First Family: Abigail and John Adams
Joseph J. Ellis
In this rich and engrossing account, John and Abigail Adams come to life against the backdrop of the Republic’s tenuous early years.
Drawing on over 1,200 letters exchanged between the couple, Ellis tells a story both personal and panoramic. We learn about the many years Abigail and John spent apart as John’s political career sent him first to Philadelphia, then to Paris and Amsterdam; their relationship with their children; and Abigail’s role as John’s closest and most valued advisor. Exquisitely researched and beautifully written, First Family is both a revealing portrait of a marriage and a unique study of America’s early years.
him, ‘how fare you, Jack?’ ”50 His more revealing, and more honest, explanation came a few years later: I do not believe that Mr. Jefferson ever hated me. On the contrary, I believe that he always liked me, but he detested Hamilton and my whole administration. Then, he wished to be President of the United States, and I stood in his way. So he did everything he could to pull me down. But if I should quarrel with him for that, I might quarrel with every man I have had anything to do with in my
corruption and condescension even though he was a native New Englander who had written the authoritative history of Massachusetts. “Mr. Hutchinson never drank a cup of tea in his life,” John observed much later, “without Contemplating the Connection between that Tea, and his Promotion.” When a visitor once asked him what he thought of Hutchinson, John was even more hostile: “I told him I once thought that his Death in a natural Way would have been a Smile of Providence … and the most joyful News
each minister representing a different region of the country—Adams for New England, Franklin for Pennsylvania, John Jay for New York, Thomas Jefferson for Virginia, and Henry Laurens for the Deep South. This meant that, despite the best efforts by Vergennes and Franklin to have him recalled, efforts that included bribing several members of the Continental Congress, John would remain in Europe. It also meant that he was not coming home anytime soon, an outcome that Abigail found difficult to
day—the standard question he had just asked all guests. “I could have told him,” Abigail wrote her sister, “that I had been all the morning preparing for him.” The chief advantage of overcrowded court ceremonies that featured the king, she observed, “is that you may go away when you please without disturbing anybody.”36 London struck Abigail as less visually impressive than Paris, but more livable. (It helped that everyone spoke English.) Their quarters at Grosvenor Square were less palatial
Period as can well be expected, he is not found at the head of the Diplomatic Corps.” Like so many of Washington’s judgments, this proved prescient.47 With John Quincy now launched as an erstwhile American statesman—his brother Thomas was appointed as his secretary, so both of John’s boys would be treading the same paths in The Hague that he had walked a decade earlier—John acknowledged that the torch had been passed to the next generation. John Quincy’s official correspondence from his