Founding Brothers

by

Joseph J. Ellis

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Abigail Adams Character Analysis

Abigail Adams was John Adams’ wife and John Quincy’s mother. Despite not having received a full education, she was intelligent and keenly interested in politics. While her husband was president, Abigail made sure to follow what was being published in the press and report it all to him. She fatefully encouraged John to support the Alien and Sedition Acts, which is now recognized as the worst mistake of his presidency. She was also originally a close friend of Thomas Jefferson’s but fell out with him at the same time as her husband, although they eventually reconciled.
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Abigail Adams Character Timeline in Founding Brothers

The timeline below shows where the character Abigail Adams appears in Founding Brothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface: The Generation
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Founding Brothers focuses on the “eight most prominent political leaders” of the time: Abigail and John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Duel
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...Thomas Jefferson’s personal secretary, as well as the daughter and son-in-law of John Adams and Abigail Adams. Jefferson and Adams were both political rivals of Hamilton’s, so this dinner suggests Hamilton... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Collaborators
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Jefferson was “an unofficial member of the Adams family,” and Abigail Adams commented on the unique relationship between Jefferson and John Adams. While their political differences... (full context)
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...help him become a minister. After working as a teacher and apprentice lawyer, Adams married Abigail. His leading role opposing the Stamp Act shot him to prominence, and in the Continental... (full context)
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...opposite sides of the Federalist/Republican rift, the two remained cordial, although Adams privately admitted to Abigail that their friendship was barely surviving. (full context)
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...idealist. When Jefferson resigned from his role as Secretary of State in 1793, Adams told Abigail that Jefferson’s mind was “poisoned” and predicted that his retirement would not last long. He... (full context)
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...a campaign supporting him existed. Meanwhile, now that Jefferson and Adams’ friendship had become tense, Abigail was Adams’ closest collaborator. Even when they disagreed, Adams expressed gratitude for Abigail’s insight and... (full context)
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...the presidential race, yet guiltily admitted that he was also tempted by the whole thing. Abigail gently assured him that he had earned the position of president, yet as the election... (full context)
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...a scene of “political chaos.” Adams reacted by ignoring his whole cabinet, confiding only in Abigail. (full context)
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...own worries that this would look nepotistic. While contentious, both decisions ended up paying off. Abigail, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the press and reported what she read to her... (full context)
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There is “considerable evidence” to suggest that Abigail’s advice was pivotal in persuading John Adams to make the biggest mistake of his presidential... (full context)
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...that he was able to achieve peace with France. When Jefferson took office as president, Abigail demanded that Adams invite Jefferson to tea and cake. Adams did so, but after that... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Friendship
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...especially resentful of Hamilton and Jefferson. In 1804, Jefferson’s youngest daughter died in childbirth, and Abigail decided to write with her condolences. Jefferson misinterpreted Abigail’s choice to reach out, thinking this... (full context)
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...Federalists to judgeships after the election, just before Adams left the presidency. Still, Jefferson told Abigail that he forgave Adams. Abigail was furious and sent a passionate reply in which she... (full context)
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...between his professed beliefs and his behavior, and “probably came to believe his own lies.” Abigail also accused Jefferson of vilifying her husband, an especially terrible crime considering John Adams and... (full context)
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...and was desperate to reconcile with his old friend. Still stung from the incident with Abigail, Jefferson refused to comply. (full context)
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...were now out in the open, which ultimately deepened the trust between the friends. When Abigail added her own note to one of John Adams’ letters, this served as confirmation that... (full context)
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In October 1818, Abigail died. Shortly after, Jefferson observed that both he and John Adams had outlived most of... (full context)