From Publishers Weekly
America's founding fathers have long been revered or reviled for their praise or rejection of religion. Along with Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams probed most deeply into their own religious psyches and the cultural role of religion. Braden, a postal carrier and independent scholar, collects a portion of the pair's letters dealing with matters of morality and religion. The letters range over the usual questions for which these men have already become known: the human/divine nature of Jesus, the afterlife, moral philosophy, the place of religion in the state. The collection lacks a critical apparatus, however, and Braden provides no rationale for his choices or method of selection. Although he does provide footnotes for the letters, the notes offer nothing more than brief identifications of writers or others mentioned in the correspondence. Braden arranges the letters chronologically from 1787 to 1826 (when both men famously died on July 4), but the correspondence lacks any direction or structure. Moreover, the collection contains twice as many of Adams's letters to Jefferson as those Jefferson wrote to Adams, although Adams's epistles lack the sparkling erudition of his cohort's writings. (Nov.)
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"If you're interested in knowing at firsthand what John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, those two wonderful letter-writers, thought about philosophy, ethics, and religion (particularly Christianity), Bruce Braden's carefully edited collection of their correspondence during the early years of the American republic is indispensable. The two men stimulated each other by their exchanges, and this compilation will stimulate you too."
Paul F. Boller Jr.
Emeritus Professor of History
Texas Christian University
"Braden renders a significant service in making available the stimulating, provocative, elegant correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the subjects of religion and morality. We are in his debt."
Edwin S. Gaustad
Author of Sworn on the Altar of God:
A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson
"What a pleasure and benefit it is to have these splendid letters again in print! Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are national treasures, especially in these elegant, interesting, and profound exchanges about religion, philosophy, and morals. The warmth and trust of their friendship as revealed in these letters makes them especially rich and rewarding to read. That the writers were signers of the Declaration of Independence and then the second and third presidents of the United States makes the exchanges especially significant for all Americans."
Ralph Ketchum, Professor Emeritus
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University