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John Adams

Critical decisions by the Chief Justice saved the Supreme Court’s independence—and made possible its wide-ranging role today

Most jurists and constitutional scholars today would probably contend that the most controlling precedent to be set in the early republic was laid down in the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision. While a formidable ruling, it was not, however, the decisive moment—at least not to people at the time. Read more >>

A thoughtful discussion of the men who contributed the most to what is now the dominant political pattern

The swing to conservatism in American politics and culture is one of the most remarkable facts of our age. The signs of this conservatism are all about us. Read more >>

The 70-year-old statesman lived the high life in Paris and pulled off a diplomatic miracle

When John Adams was elected President, and Thomas Jefferson Vice President, each came to see the other as a traitor. Out of their enmity grew our modern political system.

The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE is not what Thomas Jefferson thought it was when he wrote it—and that is why we celebrate it

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson stood together in America’s perilous dawn, but politics soon drove them apart. Then in their last years the two old enemies began a remarkable correspondence that is both testimony to the power of friendship and an eloquent summary of the dialogue that went on within the Revolutionary generation—and that continues within our own.

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They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Read more >>

A fond, canny, and surprising tour of the town where the Constitution was born

Two hundred years ago Philadelphia was the natural place for the constitution-makers. There was nothing unexpected about that. Philadelphia had one hundred years behind her that were as respectable as they were impressive. Read more >>

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Read more >>

The early years of our republic produced dozens of great leaders. A historian explains how men like Adams and Jefferson were selected for public office, and tells why the machinery that raised them became obsolete.

THERE IS NO clear consensus on what constitutes greatness, nor are there any objective criteria for measuring it—but when we look at holders of high public offices and at the current field of candidates, we know it is missing. Read more >>

An Interview With Edward L. Beach
The captain who first took a submarine around the world underwater looks at the U.S. Navy past and present and tells us what we must learn from the Falklands war

Naval power … is the natural defense of the United States,” said John Adams, who more than any other man deserves to be called the father of the American Navy. Read more >>

What really happened when Thomas Jefferson met George III

On March 17,1786, Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, met his former sovereign. The occasion was George Ill’s levee, and it produced one of the most durable chestnuts in American history. Read more >>

Americans first learned to read to save their souls, then to govern themselves. Now the need is not so clear.

In 1765 John Adams wrote that “A native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare as a comet or an earthquake.” He went on to say that “all candid foreigners who have p Read more >>

A Chapter From Our Past

John Adams was certain the second of July would be celebrated “by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” Writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, the day after the Continental Congress had voted momentously for independence from Great Britain, Adams sai Read more >>

The Unknown Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton’s contribution to welding the thirteen semi-independent states which had won the Revolution into a unified political entity was greater than that of any other Founding Father, with the possible exception of Washington. But this tells only half the story. Read more >>

WHERE DID IT GO?

As we commemorate the anniversary of the founding of our nation we are conscious of a paradox: we have almost miraculously maintained the continuity of those institutions which the Founding Fathers created, but in large measure we have betrayed the principles Read more >>

Vain, snobbish, distinctly upper-class in his libertine social habits, Gouverneur Morris nevertheless saw himself justifiably as "A Representative of America"

Of all the remarkable men who forgathered in Philadelphia in the spring of 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation, and perhaps to do even more, Gouverneur Morris was certainly the most talkative. Read more >>

“I … sigh in the midst of cheerful company”

It is difficult not to think of Benjamin Franklin in a purely American setting. Read more >>
When one of the wealthiest men in the Colonies sided with the Patriot cause, he was called a “wretched and plundered tool of the Boston rebels.”
Like Abou Ben Adhem, his name led all the rest. Read more >>
William Maclay, elected by the Pennsylvania Legislature to the Senate of the United States, left his farm near Harrisburg early in March, 1789, and journeyed to New York to attend the first session of the First Congress. Read more >>

BETWEEN KING AND COUNTRY

The Most Uncommon Pamphlet of the Revolution

In late February, 1775, three men in what they thought was Yankee farmers’ dress, “brown cloaths and reddish handkerchiefs round our necks,” boarded the ferry at the foot of Prince Street in Boston, bound for Charlestown, a half mile across the Charles River. Read more >>

A shy Yankee named Hannah Adams never thought of herself as liberated, but she was our first professional female writer.

If they should care to, the leaders of Women’s Liberation may add Miss Hannah Adams, born in 1755, to their roster of distinguished women. She was probably the first native American woman to earn a living as a professional writer. Read more >>

OR DON’T PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW WHAT YOU CAN RAM THROUGH TODAY

Dr. Benjamin Rush believed the hand of God must have been involved in the noble work. Read more >>

Mortally ill as his century dwindled to its close, Washington was helped to his grave by physicians who clung to typical eighteenth-century remedies. But he died as nobly as he had lived

The American system of choosing a President has not worked out badly, far as it may be from the Founding Fathers’ vision of a natural aristocracy

When Pancho Villa sacked an American town, Pershing was ordered to find him and bring him to book. But the orders failed to say where — or how

Long before Lexington, James Otis’ fight for civil liberties gave heart to the rebel cause. But why did he behave so strangely as the Revolution neared? Which side was he on?