American Revolution Ping.
Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of his existence. His first maxim should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.
Thank you for that article. I read the book and it is definitely a keeper. Adams had many flaws, but the fact that he and Jefferson could maintain the lengthy post presidency relationship they did speaks volumes about how we treat those we disagree with today. Though they agreed on almost nothing, they were both great Americans.
Bump for later
Excellent article, thanks for posting it.
McCullough's biography of John Adams has been on my shelf in the queue to read. It just moved up to next.
The currency at the time was virtually worthless. The British were printing counterfeit on ships. Perhaps the Dutch hated the British, and that's why they gave the loans to a bankrupt and belligerent upstart.
MUST READ later. Thanks for the ping!
beauty of a piece. bump it up.
[from a dead link, a bit of leavening]
Part II: The Pursuit of Crankiness
John Adams rose from very humble origins to become a great patriot, a statesman and the second president of the United States. But did that make him feel good about himself? Did it make him more magnanimous towards his fellow man? No and no. He was a bundle of insecurities, a notorious carper, a man who, in the words of historian Jack D. Warren, qualified as "America's crankiest Founding Father."
For starters, he hated being the nation's first vice president, presiding over the Senate like an impatient schoolmaster and complaining to his wife, Abigail, that "my country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
While he initially admired George Washington -- personally pushing through the Continental Congress his nomination for commander in chief -- Adams bitterly seethed once he was in Washington's shadow. He portrayed Washington as a man who was all style, utterly lacking in substance. He once sarcastically listed Washington's talents, all of them involving his appearance, form and pedigree. "Here," he sneered, "you see I have made out 10 talents without saying a word about reading, thinking, or writing."
He also thought Washington was a poseur, pretending to prefer the simple life with the hope of hiding his unbounded ambition. Washington "ought to pass" as a genuinely disinterested hero, Adams noted, if only because he played the part so well. Even more than a decade after the death of the "Father of Our Country," Adams still fumed about the degree of Washington-worship in the land.
"The rushing and dashing and roaring of the word Washington, Washington, Washington, like the waters at Passaic or the tremendous cataract of Niagara, deafens, stuns, astonishes and bedizzards all who are within hearing," ranted Adams in 1812. "Both parties are equally bewildered in this folly."
Not surprisingly Adams had a knack for making quality enemies. "He is vain, irritable, and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men," Thomas Jefferson wrote of him in 1787. Alexander Hamilton added his take on Adams: "Well known are his disgusting egotism, distempered jealousy, ungovernable indiscretion, and vanity without bounds."
So negative was Hamilton's opinion of Adams that he tried to maneuver the presidential nomination away from his fellow Federalist in 1796 and give it to Thomas Pinckney, the vice presidential candidate. Little wonder, then, while the rest of the country was plunged into mourning over the death of Hamilton after his fatal duel in 1804 with Aaron Burr, that Adams snorted "a caitiff had come to a bad end."
Adams likewise had little good to say about Thomas Paine, the man whose stirring pamplet Common Sense helped spur American leaders to make the break with England. He described Paine as "that insolent blasphemer of things sacred and transcendent, libeler of all that is good ..." and added, "It is indeed a disgrace to the moral character and the understanding of this age that this worthless fellow should be believed in anything." Later in his life Paine remembered Adams as being "for independence because he expected to be made great by it; but it was not difficult to perceive, for the surliness of his temper makes him an awkward hypocrite, that his head was as full of kings, queens and knaves as a pack of cards."
Nor was Adams ever one to forget a slight. Indeed, he never forgave Benjamin Franklin for questioning his diplomatic skills while Adams was in France negotiating for assistance in the Revolutionary War. Adams attacked Franklin's morals, his ability, even his patriotism. That feud simmered for decades.
As did the rancor Adams and Jefferson shared. The bitterly fought presidential campaigns between them left deep scars. Adams, in fact, spent the night before Jefferson's inauguration making judicial nominations sure to upset his successor. He succeeded.
"I can say with truth that one act of Mr. Adams's life, and one only, ever gave me a moment's personal displeasure," Jefferson wrote Abigail Adams in 1804. "I did consider his last appointments to office as personally unkind. They were from among my most ardent political enemies, from whom no faithful cooperation could ever be expected, and laid me under the embarra[ss]ment of acting thro' men whose views were to defeat mine, or to encounter the odium of putting others in their places."
The next day Adams blew off Jefferson's inauguration and skipped town.
I know McCullough is an entertaining author, but every time I've heard an interview with him he has a most decided liberal bent, so when I do read something he's written I find it a good idea to keep in mind that he may 'see' people and events differently because of it.