Founding Brothers

by

Joseph J. Ellis

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John Adams was a key figure in the American Revolution who went on to be the second president of the United States. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, Adams attended Harvard and held a variety of jobs before his involvement in the Independence movement propelled him into political life. Ellis describes Adams as an argumentative man with a sensitive ego. His presidency was challenging due to the problems he inherited, such as the quasi-war with France and vicious divide between Federalists and Republicans. Despite his prominence in the Revolution, he was also accused of secretly harboring a desire to install a monarchical-style government. He served one term, before losing the 1800 election to Thomas Jefferson; at this point, he retired to his home in Quincy. His close friendship with Jefferson, which suffered during the period in which they served as president and vice-president, recovered in later years, during which time he and Jefferson exchanged many letters while both were retired. He was married to Abigail Adams, who was his closest confidant and advisor.

John Adams Quotes in Founding Brothers

The Founding Brothers quotes below are all either spoken by John Adams or refer to John Adams. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Founding Brothers published in 2002.
Chapter 6 Quotes

The correspondence can be read as an extended conversation between two gods on Mount Olympus because both men were determined to project that impression.

Related Characters: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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Founding Brothers PDF

John Adams Character Timeline in Founding Brothers

The timeline below shows where the character John 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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...a historical drama.” Members of the revolutionary generation would claim that, in the words of John Adams , they were “present at the creation.” The extraordinary legacy of the Revolution is evident... (full context)
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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 Washington. The... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Duel
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...party and invited 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... (full context)
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...1789. Yet Burr was not even Hamilton’s main political enemy—Thomas Jefferson was (followed closely by John Adams ). Yet Hamilton’s criticisms of Burr were nonetheless exceptionally harsh. He claimed that Burr was... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Farewell
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...Madison accurately predicted that the first contested American presidential election would be Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams . (full context)
Chapter 5: The Collaborators
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...in 1776 and 1789. The four people who stood out were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams , and Thomas Jefferson; because Washington had already served and Franklin was dead, this left... (full context)
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...of the Adams family,” and Abigail Adams commented on the unique relationship between Jefferson and John Adams . While their political differences remained, they were “soulmates,” part of the brotherhood joined together... (full context)
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John Adams was born in Braintree, south of Boston, in 1725. He attended Harvard, which his father—who... (full context)
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John Adams was also key in arranging the postwar peace treaty and securing loans for America from... (full context)
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John Adams loyally supported all of Washington’s key initiatives, but was privately perturbed by the fact that... (full context)
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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson first fell out when Jefferson wrote a blurb for The Rights of... (full context)
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In the end, Jefferson’s support for the now brutally violent French Revolution led John Adams to deem him a dangerous idealist. When Jefferson resigned from his role as Secretary of... (full context)
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...and more experienced Jefferson. The two had none of the clashes of Jefferson’s collaboration with John Adams . When Jefferson retired to Monticello in 1794, Madison sent him letters keeping him abreast... (full context)
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John Adams claimed that he wanted to stay out of the presidential race, yet guiltily admitted that... (full context)
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On December 30, it was revealed that John Adams had narrowly beaten Jefferson 71 to 68, with Pinckney a close third and Aaron Burr... (full context)
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For John Adams , a close personal relationship could trump ideological differences; many of his closest friends were... (full context)
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...to mutual friends (and Madison had in fact already done this, ensuring the letter reached John Adams ). Eventually, Jefferson chose to avoid collaborating with Adams’ bipartisan strategy, but framed this decision... (full context)
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The problems John Adams inherited as president—along with the difficulty of filling Washington’s shoes—arguably meant that his presidency was... (full context)
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Early on in his presidency, John Adams controversially sent Elbridge Gerry, a personal friend who was both a Republican and a fanatical... (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 career: supporting the Alien and Sedition Acts.... (full context)
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John Adams ’ decision to send another delegation alienated him from the Federalist party. He likely did... (full context)
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Madison was a staunch critic of John Adams , even going so far as to claim that Adams wanted war with France—a claim... (full context)
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...by the Alien Act, Irish and German immigrants began flocking to the Republican party. Although John Adams ’ second peace delegation had been a success, news of this success arrived too late... (full context)
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Although John Adams did better in the election than many expected, he still lost to Jefferson and Burr.... (full context)
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John Adams was dismayed by this turn of events, yet he at least left the presidency satisfied... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Friendship
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John Adams returned home to John Quincy Adams looking forward to a peaceful life. However, it was... (full context)
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This one occasion was John Adams ’ decision to appoint Federalists to judgeships after the election, just before Adams left the... (full context)
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...own lies.” Abigail also accused Jefferson of vilifying her husband, an especially terrible crime considering John Adams and Jefferson had once been such good friends. Jefferson probably assumed that Abigail was sharing... (full context)
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...achievement of which was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. His second term, however, was disastrous. John Adams claimed not to care about Jefferson, but in reality he was obsessed with him and... (full context)
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John Adams also began writing to Benjamin Rush again. The two men produced a surreal correspondence filled... (full context)
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John Adams at first denied that he had much knowledge or opinion of Jefferson in his letters... (full context)
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In 1809, Rush wrote that he’d had a dream in which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson resumed their correspondence, forgave each other of their mistakes, reflected on the... (full context)
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This impasse lasted two years. Then, on the first day of 1812, John Adams sent a short, friendly letter to Jefferson, enclosing two pieces of homespun fabric. Rush was... (full context)
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The correspondence revitalized Jefferson and John Adams ’ friendship, including the deep trust that had been lost. Strangely, even the part of... (full context)
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Whereas Thomas Jefferson was typically elegant and restrained in his writing, John Adams was vigorously argumentative. They mostly avoided topics that would be too contentious. Things got touchy... (full context)
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...deepened the trust between the friends. When Abigail added her own note to one of John Adams ’ letters, this served as confirmation that the friendship between all three was well and... (full context)
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...social equality and to what extent governance of the republic should be entrusted to elites. John Adams was fond of asserting that since ancient times, it was elites who tended to shape... (full context)
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John Adams responded that there was more continuity between Europe and America than Jefferson was allowing. He... (full context)
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...to dismiss the extraordinarily amount of violence that the Revolution caused and even apologized to John Adams about this. The subtext of this message was another apology, as Jefferson had also used... (full context)
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...1819. Jefferson suggested that abolition was a problem for the next generation to deal with. John Adams disagreed, saying that slavery needed to be debated immediately. In his correspondence with Jefferson, however,... (full context)
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...by a group of people in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in May 1775. Jefferson told John Adams that the document was “a fabrication,” and Adams responded that he believed him. However, in... (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 their contemporaries. They reminisced about the past together, and spoke warmly... (full context)
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...repeated his lifelong view that the American Revolution would inspire a global movement of liberation. John Adams , meanwhile, quibbled with organizers, insisting that the Fourth of July was actually not the... (full context)
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Jefferson’s interpretation of the meaning of the fiftieth anniversary was given power by his and John Adams ’ deaths. Late on July 3, 1826, Jefferson went into a coma. His last words... (full context)