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The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams Paperback – September 30, 1988
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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"A major treasure of national literature.
C. Vann Woodward, "Key Reporter""
[This] is a correspondence that covers all topics; . . that reveals both of these statesmen and philosophers at their most felicitous.
Henry Steele Commager
"The publication, in full and integrated form, of the remarkable correspondence between these two eminent men is a notable event.
New York Times Book Review""
A major treasure of national literature.
C. Vann Woodward, "Key Reporter"
ÝThis¨ is a correspondence that covers all topics; . . that reveals both of these statesmen and philosophers at their most felicitous.
Henry Steele Commager
The publication, in full and integrated form, of the remarkable correspondence between these two eminent men is a notable event.
New York Times Book Review"
American history offers no parallel to the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, spanning the first half century of the Republic. . . . The publication, in full and integrated form, of the remarkable correspondence between these two eminent men is a notable event.--Dumas Malone, New York Times Book Review
A major treasure of national literature.--C. Vann Woodward, Key Reporter
[This] is a correspondence that covers all topics; that embraces most of two lifetimes; that never fails of learning, wit, grace, and charm; and that reveals both of these statesmen and philosophers at their most felicitous.--Henry Steele Commager
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Adams and Jefferson were ambassadors to Britain and France, respectively, in the 1780s, and their correspondence during those years dealt with issues involved in helping their new country get its footing in the world--they discussed treaties, trade and commerce, national credit, threats of war, and the proper size and strength of our military. Letters during this time touch on differences between the characters of England and France and between those of England and America. Some of the letters exchanged during their diplomatic posts were even written in code.
After the two returned to the United States, there was a hiatus in the correspondence since the two were working in government and could talk to each other face-to-face. After the epic election of 1800 in which Jefferson unseated Adams, the friendship cooled for many years. Abigail Adams made an effort at reconciliation in 1804, but the letters exchanged in that year reveal partisan strife that was still too strong in that moment, and the wounds from 1800 had not yet healed.
Adams had been out of office for eleven years and Jefferson for three in early 1812 when the two finally reconciled. They then focused on larger philosophical issues--the long list of topics broached in their later years included science, religion, the improvements of the eighteenth century, philosophy, marriage, aristocracy, education, the future of America, banks, books, free speech and thought, the afterlife, language, dealing with slander, and even whether life was worthwhile. The two did not totally neglect politics in their retirement correspondence, though, reflecting back on the Revolution and other political issues, including political science, and noting that they were two of the last of the Revolutionary generation to survive. In their very last years, they frequently discussed aging, life in retirement, and health issues.
When reading these letters, the ways in which life was different then are brought home, including slow travel and communication and customs no longer observed. However, the letters also show the commonalities about life in any century, including big historical happenings, and it is fascinating to read Jefferson and Adams react to Shays' Rebellion, the Constitutional Convention, the War of 1812, the Napoleonic Wars, the Panic of 1819, and the election of John Quincy Adams to the presidency as those events happened. Readers will find that sayings such as "irons in the fire," "in the dumps," and "the cat is out of the bag" were already in use two centuries ago.
These letters show that Jefferson and Adams had differences in personality and temperament, but both were supremely consequential statesmen and political philosophers, and the country is fortunate that this correspondence was preserved for future generations of Americans to read. This volume has a good preface and introduction, and history buffs who tackle this long correspondence will likely be glad that they did so.
As foreign ambassadors for the Washington administration they prodded Europe looking to fund the debt caused by the Revolutionary War. The novice Jefferson often yielded to his mentor Adams. There was great respect and personal affection between them.
Then a long silence following the election of 1800 (where Jefferson defeated Adams). Their correspondence resumed because of Abigail Adams. The letters between Abigail and Jefferson in 1812 are a national treasure, a must read.
The social customs of the 18th century are brought to life. They also exchanged information on their various personal interests and some curious musings. Several letters made assumptions about the ancestry of Native Americans. What did they think of Benjamin Franklin? Who fancied fine wine?
Because Adams served as President between Washington and Jefferson, he was “forgotten”… at least by me. I have a much higher opinion of Mr. Adams (and Mrs. Adams) after reading these letters. I also now see Thomas Jefferson in other ways, beyond a great thinker.
The letters these two men exchanged may have been among the most personal ones they wrote short of the ones to their loved ones. Both men were among the leading intellectuals of America in their times. They covered many topics which are of interest to scholars as they have a chance to cover a wide range written both before and after their period of estrangement. For a long eleven year span from 1801 to 1812 the two exchanged no correspondence. A brief exchange between Abigail Adams, John's wife, and Jefferson in 1804 ended as Abigail felt miffed at Jefferson's replies to her letters. John added a short note that he had been unaware of the exchange until the last minute when Abigail showed him the last letter she was writing to Jefferson. The pens fell silent between them once again.
However, Dr. Rush felt that the two men needed to renew their old friendship and he worked diligently to restore it. Both men noted Rush in their letters on this endeavor. The correspondence between these two men who are endlessly linked to one another in American history in the last 14 years of their lives is remarkable. It is also probably unparalleled in that every letter was preserved and collected into the one volume edited by Lester J. Cappon. This volume also contains the correspondence between both men and Abigail Adams which serves to expand the overall exchange. Cappon's commentary breaks the letters into manageable chapters. They are printed in the exact order they were written in which gives an outstanding continuity to the project.
Originally published in two volumes, this complete and unabridged edition contains every letter by the three plus Cappon's commentary, his footnotes, and bibliography. The footnotes add to the depth of the volume and provide points of reference for various events the men described. However, Cappon did not critique the letters in his commentary except to provide clarity and context for the upcoming sequence. He let them do their own talking. Despite the fact that this book was first published in 1959, it is still just as worthwhile to own today as it was then. Not only that, the letters of these men and Abigail have more historical value today than they did when they were written.
Then they were explaining themselves and their views to each other, but both understood that their correspondence would belong to posterity. This was discussed, but there was nothing the two could do about it as long as it was not done during their lifetimes which it was not. Their descendants made a few attempts at publishing some of the letters, but not until Cappon compiled this work were they all collected in one collection. The result is an amazing view into the minds of our second and third presidents who had a major impact upon that shaping of America. The fact that both were political opponents for several years only adds to the luster of these letters.
The one drawback is that while they did discuss many issues from 1812 until their deaths, they didn't go into much depth regarding their politics or the politics of the country during these years. Adams pried, but Jefferson resisted the temptation for the most part. On other subjects such as religion, education, and economics they wrote extensively. In fact, their views on religion can be found in these letters and may be the best statements on the subject either of them made in their lives. While they had some amount of disagreement on the subject, they both agreed that organized religion was a bane for America as a whole. Jefferson, who put together the University of Virginia, asked Adams for advice on more than one occasion which Adams of course was willing to provide.
Adams wrote twice as many letters to Jefferson after 1812 than Jefferson wrote to him, but in their earlier correspondence Jefferson wrote more than Adams did. It should be noted that Jefferson complained about having to write so many letters to so many people, but when he did answer Adams he wrote many long letters. Adams himself was not concerned and replied that each of Jefferson's was worth four of his. Again, the letters themselves are definitely worth reading for their content and to catch a glimpse of how these two men viewed the world around them. That in itself makes this collection a timeless entry in American history.