Yearning for dignity and honor; …courage andinspiration; seeking nobility, even altruism; eloquence and fervency in the cause of true freedom, I return to David McCullough’s magisterial biography of John Adams.
“We live, my dear soul, in an age of trial. What will be the consequence, I know not.” John Adams writing to Abigail, 1774
Abigail’s brilliant letters inspired and reinforced her far-away husband, providing all that this plain man of Massachusetts required to champion liberty in The City of Brotherly Love.
“Fame without honor, “ in her view, “would be like a faint meteor, gliding through the sky, shedding only faint light.”
In modern-day New Castle, Delaware, the British flag and the Stars and Stripes fly side-by-side. In Philadelphia, in 1770’s, the Union Jack represented the enemy. Hessians were marching and British men-of-war sailing, intending to surround and conquer New York.
Newtown, Pennsylvania, Re-enactors bring back the spirit of 1776
But in The City of Brotherly Love, subjects were transforming themselves into citizens.
The men who would accomplish were not heroes because of its outcome. They brought heroism with them.
Listen to David McCullough: “John Adams was, as many could attest, a great-hearted, persevering man of uncommon ability and force. He had a brilliant mind. He was honest and everyone knew it. Emphatically independent by nature, hard-working, frugal — he was anything but cold or laconic.” [As auslanders perceived men of New England.]
John Adams Birthplace – Quincy, Massachusetts
John Adams was a second cousin of the ardent Boston patriot, Samuel Adams. But the legendary Dr. Benjamin Rush would assert, “John is of another species of character. He sees the whole of a subject at a glance; and is equally fearless of men and of the consequences of bold assertion.”
John would need every aspect of these qualities as he exhorted the representatives of the thirteen original colonies.
“John Adams had recognized at an early age that happiness came not from fame and fortune, but from [in his own words] ‘an habitual contempt of them.'”
“What, in another time and society might have been taken as platitudes about public service, were to both John and Abigail Adams a lifelong creed.”
Thirteen-star flag on winter’s day at Chestnut Neck, New Jersey – Battle lost to the British, and the town never restored
“At Harvard, John, to his surprise, discovered a love of books and study such as he had never known. ‘I read forever,’ he would remember happily… In an age when men took particular pride in the breadth of their reading, he became one of the most voracious readers of any. Having discovered books at Harvard, he was seldom ever to be without one for the rest of his days.”
The ideas and the language John absorbed at Harvard are echoed in his very insistence upon “Independency”, his own speeches and writings, including the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. And his never-failing support of Thomas Jefferson in his fevered authorship of the most important doctrine in our land.
Adams held no illusions about what lay ahead, in July, 1776, Philadelphia: “The object is great which we have in view. And we must expect a great expense of blood to obtain it. But we should always remember that a free constitution of civil government cannot be purchased too dear a price. There is nothing on this side of Jerusalem of equal importance to mankind.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”