The Education of John Adams

Oxford Univ. Jun. 2020. 344p. ISBN 9780199740239. $24.95. BIOG
Founding Father John Adams (1735–1826) is often depicted as a politician overrun by emotion. Bernstein (law & politics; City Coll. of New York) counters this portrayal by revealing a leader deliberate in thought and action. Bernstein’s thesis is that Adams’s career was predicated on the lawyerly training received early on. By tracing his subject’s political achievements, the author sheds light on the thought processes of an often-misunderstood figure. Bernstein thoroughly analyzes the politician’s robust written record, including published and nonpublished sources. This work sets itself apart from other Adams biographies in its detailing of its subject’s vision of governance, as well as his role as a legal and constitutional scholar, compared to other Founding Fathers, such as George Washington, Samuel Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and, notably, Thomas Jefferson. Abigail Adams, John’s wife, is also given consideration as an intellectual equal.
VERDICT An accessible and highly recommended biography. Fans of David McCullough’s John Adams will appreciate the nuanced insights into Adams’s beliefs offered here

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