Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage by Edith B. Gelles
I will start off by saying John Adams is WAY more interesting than George Washington. Sorry, George.
The only reason I chose this book for my presidential challenge was because I already had it on my Kindle and didn’t have to fight library due dates to finish it. I was happy I did.
I knew nothing about John & Abigail Adams so I was completely fascinated by every aspect of their relationship. You know darn well that a woman these days would have dropped a husband who lives overseas for 8 years and doesn’t bring her with! It’s amazing that their letters survived, even after each requested that some of them be destroyed, which they weren’t. And though they both were educated, the grammatical and spelling errors in the letters kind of shocked me.
I was bothered a bit (okay, a lot) that John put his job before his family. “John justified the guilt he felt for his abandonment of this (parent) role in the same way that he rationalized his absence from Abigail. Public service was a higher duty that he owed society.” Well, John, I’m sorry but I think you were wrong. Your children barely knew you and your wife was left to handle EVERYTHING. What an amazingly strong woman Abigail Adams was. I would not have put up with John’s antics. And I probably would have insisted that I go to France with him. He takes their children and not her? Nuhuh.
Who knew the debate of immunizations traced back even to the 18th century. The description of how they inoculated for small pox made me chuckled. “The procedure itself was simple. Patients were assembled in a house and each was inoculated by placing a thread with the infected matter from a sufferer of the disease into a cut, usually in the arm but sometimes in the hand. Within a week, the patient, it was hoped, contracted the disease in a less severe form.” Imagine the uproar if that was still the case now! And it WAS considered radical and people were against it. How times…haven’t really changed…
It was interesting that Washington was almost forced to serve two terms as president when he didn’t want to and yet Adams WANTED the position and struggled to get it. He was NOT happy with the vice president position – he wanted it all! “Clearly, he felt overwhelmed by the protocols of a position he would later refer to as ‘the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man contrived of his Imagination conceived.” Bet Mr. Biden doesn’t feel like that these days! Also intriguing was the difference in background between Washington – a military man – and Adams – a law man.
Clearly, history class was wasted on me as a kid as I had absolutely no idea that the “format” of our government today – House, Senate, electoral college, etc. – dated back to this time. Wow. Our government has survived over 200 years.
I’ve heard that there was a falling out between Adams and Jefferson but I felt this book kind of glossed over it so I’m hoping that whatever book I choose on Jefferson will go into lots more detail.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story of John & Abigail. Sometimes the writing was tedious and repetitive though. If you are looking to learn more about John Adams, I would recommend this book!