Friday, April 8, 2011

John Adams Chapter One

Chapter One gave us a great picture of Adams as a child, young college student, a bachelor, what had happened before 1776, and also an idea of what was about to happen.  I really liked reading about this very human side of someone who is a giant in our history.  He was such a pensive person, constantly thinking and analyzing himself and striving to be better, yet he knew himself and human kind well enough to know that no one could be trusted with absolute power.

"There is danger from all men.  The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty".   (pg 70)

And such a fine speaker was he that they said he was as great an orator as any of the Greeks or Romans.  In fact, once he spoke for five hours-FIVE HOURS- while the the court and jury sat with patience and was even applauded at the end.  He must have been a very fine speaker indeed if they sat rapt, in perfect patience for that long. 

Adams had a way of wording things that was just very powerful, and beautiful.  Was it simply the way they spoke then or his particular gift that everything he wrote or said could have such depth, poetry and meaning? Writing about Otis and an argument he made in 1761 against writs of assistance, so masterful was Otis's speech that Adams writes, "Then and there the child independence was born."
I just love that.

Something that really made me think was in his Dissertation, where he is speaking about the importance of everyman's liberty, and the sacrifices that were made in order that they could have it. 

"Let us read and recollect and impress upon our souls the views and ends of our more immediate forefathers, in exchanging their native country for a dreary inhospitable wilderness....Recollect their amazing fortitude, their bitter sufferings-the hunger, the nakedness, the cold which they patiently endured-the severe labors of clearing their grounds, building their houses, raising their provisions, amidst dangers from wild beasts and savage men.."

In a couple of lines he has painted a very clear picture of what it must have been like for those early settlers.  And I found myself really putting myself in their position as they did what they could to survive.

And then I thought about Johnathan Sewell, who in 1764, probably foreseeing what was to come, took his family back to London.  I think I would have definitely thought that was the safer option for my family.  And yet I never thought about that before. I had never once thought about early settlers, loyalists, going back.  But it happened.  And then there were the rest who stayed and fought for some liberty. I think I would have been one who would not have believed it possible.


  1. I found the part about Sewell going back fascinating too. I like to think that I would have sided with independence rather than submission to a government so removed; and yet who knows? It's fascinating to think of those who returned to England. What did they think after the war was won? Did they regret their decision or did they feel the colonies had made a mistake separating from England?

    I wonder if there is a book out there on this subject...

  2. I would love to read a book about that!
    Going to have to do a search... I'll let you know if I find anything.