Monday, July 24, 2023

John Adams................

      The dominant political narrative of colonial American elites was the story of how the Roman orator Cicero put down the Catiline conspiracy to take over Rome.  John Adams aspired to be the Cicero of his time—that is, the key political figure in late eighteenth-century America.

      He would come very close to achieving that vaulting ambition, which is surprising, because he was in many ways the odd man out among the first four presidents.  He was the only one who spent time as a schoolteacher, working for wages.  The other three were emotionally reserved, while he wore his feelings on his sleeve and tended to wallow in them all his life.  They were Virginians, while he was a son of Massachusetts, a colony founded by Puritans in 1628.  He was also the only one of the four never to own an enslaved human being.

     Most significant of all, Adams also was the first of the four men to move towards revolt.  He was entertaining radical notions while still an adolescent—and while George Washington was striving to achieve rank and standing in the structure of the British empire.  Indeed, long before the adolescent Adams crossed the Charles River to Harvard, he was full of thoughts about how to better resist British authority.  It helped that he was both bright and naturally irascible.  He had been questioning authority for years.  More than most men, he was born to do so.

-Thomas E. Ricks, First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country

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