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John Adams

The American Presidents Series: The 2nd President, 1797-1801

The American Presidents

John Patrick Diggins; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

Times Books

A revealing look at the true beginning of American politics

Until recently rescued by David McCullough, John Adams has always been overshadowed by Washington and Jefferson. Volatile, impulsive, irritable, and self-pitying, Adams seemed temperamentally unsuited for the presidency. Yet in many ways he was the perfect successor to Washington in terms of ability, experience, and popularity.

Possessed of a far-ranging intelligence, Adams took office amid the birth of the government and multiple crises. Besides maintaining neutrality and regaining peace, his administration created the Department of the Navy, put the army on a surer footing, and left a solvent treasury. One of his shrewdest acts was surely the appointment of moderate Federalist John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Though he was a Federalist, he sought to work outside the still-forming party system. In the end, this would be Adams’s greatest failing and most useful lesson to later leaders.

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  1From “Senseless Turpitude” to Stately DutyFATHER AND SONJohn Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on October 19, 1735, the fourth-generation descendant of Henry Adams, who arrived in America with his wife, Edith, about 1636. Of yeoman stock, pious, frugal, and hardworking, Henry died a decade after settling in Braintree, leaving eight sons and a daughter, a house with two rooms, a farm of forty acres on which ranged a cow, heffer, and swine, and a modest library of treasured books. One son, Joseph, followed in his father’s footsteps and, married to Abigail Baxter,
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  • John Adams by John Patrick Diggins--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from John Patrick Diggins' biography John Adams, part of The American Presidents Series. Until recently rescued by David McCullough, John Adams has always been overshadowed by Washington and Jefferson. Volatile, impulsive, irritable, and self-pitying, Adams seemed temperamentally unsuited for the presidency. Yet in many ways he was the perfect successor to Washington in terms of ability, experience, and popularity.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Patrick Diggins; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

  • John Patrick Diggins is distinguished professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books, including On Hallowed Ground, The Proud Decades, The Lost Soul of American Politics, The Rise and Fall of the American Left, and Max Weber: Politics and the Spirit of Tragedy. He lives in New York City.
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John Adams

The American Presidents Series: The 2nd President, 1797-1801

The American Presidents

John Patrick Diggins; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

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Times Books

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