First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph Ellis


Audiobook.  Joseph Ellis drew heavily on the letters between John and Abigail to write about these two, so we know less about their views during the times they were together as no record exists.  Happily for us, they were separated for years as John was off becoming or being a statesman.  And when they were together, their letters to others do provide insights.

It was delightful to meander through the Continental Congress with John as Abigail and the children are in the midst of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, see John struggling with Benjamin Franklin in Paris, hear about Abigail and John's connection with Thomas Jefferson in their chateau at Auteuil, discover the duplicity of Jefferson and the treasonous plans of Hamilton, and learn about Adams' shortcomings as a president. 

The connection between Abigail, John, and Jefferson takes a long and tortuous path.  At the outset, John as a senior member of the Continental Congress assigns what he views as a lesser task to a junior member; he asks Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.  When they were both in Europe, Jefferson worked closely with and learned from Adams, who had been there for some years.  Jefferson became close to Abigail at that time.  When Adams was elected president and Jefferson vice president, Adams asked him to be a full partner in the undertaking.  Politics and ambition intervened, and they were bitter enemies.  After both had retired, they had a warm friendship through letters.  And of course they both died on July 4, John consoling himself with the thought that Jefferson still lived, which was sadly wrong.


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