Review by Choice Review
Between 1778 and 1788, John Adams worked as a diplomat in Europe. He passed five of those years without his wife Abigail, who eventually joined him in 1784. During that decade, as Abrams (Univ. of Denver) recounts, the Adamses engaged with many of Europe's ruling families at a tempestuous time for the new American Republic. This study analyzes how Americans shaped their identity as a nation through the lives and work of the Adamses during this period. Though far from a natural diplomat, the brilliant John Adams worked assiduously to represent American interests in the rarefied European courts. Other books have chronicled the close relationship between John and Abigail, but Abrams adds to the story by exploring Abigail's contributions to this "politically minded family." She notes that both husband and wife admiringly recognized the cultural and intellectual heritage of Europe, even as they considered how to adapt those traditions to an American context. Both saw peril and promise in the American experiment and sought to solidify the nation's place in the transatlantic world. This is an absorbing account of the Adamses in the decade after American independence. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and faculty. --Christopher Childers, Pittsburg State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A fine history of John Adams' years in Europe from 1778 to 1788 (Abigail joined him in 1784). There is no shortage of lives of John, one of the deepest thinkers and worst politicians among the Founding Fathers, and plenty of popular accounts of the couple. Abrams, a professor at the University Libraries and Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver, makes a mildly original choice by breaking off a decade of their lives during which John worked as a diplomat, a position for which he was ill-suited. Meanwhile, Abigail cared for the family and finances in Massachusetts, suffered his absence intensely for six years, and finally joined him. "Because she felt that her husband was essential to the success of the American cause," writes the author, "she relented and supported John's diplo-matic role." In an era when almost everyone wrote letters, she and John exchanged more than 1,000, and her steady stream of missives to her family paints a vivid and disapproving picture of Europe's royalty and nobility, wonder at its rich culture, defense of John's actions, and perpetual yearning to return to America and the "purity in the Government and manners to which Europe has been long a stranger." Abrams delivers entertaining history emphasizing John's fierce endeavor to obtain French support for the Revolutionary War (too fierce: French leaders preferred the amiable Benjamin Franklin). In 1785, John became the first American ambassador to Great Britain, where his major effort--to obtain a reasonable commercial treaty--failed. Arguably his greatest achievement was obtaining repeated loans from Holland, which enabled the Congress of the Confederation, which had no power to levy taxes, to limp through the 1780s. Abrams reminds readers that during this time, John wrote A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, which proposed a balanced government with separation of powers, a bicameral legislature, and a strong executive: the system established by our Constitution. Insightful and satisfying history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.