To all my fellow Americans, Happy 4th of July! I love the 4th of July, the Patriotism that is shown warms my heart. This year I started thinking about books that take place during the American Revolution and I thought I would share some with you that either I have read or I plan on reading.
In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot — “the colossus of independence,” as Thomas Jefferson called him — who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.
Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough’s John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than one thousand surviving letters between John and Abigail Adams, nearly half of which have never been published, provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.
As he has with stunning effect in his previous books, McCullough tells the story from within — from the point of view of the amazing eighteenth century and of those who, caught up in events, had no sure way of knowing how things would turn out. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, the British spy Edward Bancroft, Madame Lafayette and Jefferson’s Paris “interest” Maria Cosway, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the scandalmonger James Callender, Sally Hemings, John Marshall, Talleyrand, and Aaron Burr all figure in this panoramic chronicle, as does, importantly, John Quincy Adams, the adored son whom Adams would live to see become President.
Crucial to the story, as it was to history, is the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, born opposites — one a Massachusetts farmer’s son, the other a Virginia aristocrat and slaveholder, one short and stout, the other tall and spare. Adams embraced conflict; Jefferson avoided it. Adams had great humor; Jefferson, very little. But they were alike in their devotion to their country.
At first they were ardent co-revolutionaries, then fellow diplomats and close friends. With the advent of the two political parties, they became archrivals, even enemies, in the intense struggle for the presidency in 1800, perhaps the most vicious election in history. Then, amazingly, they became friends again, and ultimately, incredibly, they died on the same day — their day of days — July 4, in the year 1826.
Much about John Adams’s life will come as a surprise to many readers. His courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits that few would have dared and that few readers will ever forget.
It is a life encompassing a huge arc — Adams lived longer than any president. The story ranges from the Boston Massacre to Philadelphia in 1776 to the Versailles of Louis XVI, from Spain to Amsterdam, from the Court of St. James’s, where Adams was the first American to stand before King George III as a representative of the new nation, to the raw, half-finished Capital by the Potomac, where Adams was the first President to occupy the White House.
This is history on a grand scale — a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.
The portrait of the beautiful, elegant young woman on the cover of this excellent biography will stun anyone used to seeing pictures of Martha Washington as a white-haired, matronly woman. And in a richly woven tapestry of social history and biography, historian Brady re-creates the 18th-century world of wealthy Virginia planters into which the elegant Martha, née Dandridge, was born and the “joyful duet” of her marriage to America’s first president. Though born to wealth, Martha (1731–1802) was well schooled in domestic skills—from killing and plucking fowl to preserving fruits and vegetables— and the expected social graces. Just before she turned 19, Martha married Daniel Custis—whose father initially opposed the union, but Martha managed to persuade him otherwise—and moved to his large plantation, where she raised their two children until Custis’s death in 1757. Two years later, as the owner of Custis’s vast estate, she married George Washington and became the wife of a young colonel whose ambitions and military and political ingenuity catapulted him into the leadership of the colonies and later the republic. Devoted to George, Martha accompanied him on his sojourns during the Revolutionary War, and her considerable social skills were crucial in helping her husband navigate the difficult political waters of the presidency. Brady’s splendid biography offers a compelling new portrait of this passionate, committed founding mother who has unjustly been obscured by others, such as Abigail Adams. (June 27)
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Duty and career—Captain Thomas Moberly of His Majesty’s Navy prizes them above all. So why is he tempted to relinquish both for Dinah Templeton? Though Dinah seems sweet and charming, the difference in station between an East Florida belle and the son of an earl is too marked to ignore. And all other obstacles pale with the discovery that Dinah’s brother James is not what he seems….A war is brewing on the colonies’ horizon, and James has chosen his side—in opposition to the country Thomas has sworn to defend. But what of Dinah? Where does her heart truly lie—with her family, or with the man she claims to love?
I hope your day is filled with friends, fireworks and the chance to get some reading in. Here in Phoenix I will trying to stay cool in this ridiculous heat wave that we have been having. To give you an idea of how warm it has been, I went swimming in my pool this morning at 7:00 a.m. and it was already 85 degrees outside.