There were so many quotes that I liked from the Adams bio that it was a challenge to narrow them down. I ultimately chose three. The first two were words of advise to his grandson John, son of John Quincy, and his granddaughter Caroline, daughter of Abigail Adams Smith.
The words to John sound odd to us, but they should rather be a warning to our me-first culture. ” The Lord deliver us from all family pride,” he said, adding for emphasis,” No pride,John, no pride.”
Granddaughter Caroline was in a quandary over the riddles of life. He responded to her thusly. “The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I enquire,the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. ( These phrases came from the Old Testament book of Micah, chapter 6,verse 8.) This is enough… So questions and answers your affectionate grandfather.”
And his own fundamental creed. He had reduced it to a mere sentence, but one with great import. ” He who loves the Workman and his work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of Him.”
The Independence Day weekend seems like an ideal time for my second installment on John Adams. We celebrate profusely on this weekend, some even to excess, believe it or not. And for the document itself, we owe gratitude to a number of people who labored diligently to produce the document that we call the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson was of course the author but the work involved many others of whom Adams may have been the most important. He was seemingly everywhere at once and at one point served on 26 separate committees. There were 54 other men who put their names to the document and chose to ” mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” All knew they would have to pay a high price and that they did.
Perhaps the famous part of the document was Jefferson’s lines eloquent lines from paragraph two that affected the human spirit as neither he nor anyone else could have forseen. They speak to us still, some 234 years later.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
What did Adams have to say about the final result ? This he wrote to Abigail.
The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
So he have his days confused? Not at all . The original vote did occur on Tuesday, July 2 with 12 states in favor and New York abstaining in order to make the vote unanimous. They voted again 2 days later with the day of celebration occurring on July 8. The actual signing did not take place until August 2.
There would however be yet another fateful day in July for Adams and Jefferson. By 1826, July 4 was ensconced as the nation’s day of birth. It also marked a momentous day for the two stalwarts of independence. Both men were gravely ill, Jefferson at Monticello and Adams at Quincy, Ma. Jefferson briefly stirred after a 2 day coma but died at around 1:00 pm. Meanwhile Adams. quiet as well, stirred for a moment and sometime in the afternoon, said “Thomas Jefferson lives.” It was just a little while later at 6:20 pm that he too passed away.
Just finished the David McCullough bio of John Adams and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hard to do justice to such a lengthy book about such a towering historical figure. Some initial thoughts. The author commented in his intro that we cannot learn enough about our funding fathers, a sentiment with which I very much agree. Makes me once again wish that I had majored in history in college. My presidential reading continues to remind me of my lack of historical education. I shudder to think of how American history is taught or not in public schools today.
It was delightful to read the many excerpts from the letters of Adams and his wife Abigail. Their correspondence numbered well over a thousand missives of which about half have been published. It is quite remarkable how enduring was their relationship in light of the quantity of time they spent apart. Over the course of their first 14 years of marriage they had been apart over half that time. Of course with communication and travel in those days being what it ways, even their communication was difficult. Letters from the United States to France or England of Holland took months and sometimes never made it at all. There as at least one incident in which a packet of her letters was lost at sea when an American diplomat about to be captured by the English threw them overboard along with other sensitive documents.
i observed to my wife after finishing the book that I probably knew more about the Adams’ family and its manner of living than of my own parents, thanks to their prolific correspondence. In contrast, Adams’ contemporary,Thomas Jefferson,destroyed all such family correspondence. His was somewhat limited however,since his wife Martha died at age 33.
There is much to write about in reflecting on the ” colossus of independence” as Jefferson called him and I will attempt to do some justice to our second President, who seems to me as somewhat overlooked in the pantheon of early American leaders.
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