Adams – Jefferson: Citizens
1.1 “I do not think a biography should be written, or at least not published, during the life of the person the subject of it […]” (Brodie 15) – Some Facts about Jefferson
1.1.1. Jefferson: The Landlord
1.1.2. Jefferson: Scientist
1.2. John Adams: His Intimate Story
1.2.1. The Most Famous „Librarian” and Bibliofile
1.2.2. Autobiography: Personal Vindication
Adams – Jefferson: Politicians
2.1. Thomas Jefferson: Author of The Declaration of Independence
2.2 John Adams: Founding Father, Husband, Poet
2.2.1. Early Life
2.2.2. Career before Presidency
2.2.3. From Vice-President to Second President of the United States
Adams – Jefferson: Friends
3.1. “I always loved Jefferson and still love him” – the Friends’ Help in Reconciliation
3.1.1. “Fellow laborers in erecting the great fabric of American independence” (Cappon 285)
3.2. The Letters They Exchanged Dealt With…
3.2.1. Religion and Religious Issues
3.2.2. A Natural Aristocracy Among Men
3.2.4 History and “Great Events in Making”: Political Reflections
3.2.5 On Slavery
3.2.6 Further topics of Correspondence
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met in the Continental Congress as supporters of revolution against England and as members of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. They grew closer in Europe while serving as ambassadors – Adams to the Netherlands, and Great Britain and Jefferson to France. However, there were great differences between the two of them both in personality and in appearance. Joseph Ellis wrote about them in his book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation:
They were an incongruous pair, but everyone seemed to argue that history had made them into a pair. The incongruities leapt out for all to see: Adams, the short, stout, candid-to-a-fault New Englander; Jefferson, the tall, slender, elegantly elusive Virginian; Adams, the highly combustible, ever combative, mile-a-minute talker, whose favorite form of conversation was an argument; Jefferson, the always cool and self-contained enigma, who regarded debate and argument as violations of the natural harmonies he heard inside his own head. The list could go on - the Yankee and the Cavalier, the orator and the writer, the bulldog and the greyhound. They were the odd couple of the American Revolution (Ellis, Thomas Jefferson 11-12).
Through their work and correspondence, Jefferson and Adams became close friends. Jefferson revealed his affection to James Madison, writing that Adams “is so amiable, that I pronounce you will love him if you ever become acquainted with him.” (McCullough 116). Mrs. Adams once called Jefferson “one of the choice ones of the earth,” (Ellis 16) and Mr. Adams wrote Jefferson that “intimate Correspondence with you […] is one of the most agreable Events in my Life.” (McCullough 4).
After an early friendship which influenced, among other things, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Adams and Jefferson became political rivals by the 1790s. Hurt feelings following the contentious presidential election of 1800 kept their interactions to a minimum for more than a decade. In January 1812, however, they resumed their relationship.
The epistolary friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson revealed the two former presidents to be among the most learned men of their day. Avid readers both, each man built an impressive library containing thousands of volumes. The fact is that these two fine men built history throughout their remarkable personalities. The other fact is that Jefferson and Adams gave us, modern people an example how, in spite of the differences, find many things that can be agreed upon. The written words of Jefferson and Adams survive to this day, preserving the rich legacy of their friendship, thoughts, and ideas.
Apart from the letter exchange, both presidents are known for their finest skill of writing. For example, Jefferson did not write in traditionally conceived literary genres, i.e., fiction, poetry, etc., but his best writing was in the form of letters, and a political and scientific account of his home state. For Jefferson, the values of political and moral equality, the scientific interest in variety and complexity in nature and culture, and a kind of skepticism, put him in the line of the finest American poets and thinkers. He published only one full-length book, his Notes on the State of Virginia (1743-1826), and it should be remembered that Jefferson’s sense of the historical moment conditioned practically everything he wrote. At the same time, Adams wrote several political treatises as well as notable documents dealing with law. He loved writing as well as reading books. The proof might be found in the will Adams had drawn up in accordance with which he left John Quincy amongst other possessions “all my manuscript letter-books and account books, letters, journals, and manuscript books, together with the trunks in which they are contained, as well as his library, on the condition that he pays to my son, Thomas Boylston Adams, the value of one half of the said library” (McCullough 427).
The following paper has been written with the purpose of presenting all the possible aspects of the fascinating phenomenon which was the friendship between two great men and politicians – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The friendship circulates around the letters they exchanged.
By the eighteenth century, letter writing was so commonplace that one of the first prose narratives is an epistolary novel, such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, was composed entirely of letters. Handwritten letters were considered the only acceptable means of intimate correspondence. People of those times wrote letters of apology, letters of congratulations, letters of introduction, just to mention a few. The properly raised and educated person was obliged to convey news and information through an attractive letter. Such a talent for letter-writing was not only a social obligation, but a skill that was expected to be cultivated, naturally or through practice. The aptitude for letterwriting indicated fine breeding. Both ladies and gentlemen were judged not only by the elegance and economy of words chosen, but by their penmanship. And even though not one modern communications marvel can replace a letter while it is more than a communication and it can be more intimate and touching than even a conversation, the letter writing art slowly ceased to exist, replaced with the a typewriter and computer.
In order to provide all necessary facts, this thesis opens with the biographical aspects of both Jefferson and Adams, goes on to show how their careers developed and concludes in their retirement years – depicts the beauty of their correspondence and the depths of their friendship. The main goal of the whole work is to demonstrate the way in which these two fine Americans lived and worked.
Moreover, I shall provide all the substantial facts connected with the topic of the paper such as the lives they lead both in the political arena and at their family homes; and science Jefferson was so fond of, their interests and influence on America, and more.
Chapter One Adams – Jefferson: Citizens
No two men now live, fellow-citizens, perhaps it may be doubted, whether any two men have ever lived, in one age, who, more than those we now commemorate, have impressed their own sentiments, in regard to politics and government, on mankind, infused their own opinions more deeply into the opinions of others, or given a more lasting direction to the current of human thought. Their work doth not perish with them No age will come, in which the American Revolution will appear less than it is, one of the greatest events in human history. No age will come, in which it will cease to be seen and felt, on either continent, that, a mighty step, a great advance, not only in American affairs, but in human affairs, was made on the 4th of July 1776 (Webster 9-10).
The Bostonians crowded on August 2, 1826 while The City Council invited Daniel Webster who was a well-known for his oratory skills. His dead was to deliver the address in commemoration which was supposed to replace the mourning. The persons to be devoted the speech to were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who both died on July 4. As Cappon states: “The fiftieth anniversary of American independence was celebrated in the same hall, as it was in a number of other halls throughout the nation.” (Cappon xxxiii).
The speaker was not chosen by the accident – being a child of the Confederation period, Webster was familiar with the history of the American Revolution and that was mostly the scope of his numerous readings. That is why, he was able to provide the speeches regarding the aspects of the recent quarter-century based on the first-hand knowledge. Also, being the Federalist himself, he had a deep respect for both great men.
Adams and Jefferson, who lived long enough to acquire perspective on their own times, had become historical figures to the younger generation. As actors on the Revolutionary stage, they were asked innumerable questions about that heroic period, scarcely a half-century removed, which had already acquired the aura of history in the minds of the American people. The two venerable patriots themselves were well aware of their role as “Argonauts” to be remembered by posterity (Cappon xxiii-xxiv).
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson first met in 1775 at the Second Continental Congress. They quickly built a friendship that lasted throughout the turbulent political era of the Early Republic, despite some severe valleys in their personal and political relationship. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Abigail Adams wrote to each other frequently, discussing not only politics, but also many personal matters.
Adams hoped for publication of all of Jefferson’s letters “in volumes”. He wrote that even though some letters might “not always appear Orthodox, they will exhibit a Mass of Taste, Sense, Literature and Science, presented in a sweet simplicity and a neat elegance of Stile, which will be read with delight in future ages” (Cappon xxiv). This explains why Adams saved all he had received. Both Adams and Jefferson preserved the great accumulation of correspondence, although they agreed that “an hour of conversation would be worth a volume of letters” (Cappon xxiv). Nevertheless, it is worth to note that
Jefferson had a superb sense of history and an exact understanding of his own role in it. He preserved a legacy of over 25,000 letters from his friends and acquaintances, as well as copies of his own letters, made with letter presses and on the polygraph machines he delighted in, that numbered 18,000. These letters he indexed in his extraordinary Epistolary Record, extending from 1783 to 1826, which in itself numbered 656 pages. Still, he destroyed what would have been among the most revealing letters of his life, his correspondence with his mother and with his wife. He never finshed his autobiography and halfway through this mere fragment of his life numbering only 120 pages, he complained, “I am already tired of talking about myself” (Brodie 22).
Adams seemed more willing than Jefferson to designate their papers public property. Actually, many of the letters exchanged by Adams and Jefferson have been in the public domain a long time, although they are scattered throughout their published writings rather than assembled as the integrated correspondence of both. During the nineteenth century a small percentage of Jefferson’s letters appeared in the writings edited soon after his death by his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph, by Henry A. Washington in the 1850’s, and by Paul Leicester Ford in the 1890’s, the last being the most reliable in respect to texts.
The relationship between Adams and Jefferson is remarkable for many reasons. Both men were dedicated patriots, committed to the growth and betterment of the new country. Each man, however, had very different ideas of the direction in which the country should take. Should the central government be strong, or should the states hold the bulk of authority? Should the United States support France or Britain in the current hostilities? Or, should the country remain completely neutral, supporting neither, or both? Each man had concrete concepts which were often at odds with the other’s. Somehow, these men each pursued their passion, yet were also able to maintain their bonds to each other, with a few bumps nonetheless.
These men were definitely not typical men. Their relationship is also very atypical. In spite of this, their relationship can be used a type of medium into the social and political fabric of the era. The Adams-Jefferson relationship was a microcosm of the time in which they lived. Passionate political and social ideals, generally conflicting, occasionally diametrically opposing, yet somehow able to meld into a workable system.
1.1 “I do not think a biography should be written, or at least not published, during the life of the person the subject of it […]” (Brodie 15) – Some Facts about Jefferson
It is interesting that, as the above quotation points out, before his death Jefferson tried to discourage those contemporaries who wished to be his biographers. Jefferson’s numerous letters and his plantation records are available for anyone willing to study them. Already in 1970’s the magic of microfilm brought them to public, and the scholarship of Julian Boyd has provided, with masterly notes, printed volumes of letters written to Jefferson as well as those written by him, up to 1791. On April 5, 1823 he wrote to Robert Walsh:
It is impossible that the writer's delicacy should permit him to speak as freely of the faults or errors of a living, as of a dead character. There is still a better reason. The letters of a person, especially one whose business has been chiefly transacted by letters, form the only full and genuine journal of his life; and few can let them go out of their own hands while they live. A life written after these hoards become opened to investigation must supersede any previous one (Brodie 15).
Perhaps he was right, no one should read the accounts of his deeds during his lifetime; it is more like the characteristics of modern times, where starlets or music and film icons do not care what is written about them as long as it is written. Jefferson’s life was of the most fascinating and full of interests of his. Amongst many, he was a keen farmer, bibliophile and even scientist. In the following sub-chapters the author of this thesis will present two areas of private, non-political life that might consist of an interesting input into the knowledge about the third President of the United States.
1.1.1. Jefferson: The Landlord
Peter Jefferson left a comfortable estate to his family in a very good, manageable condition. His lands at Shadwell, Monticello and its environs, Poplar Forest and elsewhere totaled somewhere around 7,500 acres (Schachner 20), and were largely good, cultivable property. To Thomas, his elder son, went the largest portion of the estate. The choice of either his lands on the Rivanna or on the Fluvanna, election to be made within one year after he reached twenty-one; and the residuary estate. To Randolph went the lands which Thomas did not choose. However, all lands, no matter to whom granted, were made subject to “the maintenance of my family, the education of my younger children, and the payment of my daughters’ Portions.” (…)
Jefferson always gave his occupation as that of a farmer, although it was the only one of the many wide fields of his activity in which he failed; and he was willing to confess his failure by yielding the control of his estates to his grandson. He was passionately fond of country life; he was forever talking about retirement from politics and the enjoyment of the tranquility of the farm and communion with nature. He planned a hermitage at the Natural Bridge of Virginia, where he intended to seek perfect seclusion from responsibilities and cares, and never tired of discussing the advantages enjoyed by those who lived close to the soil. Jefferson was anxious to keep this an agricultural country. He was opposed to the introduction of manufacturing establishments and the immigration of artisans. He said: “While we have land to labor, let us never wish to see our citizens kept at a work bench or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons and smiths are wanted in husbandry, but for the general operation of manufactures let our workshops remain in Europe” (Curtis 90).
He disliked cities, and considered them dangerous to the public welfare. Accordingly, he said: “Cultivators of the earth make the best citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most virtuous and the most independant. They are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. As long therefore as they can find employment in this line I would not convert them into mariners, artisans or anything else” (Curtis 91).
He loved his garden and the fields, the orchards, and his asparagus beds. Every day he rode through his plantation and walked in his gardens. In the cultivation of flowers he took great pleasure. Captain Edmund Bacon, for twenty years overseer and business man of Jefferson’s plantation, whose indifference or incompetency, according to Jefferson himself, impoverished his employer, left interesting reminiscences which were afterwards published in a little volume. It was injustice to charge Bacon with mismanagement at Monticello, for his employer wrote him the most detailed instructions while he was absent at Philadelphia, Washington, and elsewhere; but Bacon showed no resentment, and to the day of his death, which occurred in 1862, spoke of Jefferson as the most considerate and generous of employers.
According to Curtis, Jefferson inherited from his father nineteen hundred acres of land, and began the practice of law when he became of age in 1764. His practice very soon became extensive and yielded him an income of three thousand dollars, while from his plantation he received about two thousand dollars, making a sum total of five thousand dollars a year. This was a handsome income as property was then rated; for the very best highlands of Albemarle were valued at not more than two dollars an acre. In 1774 he had increased his estates to five thousand acres, and several fine farms came to him with his wife (Curtis 93). Among his houses, Monticello was the finest mansion in that section of the State.
Its hospitality was famous, particularly its dinners and wines, and so were the balls given there in the early days. The ball-room does not suggest the conventional ideas of Jeffersonian simplicity. It is a stately apartment, with Pompeiian decorations in the frieze and a lofty ceiling. The dining-room is preserved as he left it and is equally appropriate to a man of his tastes, position and wealth. It has a curious dumb-waiter for hoisting wine but too small to carry more than one bottle (Curtis 96).
Monticello was thirty-two years in building. Begun in 1770, it was not finished until 1802, and cost, altogether, according to Jefferson’s account-books, about seven thousand two hundred dollars. Moreover, the bricks were not imported, as many suppose, but were made on the ground by Jefferson’s own slaves.
Jefferson frankly confessed that he was a failure as a farmer. In 1816 he wrote: “I am, indeed, an unskillful manager of my farms, and sensible of this from its effects I have now committed them to better hands” (Curtis 106). These “better hands” were of his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Furthermore he assumed: “On returning home after an absence of ten years I found my farms so much deranged that I saw evidently they would be a burden to me instead of a support till I could regenerate them; and, consequently, that it was necessary for me to find some other resource in the meantime” (Curtis 107).
Therefore, despite his way of seeing himself as a failed farmer and landlord, Bacon says that Jefferson always knew all about everything on the plantation. He knew the name of every tree, just when one was dead or needed nursing. He even told Bacon what pigs to kill, for he had names for them all. In his letters he gives the most minute instructions, not only concerning what is to be done, but by whom and how to do it. He had his own ways and was very tenacious as to details. He planned for each field.
In addition, Jefferson was progressive in his ideas, and spent a great deal of pains and money in introducing new plants and fine stock from Europe. He brought a cargo of olive plants from Marseilles, and boxes of seeds which he sent to Charleston. He also introduced caper plants, and wrote many letters to the people of South Carolina urging them to adopt olive culture.
Basically, agriculture was to Jefferson “a science of the very first order” (Martin 16). He wrote on agriculture as a way of life both for the individual and for our nation as a whole.
1.1.2. Jefferson: Scientist
The widest space in Jefferson’s mind was an unstoppable desire to learn and to know. Like the man of the Renaissance, his interests were universal. His intellectual travels took him over virtually the entire world of knowledge. He appreciated statistics, techniques, principles, and cultural or aesthetic experiences as values in themselves. The mere process of learning and the simple possession of pure knowledge gave him intense personal pleasure. It is not always possible to distinguish in him the desire for the useful from the desire simply to know. Both were there, and between them, they brought him into possession of one of the best-informed and most broadly cultured minds of his day in America. Martin points out that
Jefferson was ever torn between the call to public service for his country and a deep longing for a private life devoted to his family and to such pursuits as travel, literature, art, music, architecture, gardening, agriculture, science, and inventions. "Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight," he wrote his friend Du Pont de Nemours, when retiring from the Presidency in 1809. Only the "enormities of the times," he continued, had forced him to give these up and commit himself to the "boisterous ocean of political passions." Now that it was over, he felt like "a prisoner, released from his chains" (Martin 11).
For example, in 1797 he arrived in Philadelphia where he previously had spent the years 1790-1793. He came not only as Vice President but also as a scientist. His baggage included the bones of a prehistoric animal, about which he intended to inform the American Philosophical Society, then the nation’s leading scientific organization, of which he had just been elected President. Before leaving Monticello, he had already written to his scientist friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, rejoicing in the anticipated pleasurable “philosophical evenings” he intended to spend in the company of his scientific friends. He chose John Francis’s hotel for his lodgings because of its nearness to both the Statehouse and the halls of the Philosophical Society (Dumbauld 182-183).
As it was mentioned above, greatly interested in introducing useful foreign plants and vegetables to America, Jefferson himself distributed among the market gardeners of Washington many of the seeds he received from abroad. Additionally, Martin quotes Smith claiming that in his Washington residence one could see him with carpenter’s tools, garden implements, maps, globes, charts, a drafting board, and scientific instruments (Smith 13).
To the scientists of Philadelphia he dispatched minerals, skins, animals, and birds which he had received from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He distributed models of the moldboard for a plow, which he had invented. On display in the Presidential mansion, for the inspection of Congressmen, was the model of a dry dock he had designed. He enthusiastically promoted a device, the polygraph, which made facsimile copies, as one wrote. Serving his own personal convenience led him to the designing of new furniture. He was a tireless collector of meteorological data. He was a leader in the introduction, in America, of vaccination against smallpox. He filled the unfinished East Room of his residence, which Abigail Adams had used for hanging out wash, with a huge fossil collection he had gotten from the Big Bone Lick. On his lawn passersby might, at one time, have seen young grizzly bears brought by Meriwether Lewis from the far West (Martin 14).
Friends and foes testified to President Jefferson’s love of science. Moreover, dinners at the Presidential table appear to have been delightful affairs while very often the subject was science. Discussion turned upon recent inventions, medical knowledge and practice, the scientific value of exploration, Jefferson’s meteorological observations in France, the potentialities of upland rice as a food crop, experiments on the nature of light.
It might sound amazing but he was also interested in archaeological excavations, the application of mathematical principles to architecture, and city planning. The origin of the Indian race in America intrigued him and he proposed to settle this issue by the application of linguistic principles. He discussed new methods of determining the heights of mountains, measuring atmospheric moisture by use of the hygrometer, analyzing the prevailing winds of America, recording temperatures, and adding to climatological knowledge by such observations as the flowering of trees and a tabulation of the annual rainfall.
Everywhere he went, Jefferson’s scientific curiosity found something to engage it. The best example is that when crossing the Alps into northern Italy, he tabulated plants according to their powers of resisting cold. He also took with him an account of Hannibal’s passage of the Alps, to see if the exact route could be determined, and concluded that it could not, with the information then available. To his daughter Martha, Jefferson wrote, “A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity. The idle are the only wretched” (Randall 24).
Martin’s book Thomas Jefferson: Scientist, is a short publication, consisting of only 230 pages, however, each chapter presents the third President as an unbeatable Renaissance Man who devoted his life to knowing and discovering. It was not satisfying enough for him to hear about something, he needed to check everything himself, to conduct the testing, excavating or trying.
Jefferson enjoyed a high contemporary repute both as a statesman of broad culture and as a scientist, who applied philosophy for the good of his native country and the general human welfare.
1.2. John Adams: His Intimate Story
Born into an average, but not wealthy, Massachusetts farming family, John Adams grew up in the world of New England village life. His father was a deacon in the Congregational Church, but earned a living as a farmer and shoemaker in Braintree, roughly fifteen miles south of Boston. As a young boy, John loved the outdoors, and he said later that he would have preferred a life as a farmer, but his father insisted that he receive a formal education. His father hoped that he might become a clergyman. He eventually entered Harvard College at age fifteen and graduated in 1755. Young John, who had no interest in a ministerial career, taught in a Latin school in Worcester, Massachusetts, to earn the tuition fees to study law, and from 1756 to 1758, he studied law with a prominent local lawyer in Worcester.
In 1764, Adams married Abigail Smith, the daughter of a well-known Congregational minister in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Abigail Adams was intelligent, vivacious, warm, and extremely loyal to her husband. Their marriage was marked by mutual devotion and intellectual respect. What is the best proof of their mutual love and what is probably more important – friendship, are their letters. They preserved about 1,160 letters, recording their thoughts and feelings (Hogan and Taylor vii).
John Adams was a lawyer and a farmer, a graduate of Harvard College, the husband of Abigail Smith Adams, the father of four children. He owned Braintree and loved to talk. And indeed, he was a known talker; there were some, even among his admirers, who wished he talked less. He himself wished he talked less, and he had particular regard for those, like General Washington, who somehow managed great reserve under almost any circumstance, as McCullough states (McCullough 2). He depicts the Second President in the following way:
As befitting a studious lawyer from Braintree, Adams was a "plain dressing" man. His oft-stated pleasures were his family, his farm, his books and writing table, a convivial pipe and cup of coffee (now that tea was no longer acceptable), or preferably a glass of good Madeira. In the warm seasons he relished long walks and time alone on horseback. Such exercise, he believed, roused "the animal spirits" and "dispersed melancholy." He loved the open meadows of home, the "old acquaintances" of rock ledges and breezes from the sea. From his doorstep to the water's edge was approximately a mile (McCullough 3).
Adams was a man who cared deeply for his friends, who, with few exceptions, were to be his friends for life, and in some instances despite severe strains. And to no one was he more devoted than to his wife, Abigail. She was his “Dearest Friend”, as he addressed her in letters – his “best, dearest, worthiest, wisest friend in the world” – while to her he was “the tenderest of husbands, her good man” (McCullough 3).
Over 54 years John and Abigail established one of the most remarkable marriages in history – a marriage that can only be described as a true love. Though often cold and uncompromising in political life, John Adams was passionate, devoted, and tender as a husband. He was never intimidated by his wife’s intelligence – he appreciated it, and he loved talking politics with her. His habit of listening to Abigail’s advice became so well known, in fact, that Adams was publicly criticized for it. The furious opposition labeled her Mrs. President. The opposition would have been even more furious had it known that she privately advocated the complete abolition of slavery and favored women’s suffrage. The Adamses were always conscious of their role in history and carefully saved all of their letters to each other.
Still, one of the most ironic features of their correspondence is that we get the clearest glimpse of their intimacies when they are apart. This means that the record is richest when John was in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress or in Paris as the American negotiator of the peace treaty with Great Britain in the 1780s, and when he was vice president in the Washington administration in the 1790s.
Moreover, he is known for his love of books and scholarly reflection. He read Cicero, Tacitus, and others of his Roman heroes in Latin, and Plato and Thucydides in the original Greek, which he considered the supreme language. But in his need to fathom the “labyrinth” of human nature, as he said, he was drawn to Shakespeare and Swift, and likely to carry Cervantes or a volume of English poetry with him on his journeys. “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket” (McCullough 4), he would tell his son Johnny.
1.2.1. The Most Famous „Librarian” and Bibliofile
The best example of Adamses intellectual interests is currently housed in the Boston Public Library. There the bulk of the approximately three thousand books that Adams accumulated and kept around himself in the Quincy house have been preserved. Next to Abigail and their grandchildren, books were his most valued companions throughout his retirement, and he talked back to them in marginal notes as if their authors were sitting around the fireside in the library. Zoltán Haraszti, the modern scholar who was responsible for overseeing the Adams collection, claimed that the Adams library was “the largest private collection of its day in America” (Ellis 88). Whether or not this is correct, Adams had a huge number of books at his disposal throughout his retirement. And he did not just collect books, he submerged in reading them. He was the best-read member of his remarkably literate generation. Even Jefferson acknowledged that he could not match the prodigious Adams pace. After Adams described his reading list for 1816, for example, Jefferson admitted amazement: “Forty-three volumes read in one year, and twelve of them quartos! Dear Sir, how I envy you! Half a dozen 8 vols [octavos] in that space of time are as much as I am allowed” (Cappon 505).
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- Thomas Jefferson John Adams politicians citizens history letter life career presidency librarian scientist human rights independence education religion