Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Penguin Pr. Oct. 2017. 512p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780735224711. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780735224728. HIST
OrangeReviewStarBoth John Adams (1735-1826) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) died on the golden jubilee of America's founding, within hours of each other. This well-known story opens Wood's (history, Brown Univ.; The Idea of America) biography of an unlikely friendship that had the power to bring the nation together; yet, one also fraught with an ideological divide that threatened the strength of their relationship. Adams, a middle-class pessimist, was known for telling hard truths that he believed the American people needed to hear. Jefferson, in contrast, was a slave-holding aristocrat who espoused the exceptional nature of Americans and told people what they wanted to hear. Wood's outstanding scholarship and beautiful, masterly prose tells each man's experience, and he's unafraid to discuss hard facts, such as Jefferson's blind spot on slavery or Adams's reverence for the British monarchy. More importantly, their friendship reveals why Americans remember the words of Jefferson over those of Adams. Jefferson's charm and optimistic view of the American experiment better fit Abraham Lincoln's unification narrative as the Union started to crumble.
VERDICT Essential reading from a Pulitzer Prize-winning giant of early American history for both casual history readers and historians.

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