Review: ‘John Adams’ holds his works

Second president was a prolific writer of essays, letters and diaries



"John Adams: Revolutionary Writings"

By John Adams, edited by Gordon Wood; Library of America.

“John Adams: Revolutionary Writings”

By John Adams, edited by Gordon Wood; Library of America.

When we celebrate the Fourth of July tomorrow, I’m sure that most of us will not be thinking about John Adams, the second President of the United States. Yet I think it’s worth remembering that he was a major force in the founding of this country, working alongside the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to develop, encourage and defend our move toward independence from Great Britain.

Because he was such a prolific writer, we know much about John Adams the man. Thanks to an amazing biography written by David McCullough in 2001, and a more recent award-winning HBO miniseries (copies of both available at the library), his life is more accessible to us than ever before. I find it especially interesting that John’s wife, Abigail, was not just his spouse and the mother of his children; she played an active role in John’s political and diplomatic doings, and truly was his “dearest friend,” as he often addressed her in letters. They were married 54 years, experiencing together all of the trials and triumphs of a new country finding its’ way in the world.

Now that I know more about John Adams as a person, I find that I want a more complete understanding of his writing, and this can be done by checking out the Library of America’s two volume set of Adams’ revolutionary writings. In addition to letters, essays, reports, and entries from his personal diary, the volumes contain chronologies, essays on the texts, and explanatory notes. History is fascinating stuff. Without extraordinary men like John Adams, we might not have an Independence Day to celebrate. Now that’s food for thought.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at