Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

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...

Title:Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
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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.

  • Kristi Richardson

    This won't be a traditional review but instead what I learned from reading this book that I didn't know before.

    John Adams was accused of being too pro British because he supported a Constitution based on the British rule. He also considered having Senators be a hereditary position like the House of Lords. His thinking on this was because the rich were likely to have all the power if they could be in both houses. Remember a lot of people were illiterate and were dependent on their employers who

    This won't be a traditional review but instead what I learned from reading this book that I didn't know before.

    John Adams was accused of being too pro British because he supported a Constitution based on the British rule. He also considered having Senators be a hereditary position like the House of Lords. His thinking on this was because the rich were likely to have all the power if they could be in both houses. Remember a lot of people were illiterate and were dependent on their employers who could dictate who they could vote for. He was not born into the aristocracy like Jefferson and always was leery of them, although he admired the respect they received and wanted that respect to go to those in office.

    Thomas Jefferson was a patrician, who pretended to not want to be involved in politics but by his back handed dealings really proved that he was capable of petty machinations to get his way. Neither Adams or Jefferson trusted banks during their lives. Jefferson saw America as a farming country that would import everything else and trade with their produce. He hated cities. Jefferson felt that the Constitution should only be valid for 19 years and then should be completely re done. Madison talked him out of that notion when he explained how difficult it was to get this one passed. It may have been an influence on how Amendments could be added. Jefferson was pro French and never could see the French Revolution for what it became, a bloodbath and a tyrant taking power.

    Late in life the two men renewed their friendship thanks to Benjamin Rush. They wrote to each other quite a bit, with Adams needling Jefferson all the time and Jefferson ignoring those posts for things he believed in. They were a couple of policy wonks and they truly loved our country. Their visions of America didn't come true, but much to their dismay Alexander Hamilton's did. He foresaw a nation that became a super Power with countries coming to us to borrow money, to buy goods and for fair trade.

    I have read many biographies of these two gentlemen, but this one really does bring something new to their stories.

    I borrowed this book from my local library and highly recommend it.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • Sean

    Gordon Wood is the preeminent historian on the American Revolutionary War period and the author of "Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815," which is the official installment in the Oxford History of the United States on this historical period. "Empire" is a good read; but it is 800 pages and, at times, dense. If you want to learn about the Revolutionary period and you don't have the time to read "Empire," then "Friends Divided" is a very well-written and enjoyable alterna

    Gordon Wood is the preeminent historian on the American Revolutionary War period and the author of "Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815," which is the official installment in the Oxford History of the United States on this historical period. "Empire" is a good read; but it is 800 pages and, at times, dense. If you want to learn about the Revolutionary period and you don't have the time to read "Empire," then "Friends Divided" is a very well-written and enjoyable alternative.

    The book tells the history of the Revolutionary period from the perspectives of Adams and Jefferson. It includes a number of fascinating anecdotes and chronicles their extensive exchange of letters throughout their lives. Wood does a great job explaining how Adams and Jefferson gradually became estranged from each other, due to significant disagreements about the political trajectory of the U.S; and then he does an excellent job explaining the elaborate efforts undertaken by Dr. Benjamin Rush to encourage the two to correspond again later in life. There is an endearing anecdote, where some friends of Jefferson pay a visit to Adams, and then explain to him how much Jefferson anguished over the question of how to best approach Adams after he defeated him in the Presidential election of 1800. Upon hearing this, Adams reportedly said, "I always loved Jefferson, and still love him." Thereafter, Dr. Rush was able to facilitate a reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson, who then went on to exchange letters that have greatly contributed to the historical record.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire book is when Wood argues that the period of 1798-1799 may have been the most frightening time in U.S. history and perhaps more frightening than the attack on Pearl Harbor. The argument is particularly noteworthy given that Wood is painstakingly balanced in his historical writing and not at all prone to exaggeration; so when he makes this argument, it grabs your attention. "Bad as the situation was in 1941-1942," he writes, "1798-1799 seems scarier because the nation then was so new and so militarily weak and the enemy [France] that threatened to invade was the strongest land power in the world."

    Wood goes on to argue that historians are perhaps too critical of Adams during this period, particularly for the Alien & Sedition Acts. He explains how a French invasion of the U.S. was not far-fetched given how the French army was dominating Europe at the time. Additionally, he explains that the high number of French immigrants living in the U.S. (he says it is estimated that as much as 10% of the population in Philadelphia were French) coupled with the non-stop attacks by Republicans in the press greatly enhanced the fears of President Adams and the Federalists that the U.S. government might be overrun by external or internal forces--or both. He makes a convincing case that historians should better incorporate the fears of Adams and Federalists during this time when assessing how much to criticize them for the Alien & Sedition Acts.

    All told this is a book worth reading.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Jeremy

    Wonderful book that has been most enlightening -- and has served to adjust this reader's assessment, at least, of both Adams and Jefferson. -- The opening chapter, in which the author contrasts the backgrounds and character of his subjects is alone worth the price of admission, as it were: Adams, the son of a farmer/shoemaker, firmly New England middle class, aspired to the upper echelons of society, but always nurtured a sense of not belonging there -- this led to his irascibility, his insecuri

    Wonderful book that has been most enlightening -- and has served to adjust this reader's assessment, at least, of both Adams and Jefferson. -- The opening chapter, in which the author contrasts the backgrounds and character of his subjects is alone worth the price of admission, as it were: Adams, the son of a farmer/shoemaker, firmly New England middle class, aspired to the upper echelons of society, but always nurtured a sense of not belonging there -- this led to his irascibility, his insecurity as to his status and contributions to the American colonial cause, and his jealousy of others (Franklin/Washington/even Jefferson) -- but this was always leavened with an appealing streak of self-mockery. Jefferson, on the other hand, was born into Virginia planter society and, as a result, had a self-confidence and comfort within his own skin that forever eluded his elder comrade-in-arms. -- The bulk of the book bounces back in forth as the two men marry, raise families, find themselves involved in the Colonies' battles with England, and help to lead the new country forward. Wood is very good at underlining the reasons for Adams's and Jefferson's bitter estrangement. It is when he writes of their eventual reconciliation that he shines, however -- showing how Jefferson's natural good manners and desire to avoid conflict papered over provocations from the pen of Adams, how Jefferson gradually found himself alienated from the society the young United States was becoming (ironically, a society he had helped to form), and how Adams's lifelong pessimism actually helped him to accommodate himself to the changes in that same society. Wood concludes that Jefferson the visionary and optimist (however wrong he may have been about the outcome of the forces he helped set in motion), not Adams the somewhat cantankerous realist, is the one that our country values the more highly, even today. -- The book is an admirable exercise in historical writing -- demonstrating a mastery of original materials and thoroughly well-documented. Bravo!

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