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Impact of Thomas Jefferson on John Adams based on David McCullough's bioigraphy - Essay Example

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Impact of Thomas Jefferson on John Adams based on David McCullough's bioigraphy

Both men reveal an ongoing influence upon the other. In the later years, the author hints of a vilification of Jefferson to Adams in the mind of the popular press, yet the text itself implies otherwise, describing situations with a latent sympathy to the old comrades. Specifically, this paper will examine several key comparisons of the text which impart a moral description of Adams through ertain excesses of Jefferson.
Jefferson is first introduced at the gathering of the Second Continental Congress, an opportunity the author uses to make a physical comparison with Adams, for where Adams was "stout, Jefferson was lean Where Adams was bald, Jefferson had a full head of thick coppery hair" (111). McCullough lists a number of other comparisons, of which the two most important ones were Adams hailing from Massachusetts while Jefferson came from a financially well-off Virginian aristocracy, thus, while both were extremely practiced in law, "Jefferson had never relished the practice of law as Adams had, nor felt the financial need to keep at it." (114). Jefferson is portrayed as speaking very little at this Congress, being deferential to Adams in almost all matters, although the gentlemen in general held a mutual respect and admiration for the other. Jefferson's assignment to write the Declaration of Independence is addressed by both men many years later. Jefferson recalls that he was asked and agreed, Adams claims that Jefferson tried to pass the work onto him (Adams), but that Adams refused for three reasons: 1) because that a Virginian representative should be involved in the forefront of the endeavor, 2) Adams saw himself as obnoxious and unpopular (a self-deprecation otherwise non-existent) and Jefferson the opposite, and 3) that Jefferson was the better writer. Despite Adams and the rest of the drafting committee, making minor changes, Adams promoting the skill of Jefferson's writing has proven to be a boon to successive American generations.
When Jefferson was chosen as an ambassador to France in 1782 and sent to join Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who were already posted in Paris, Adams lauds the selection, claiming no one else compares to Jefferson character "in point of power or virtues." (318). This warmth is wholly absent from an earlier letter Jefferson had sent to James Madison, saying Adams's "vanity is a lineament in his character (and) his want of taste I had observed" (318). Despite some waffling, however, Jefferson does admit to Adams's integrity and usefulness in the position. To be fair, Jefferson was just leaving an unwelcome stint as governor of Virginia, a tenure culminating in his narrow escape from British invasion. Perhaps his vehemence in describing Adams is therefore related to an attempt to inflate his own worthiness, a latent desperation to receive the posting himself. For upon his arrival in Paris, Jefferson resumed very close relations with the entire Adams family. McCullough does point out a distinct difference in lifestyle here, for Jefferson, rather than assuming the modest lifestyle of the Adamses and living on the outskirts of the city, instead takes an apartment in the heart of the city and goes on wild shopping sprees. He lives in such a constant state of ...Show more


David McCullough uses his portrayal of Thomas Jefferson in the biography John Adams almost as a Shakespearean foil to his main subject, and with just cause. There are many similarities between the two gentlemen, both of whom were instrumental in the United States formative years, through their drafting of its documental foundation, in its recognition by foreign powers, and then through their guidance as respective presidents…
Author : elmiralueilwitz
Impact of Thomas Jefferson on John Adams based on David McCulloughs bioigraphy
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