Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

Synopsis

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were once considered equally important fathers of the American Revolution, but over time Jefferson's reputation became enshrined and Adam's faded. In this thoughtful study of Adams in retirement, Joseph J. Ellis takes a fresh look at this astute, likable quirky statesman and his achievements.

Excerpt

When I first began to work in earnest on John Adams over a decade ago, I recall feeling the kind of deep satisfaction one usually associates with a skin diver discovering gold coins in a remote lagoon. The Adams correspondence is a true treasure chest, and though I was hardly the first historian to discover its rich contents, very few ordinary American citizens knew much about Adams. And so when the first edition of Passionate Sage appeared in 1993, I felt the irresistible urge to spread the word hither and yon that Adams was perhaps the most misunderstood and unappreciated great man in American history.

As I tried to explain in the last chapter, Adams was already making a comeback within the scholarly world, primarily because the ongoing publication of the modern edition of his papers had won him the respect and admiration of several scholarly specialists in the field. But I wanted to carry the Adams message beyond the specialist and toward a larger audience of readers. While in some quarters of the historical profession it might be considered unbecoming and even slightly embarrassing, I wanted to introduce Adams to the public at large. In my most exuberant moments, I actually envisioned a groundswell of popular support for the construction of an Adams Memorial on the Mall or Tidal Basin in the nation's capital.

Well, that has yet to happen. Adams's latter-day lamentation— that he did not expect mausoleums or monuments erected in his honor—remains an accurate prophecy. Nevertheless, the Adams . . .

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