Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more diff...

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Title:Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
Author:Gordon S. Wood
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Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Reviews

  • Jillian Doherty

    Like Churchill and Orwell this awesome duel biography highlights not only both men's journeys, but illustrates how they became who they were because of their relationship.

    Although these founding fathers loathed each other - for having opposing personalities and political affiliation, but as they formed the country, they also formed a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other.

    If we could have more driven focus and tolerance today, we might also better understand how looking in the past

    Like Churchill and Orwell this awesome duel biography highlights not only both men's journeys, but illustrates how they became who they were because of their relationship.

    Although these founding fathers loathed each other - for having opposing personalities and political affiliation, but as they formed the country, they also formed a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other.

    If we could have more driven focus and tolerance today, we might also better understand how looking in the past as much to teach is the better future.

  • Matthew Hyde

    So I fortunate enough to win the historical book Friends Divided in the goodreads giveaway. This book was excellent from front to back. Gordon S. Wood does an amazing job of covering the important details and thoughts of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams during such events as the American Revolution, French Revolution, the Presidencies of both men, and their lives after politics. Wood I felt was fair in keeping a balance of the two men, and did not show favoritism toward one rather than the o

    So I fortunate enough to win the historical book Friends Divided in the goodreads giveaway. This book was excellent from front to back. Gordon S. Wood does an amazing job of covering the important details and thoughts of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams during such events as the American Revolution, French Revolution, the Presidencies of both men, and their lives after politics. Wood I felt was fair in keeping a balance of the two men, and did not show favoritism toward one rather than the other. In fact he shows the weaknesses and strengths both of these men exhibited through their personal and political lives. What one can gather from reading this book is that Adams was at times a little too outspoken, while Jefferson was very patient and was careful how he expressed himself. I liked how Wood used the letters which these two men wrote to each other, friends, and family to show the reader how these men really thought and felt. Wood kept it factually and not opinionated by doing so. For me personally, what I enjoyed about this book the most is the detailed account of America's history. Wood does a very in depth revealing of facts showing the reader how America came to be mostly due to the influence of such men such as Adams and Jefferson. Its hard to grasp at the thought that the roots of America's Civil War, our political parties that Americans still see today, and how an American thinks and acts started at the very early stages of America early years. One last point I would like to make is that the book is very easy to read and Wood keeps the reader attached throughout. Wood's book is a historical book worms dream. Thank you for the good read.

  • Jill Meyer

    On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, two men died. One, Thomas Jefferson, died at Monticello in Virginia, while the other, John Adams, died far away in Boston. Both men had been presidents of the United States, and since the country was not in the instant communication we have today, neither man knew of the other's impending death. In his superb new history, "Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson", Gordon Wood takes a detailed loo

    On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, two men died. One, Thomas Jefferson, died at Monticello in Virginia, while the other, John Adams, died far away in Boston. Both men had been presidents of the United States, and since the country was not in the instant communication we have today, neither man knew of the other's impending death. In his superb new history, "Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson", Gordon Wood takes a detailed look at the lives and how each man's strengths and weaknesses influenced our new country.

    John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were, in many ways, polar opposites in both personality and upbringing. One was a slave-owning Southerner and the other was a Northerner, who deplored the idea of one man owning another. One had a charming, if somewhat melancholy demeanor where the other was a no-nonsense kind of man. But both were brilliant and were devoted to the cause of American independence from Great Britain. And after independence, the two were involved in setting up our governing system. Gordon Wood takes a penetrating look at both men and the times they lived in, He's a smooth writer and the book is excellent.

  • Heather

    This was really an interesting book, fascinating really!

    It's an easy-ish read for history and very helpful in understanding the time and legacy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two very key players in the American Revolution and the history of the United States after that. They were friends most of their life, although there was a period of eleven years (just after Jefferson beat Adams in the election of 1800) where they did not talk at all. They finally reconciled their differences before t

    This was really an interesting book, fascinating really!

    It's an easy-ish read for history and very helpful in understanding the time and legacy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two very key players in the American Revolution and the history of the United States after that. They were friends most of their life, although there was a period of eleven years (just after Jefferson beat Adams in the election of 1800) where they did not talk at all. They finally reconciled their differences before they died on the same historic day (July 4, 1826).

    They worked on the same small committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. They both went on to be President of the United States (the second and third), but Thomas Jefferson is more remembered and honored and this book helps to explain why. They had very different personalities and beliefs and that seem to have made all the difference. Jefferson was more optimistic, polite, and trusting. He looked to the future with hope.

    The author seems to favor Jefferson. They were different, but I tend to think both were needed to fill an important role. It's remarkable to see what they and their fellow patriots accomplished and I'm grateful.

    Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • Vincent Li

    When I saw this book I groaned, because I realized I would need to add it to the list of Gordon Wood books I wanted to read, when I thought I was making good progress on that list. This book only confirms my admiration for this great historian. Wood is a great writer and a superb historian who manages to open up new perspectives on topics that seem to be exhausted.

    This book is essentially a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams, organized more around themes and roughly in chronological order. I

    When I saw this book I groaned, because I realized I would need to add it to the list of Gordon Wood books I wanted to read, when I thought I was making good progress on that list. This book only confirms my admiration for this great historian. Wood is a great writer and a superb historian who manages to open up new perspectives on topics that seem to be exhausted.

    This book is essentially a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams, organized more around themes and roughly in chronological order. I'm impressed by the narrative coherence despite the occasional event out of chronological order. However, the downside is that some parts get a bit repetitive, since the same event (and sometimes quote) shows up in multiple places in the book.

    Wood is an intellectual historian who writes about the ideas and methods of thinking of Jefferson and Adams. While many of the main points can probably be extracted from Wood's essays on the two in Revolutionary Characters, I still recommend the book as adding enough value to be worth reading in its own right. In particular, I was surprised to learn that Adams's defense of the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre was initiated by his cousin Sam Adams (the "famous Adams") and other sons of liberty who wanted to demonstrate the rule of law in the colonies. Wood notes Adams's law practice actually improved after the trial, though notes that the political climate may still have made the defense a risky move for Adams personally. I found Wood's treatment of the causes of the revolution interesting. Wood calls it an imperial crisis, and roots it in the colonial rejection of the British political conception of parliamentary sovereignty. The colonies argued that parliament had no power to tax the colonies but did have the power to regulate trade. In response, the British government thought shifting domestic taxes to import/export taxes would alleviate the political crisis. The colonials responded that taxes with the intent to raise revenue were illegitimate, while taxes with the intent to regulate trade but with incidental effect of revenue generation was acceptable.

    I won't repeat the points that I learned from Revolutionary Characters, but this book gives one extra reason why Adams and Jefferson had different conceptions of aristocracy in the United States. Jefferson was born into a wealthy plantation family and never worried about his position in society, while Adams was born middling in a relatively equal New England and constantly worried about his position in society. This lead Adams to be much more certain that an aristocracy would arise in America and be destabilizing since people of different orders would compete for dominance. Wood postulates that Jefferson is remembered but Adams is not, since Jefferson was an eternal optimist who thought America had a special role in Revolutionary History (with capital H), while Adams thought Americans were just as greedy and corrupt as any other society in history. I appreciated the contrasts between the cool politically savvy Jefferson and the honest and intemperate Adams. Wood does an interesting job of contrasting their views on religion, art, and marriage. Adams, a descendant of Puritans saw America as a continuation of the protestant reformation and the wider cause of liberty, while Jefferson did not think highly of organized religion and only referenced history to call back to an idealized Anglo-Saxon farming society to prop up his ideal agrian republic. Jefferson was obsessed with bring good taste to America, priding himself on his taste and collections of art but showing little personal enjoyment of art, while Adams obsessed over the sensational effect of art on its viewers. Adams has a more attractive view of marriage to modern eyes, he was a faithful husband who saw Abigail as an equal intellectual partner (though Wood notes that the famous quote, "think of the ladies" was not an actual call for political equality, but a saucy tease by Abigail who had 18th century conceptions that women are masters of the home and were entitled to their opinions), while Jefferson tried to seduce his friend's wife in his youth, had a highly patarichical view of marriage and of course kept slaves as concubines. On the whole, Wood paints Adams as the more sympathetic character, who kept a diary detailing his various anxieties, complaints and fears. Adams was worried about leaving a legacy and hopelessly self-pitying, though he was aware of these faults which makes him more likeable. Adams was also hopelessly vain, but again his self-awareness softens anyone reading about him. The biggest difference was Adams's belief that a strong monarch/executive was required to balance the aristocracy (embodied in the Senate) and the popular (the House), while Jefferson disdain any monarchical power as inevitably leading to despotism and major social ills. This is pretty well explored in the essays in Revolutionary Characters.

    To my knowledge, Wood has shifted from writing abstract intellectual history to more biographical works. I suspect that it is slightly easier to sell books this way, but I am glad. The conventional biography needs the shot in the arm that Wood provides and I highly recommend this book.

  • Jean Poulos

    This is a double biography that recounts the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It also recounts the creation of the republic. This is primarily a book about ideas as represented by two of the founding fathers. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author has a variety of topics and goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Adams and Jefferson. I learned a lot about both men as well as a good review of the founding of this country.

    These two men, more so than other presidents, could be ca

    This is a double biography that recounts the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It also recounts the creation of the republic. This is primarily a book about ideas as represented by two of the founding fathers. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author has a variety of topics and goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Adams and Jefferson. I learned a lot about both men as well as a good review of the founding of this country.

    These two men, more so than other presidents, could be called philosophical statesman. There is a theme about the New Englander who never owned a slave and the Virginian who own many slaves. I found it interesting that both men read widely and collected libraries of classical and modern thinkers. These two men were quite different but found common ground in books and inquiring minds. Woods states that over the past two centuries Jefferson has become more popular and Adams has almost disappeared. I have to declare a bias on my part of being fascinated by John and Abigail Adams.

    The book is well-written and meticulously researched. Wood finds relevance in one of their most arcane interest in political theory. Gordon S. Wood is a history professor at Brown University. He does a great job demonstrating the improbable friendship, estrangement and reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson. Woods states that Jefferson told Americans what they wanted to hear. Adams told them the truth and what they needed to know, which the Americans did not want to hear.

    I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is fairly long at about eighteen hours. James Lurie does a great job narrating the book. Lurie is an actor and voice-over artist as well as an audiobook narrator.

  • Robert Melnyk

    This book details the relationship, both personal and political, between two or our most famous founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These two men came from different backgrounds and differing political views, but were close friends during the early days of the American Revolution. However, their differences led to a bitter rivalry and the end of their friendship, epitomized by the election of 1800, perhaps the most nasty and divisive presidential election in the history of our nat

    This book details the relationship, both personal and political, between two or our most famous founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These two men came from different backgrounds and differing political views, but were close friends during the early days of the American Revolution. However, their differences led to a bitter rivalry and the end of their friendship, epitomized by the election of 1800, perhaps the most nasty and divisive presidential election in the history of our nation (and that includes the election of 2016 :-) ). Fortunately, after years of not speaking, they were able to reconcile and ended up corresponding with each other through letters during the final years of their lives. I still find it eerie that they both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day from the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The book also gives an opinion as to why Jefferson is honored in Washington D.C. with a memorial while Adams is not. Very interesting.

  • David Eppenstein

    I have a reverential devotion to the history of our founding and to the people involved in that undertaking. The more I read and learn about that era and about those engaged in that endeavor the more I am struck by their humanness and thus am further impressed with how difficult and dangerous our founding really was. While it is easy to revere Washington I have found the characters of Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton to be more interesting and identifiable as real people with real virtues and real

    I have a reverential devotion to the history of our founding and to the people involved in that undertaking. The more I read and learn about that era and about those engaged in that endeavor the more I am struck by their humanness and thus am further impressed with how difficult and dangerous our founding really was. While it is easy to revere Washington I have found the characters of Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton to be more interesting and identifiable as real people with real virtues and real flaws. When I found this book by Gordon Wood there was no question of my purchase. Now that I have finished reading it however I admit that the task was not an easy one.

    Much can be said both positive and negative about both Adams and Jefferson but one thing you cannot say is that these men were boring. So why was it that I was more than tempted a few times to quit this book because of how tedious it was? Once again we have an eminent scholar of American history writing for the benefit of his colleagues and not for those that truly need his wisdom, the reading public. Inspite of my growing disappointment I persisted in reading the book to the end because quitting a book ranks as near sacrilege to me. I can happily report that my persistence was rewarded as the author redeemed himself but I can't say this redemption is enough for me to be able to recommend this book to anybody that isn't a true devotee of the American Revolution.

    The first quarter of the book starts a bit slow but then the author's approach becomes apparent and understandable. Wood is going to compare these two American icons and examine their agreements and disagreements. To do this the author gives us a study of those factors that affected the development of the personalities of Adams and Jefferson. The author details their family history, the nature of the communities and society in which they were raised, their friends and education, their employment, their romances and subsequent marriages, and their ambitions. I found this to be quite interesting and more informative than any prior history I have read about these two men. Then things started to really bog down because now the author decided to detail the origins of the political beliefs of these two men. When the author started to discussion the political ideology, philosophy, and theories of government of Adams and Jefferson it wasn't enough to simply tell the reader what each believed. No, the author had to give the origins of their thoughts by discussing the books they read on these subjects and then discuss the authors of those books and the origins of their thought. It is writing like this that gives studying history a bad reputation. I had to fight to stay awake on several occasions. The author obviously is very learned in this area but he didn't have to display the entire extent of his knowledge and more than a little restraint was definitely needed. This discussion spans the second quarter or third of the book and then it mercifully ends.

    The book's redemption arrives in the last half when more recognizable territory appears starting with Adams' assumption of the presidency. This portion of the book contained a great deal of information that I have not previously encountered. The author relies heavily and quotes liberally from the correspondence of both men during this period of their lives. After their friendship was restored in the early 19th century they engaged in an extensive correspondence that the author uses to clearly highlight how these two giants of our history felt about a great number of issues of then current importance and about past events. This correspondence was as Adams stated their attempt to understand each other before they died. In all the reading I have done in which Adams and Jefferson are featured none has illustrated as clearly as this book how these two men thought and why. While this is true I only give the book a satisfactory rating of three stars because of the quagmire of the middle quarter of the book. With a bit of editing this could have been a much more readable, informative, and enjoyable book.

  • Polly

    Wood sees the world through the point of view of his two great men. That's good most of the time, but it renders him tone deaf at others. His comment in the first few pages that being a gentleman or commoner was more important in the 18th century than being slave or free haunted me for the remainder of the book. I cannot imagine that a woman held in slavery, raped by her master and then forced to watch her children sold away from her, would agree.

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