CRF Blog

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Beg to Differ

by Bill Hayes

In John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Beg to Differ for the New York Times Book Review, Richard Brookhiser reviews Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood.

Thomas Jefferson, describing John Adams in a letter, wrote, “He is so amiable, that I pronounce you will love him if you ever become acquainted with him.” The feeling was mutual. “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him,” Adams said when he was an old man. Their friendship lasted (with interruptions) for 51 years, from their meeting in 1775 in the Continental Congress to their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Gordon S. Wood, the Alva O. Way university professor at Brown, who has been writing history as long as Jefferson and Adams knew each other, examines their relationship in “Friends Divided.”

There was ample potential for division in this romance. Jefferson was a Virginia aristocrat whose first election to the colonial legislature at age 26 was an easy trot to home plate from third base. Adams, the son of a farmer/shoemaker, thrust himself into the Massachusetts elite by unremitting application as a lawyer and activist. [more]