, had a highly patarichical view of marriage and of course kept slaves as concubines. On the whole, Wood paints Adams as the more sympathetic character, who kept a diary detailing his various anxieties, complaints and fears. Adams was worried about leaving a legacy and hopelessly self-pitying, though he was aware of these faults which makes him more likeable. Adams was also hopelessly vain, but again his self-awareness softens anyone reading about him. The biggest difference was Adams's belief that a strong monarch/executive was required to balance the aristocracy (embodied in the Senate) and the popular (the House), while Jefferson disdain any monarchical power as inevitably leading to despotism and major social ills. This is pretty well explored in the essays in Revolutionary Characters.

To my knowledge, Wood has shifted from writing abstract intellectual history to more biographical works. I suspect that it is slightly easier to sell books this way, but I am glad. The conventional biography needs the shot in the arm that Wood provides and I highly recommend this book.

( )
  vhl219 | Jun 1, 2019 |
I got this book from Overdrive because I have recently developed an interest in the Founders of America and the American Revolution. This book was well researched and very informative. I learned a lot about the political differences between Adams and Jefferson. The book was well written and I did not find a lot of typos and other mistakes which was a great plus. This is the first book I have read by this author and will definitely be looking for more of his books. Highly recommend this book. ( )
  CrystalToller | Mar 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017 From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy's champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England's rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men, and beyond.  But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters. In their final years they were the last surviving founding fathers and cherished their role in this mighty young republic as it approached the half century mark in 1826. At last, on the afternoon of July 4th, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration, Adams let out a sigh and said, "At least Jefferson still lives." He died soon thereafter. In fact, a few hours earlier on that same day, far to the south in his home in Monticello, Jefferson died as well.  Arguably no relationship in this country's history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America's collective story.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.23)
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3 2
3.5 1
4 13
4.5
5 8

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 170,408,558 books! | Top bar: Always visible