Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

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 diff...

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Title:Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
Author:Gordon S. Wood
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Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Reviews

  • Jill Meyer

    On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, two men died. One, Thomas Jefferson, died at Monticello in Virginia, while the other, John Adams, died far away in Boston. Both men had been presidents of the United States, and since the country was not in the instant communication we have today, neither man knew of the other's impending death. In his superb new history, "Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson", Gordon Wood takes a detailed loo

    On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, two men died. One, Thomas Jefferson, died at Monticello in Virginia, while the other, John Adams, died far away in Boston. Both men had been presidents of the United States, and since the country was not in the instant communication we have today, neither man knew of the other's impending death. In his superb new history, "Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson", Gordon Wood takes a detailed look at the lives and how each man's strengths and weaknesses influenced our new country.

    John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were, in many ways, polar opposites in both personality and upbringing. One was a slave-owning Southerner and the other was a Northerner, who deplored the idea of one man owning another. One had a charming, if somewhat melancholy demeanor where the other was a no-nonsense kind of man. But both were brilliant and were devoted to the cause of American independence from Great Britain. And after independence, the two were involved in setting up our governing system. Gordon Wood takes a penetrating look at both men and the times they lived in, He's a smooth writer and the book is excellent.

  • Jean

    This is a double biography that recounts the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It also recounts the creation of the republic. This is primarily a book about ideas as represented by two of the founding fathers. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author has a variety of topics and goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Adams and Jefferson. I learned a lot about both men as well as a good review of the founding of this country.

    These two men, more so than other presidents, could be ca

    This is a double biography that recounts the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It also recounts the creation of the republic. This is primarily a book about ideas as represented by two of the founding fathers. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author has a variety of topics and goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Adams and Jefferson. I learned a lot about both men as well as a good review of the founding of this country.

    These two men, more so than other presidents, could be called philosophical statesman. There is a theme about the New Englander who never owned a slave and the Virginian who own many slaves. I found it interesting that both men read widely and collected libraries of classical and modern thinkers. These two men were quite different but found common ground in books and inquiring minds. Woods states that over the past two centuries Jefferson has become more popular and Adams has almost disappeared. I have to declare a bias on my part of being fascinated by John and Abigail Adams.

    The book is well-written and meticulously researched. Wood finds relevance in one of their most arcane interest in political theory. Gordon S. Wood is a history professor at Brown University. He does a great job demonstrating the improbable friendship, estrangement and reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson. Woods states that Jefferson told Americans what they wanted to hear. Adams told them the truth and what they needed to know, which the Americans did not want to hear.

    I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is fairly long at about eighteen hours. James Lurie does a great job narrating the book. Lurie is an actor and voice-over artist as well as an audiobook narrator.

  • Cameron H

    John Adams deserves a monument on the National Mall! It should be him standing in front of a chair with Abigail by his side. Oh! And he should also be “mistakenly” sculpted to look like William Daniels just piss off his ghost.

  • Brian Willis

    Many students of American history will no doubt know by now the miraculous (though Adams and Jefferson would have hated that term) occurrence of their concurrent deaths within a matter of hours on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Many scholars and biographers will also have keyed in on the amazing correspondence between the two in their waning, retired years. But it may be a little surprising to realize that nobody has attempted a major concurrent biography

    Many students of American history will no doubt know by now the miraculous (though Adams and Jefferson would have hated that term) occurrence of their concurrent deaths within a matter of hours on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Many scholars and biographers will also have keyed in on the amazing correspondence between the two in their waning, retired years. But it may be a little surprising to realize that nobody has attempted a major concurrent biography of both our 2nd and 3rd Presidents.

    Gordon Wood, as he always does, takes this a whole step further and writes the definitive book on the political philosophy of these two titans. This book is essential to anybody wanting to truly understand the Revolutionary era without the filter of political bias of blustering talk show analysts who appropriate the words of Adams and Jefferson for their own ends without any knowledge of their complexity. Wood does cover biographical facts, but this is really a book of their thoughts and their evolving political theories and influences. He draws heavily on the primary sources of the newly completed volumes of their collected papers. Though all of the above may sound like it could be horribly dry, it is absolutely fascinating in Wood's hands, an accomplished writer. While I don't want to spoil too many of the discoveries in the 433 pages here, any understanding of what America truly is is revealed by the dialogue - often literally - between these two who found themselves on the opposing ends of the political spectrum. Adams believed that humans are essentially flawed and needed checks and balances by their government in certain cases. Jefferson was a fatally flawed idealist who believed in truly unlimited, unhindered democracy; the people will make the right, wise choices (2016 alone proved him wrong). The book only gets better as it goes along, ending with the post mortem of Adams and Jefferson from 1812-1826 in their personal correspondence. Some of those conclusions might shock. But they are a pleasure of this book I won't spoil.

    There are great books on Adams (McCullough's biography springs immediately to mind). Plenty of great books on Jefferson (Ellis and Meachem are just a few). But by placing them side by side, the view is much more broad and illuminating. An essential work.

  • David Eppenstein

    I have a reverential devotion to the history of our founding and to the people involved in that undertaking. The more I read and learn about that era and about those engaged in that endeavor the more I am struck by their humanness and thus am further impressed with how difficult and dangerous our founding really was. While it is easy to revere Washington I have found the characters of Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton to be more interesting and identifiable as real people with real virtues and real

    I have a reverential devotion to the history of our founding and to the people involved in that undertaking. The more I read and learn about that era and about those engaged in that endeavor the more I am struck by their humanness and thus am further impressed with how difficult and dangerous our founding really was. While it is easy to revere Washington I have found the characters of Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton to be more interesting and identifiable as real people with real virtues and real flaws. When I found this book by Gordon Wood there was no question of my purchase. Now that I have finished reading it however I admit that the task was not an easy one.

    Much can be said both positive and negative about both Adams and Jefferson but one thing you cannot say is that these men were boring. So why was it that I was more than tempted a few times to quit this book because of how tedious it was? Once again we have an eminent scholar of American history writing for the benefit of his colleagues and not for those that truly need his wisdom, the reading public. Inspite of my growing disappointment I persisted in reading the book to the end because quitting a book ranks as near sacrilege to me. I can happily report that my persistence was rewarded as the author redeemed himself but I can't say this redemption is enough for me to be able to recommend this book to anybody that isn't a true devotee of the American Revolution.

    The first quarter of the book starts a bit slow but then the author's approach becomes apparent and understandable. Wood is going to compare these two American icons and examine their agreements and disagreements. To do this the author gives us a study of those factors that affected the development of the personalities of Adams and Jefferson. The author details their family history, the nature of the communities and society in which they were raised, their friends and education, their employment, their romances and subsequent marriages, and their ambitions. I found this to be quite interesting and more informative than any prior history I have read about these two men. Then things started to really bog down because now the author decided to detail the origins of the political beliefs of these two men. When the author started to discussion the political ideology, philosophy, and theories of government of Adams and Jefferson it wasn't enough to simply tell the reader what each believed. No, the author had to give the origins of their thoughts by discussing the books they read on these subjects and then discuss the authors of those books and the origins of their thought. It is writing like this that gives studying history a bad reputation. I had to fight to stay awake on several occasions. The author obviously is very learned in this area but he didn't have to display the entire extent of his knowledge and more than a little restraint was definitely needed. This discussion spans the second quarter or third of the book and then it mercifully ends.

    The book's redemption arrives in the last half when more recognizable territory appears starting with Adams' assumption of the presidency. This portion of the book contained a great deal of information that I have not previously encountered. The author relies heavily and quotes liberally from the correspondence of both men during this period of their lives. After their friendship was restored in the early 19th century they engaged in an extensive correspondence that the author uses to clearly highlight how these two giants of our history felt about a great number of issues of then current importance and about past events. This correspondence was as Adams stated their attempt to understand each other before they died. In all the reading I have done in which Adams and Jefferson are featured none has illustrated as clearly as this book how these two men thought and why. While this is true I only give the book a satisfactory rating of three stars because of the quagmire of the middle quarter of the book. With a bit of editing this could have been a much more readable, informative, and enjoyable book.

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