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Documentary Review - John and Abigail Adams: American Experience - PBS (2005)

By Edited Sep 18, 2016 0 0

                            

Jojn Adams

                                                                            John Adams                                                                       

This documentary is an unbiased, frank portrayal of the second President of the United States, John Adams. Adams' political career began when he was 38 years old and was chosen to be a member of the Continental Congress from Braintree, Massachusetts.

                                                         

Abigail Adams

                                                                        Abigail Adams

His marriage to his beautiful wife Abigail Adams continues to be celebrated as one of the most significant partnerships in our country's beginnings. The charming Abigail was nine years younger than her ambitious husband and stood in contrast to his lack of handsomeness and sometimes abrasive personality. Nevertheless, they adored each other. Their marriage produced four children, three boys and a girl. Their second son, John Quincy, became the sixth president of the United States, following in the footsteps of his illustrious father John, who served two terms as Vice President under George Washington and one term as the nation's second President.

When the Continental Congress needed someone to draft a Declaration of Independence, John Adams as the leader of that group chose Thomas Jefferson to perform the task of crafting the most memorable document in American history. The two men then began a lifelong friendship which however was fraught with disagreements, jealousies and political differences that brought to the surface the true colors of each of these men.

                             

Thomas Jefferson

                                                                         Thomas Jefferson

The newly formed country needed France as an ally in its dissension with Britain. John Adams was sent to Paris to bring about a treaty between France and the colonies. His son John Quincy accompanied him on the trip. Unfortunately, Benjamin Franklin had preceded Adams to Paris and had already accomplished that task. While Adams languished in Paris, Benjamin Franklin became an important personage there, causing bitterness and jealousy on the part of Adams. He returned to his home after 1 ½ years.

War with Britain was inevitable and the battles dragged on for five years. Adams, whose political fortune was on the rise, was sent to Paris once again to negotiate the peace treaty that would recognize American independence. Abigail agreed to accompany her husband to Paris along with their children. In the 14 years they had been married, they were together only 7 of those years. Their love letters still exist and reveal the love that the couple had for each other. Abigail thrived in Paris and managed to charm John's allies as well as his adversaries.

George Washington was elected to be the first President of the new nation; John Adams who came in second became the Vice President. He then succeeded Washington after the two had served two terms in office. Washington did not want a third term. New York was the temporary capitol of the country while they awaited the construction of the nation's center in Washington. John and Abigail Adams were the first residents of the house that was built for the President in Washington.

When John Adams became President, he was not well liked even by members of his own cabinet. He learned that Thomas Jefferson, his Vice President, had paid a man to smear him. That was the beginning of the trouble between the two men. Adams did not want to go to war against France, his longtime ally, whereas Jefferson wanted the war.

The two men ran against each other for the Presidency. Adams was defeated for a second term as President and was mortified at his defeat to Jefferson. Because communication was slow across the Atlantic, no one knew that a peace treaty with France had been effected which was part of Adams' political platform. He returned to Quincy a broken man.

The integrity of Adams' character was shown when after years of not speaking to Thomas Jefferson, he wrote him a letter stating that they should not come to the end of their lives without a reconciliation. This began a correspondence between the two men for the rest of their lives.

                                  

Writing the Declaration of Independence

                                                  Writing the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson even admitted that he was wrong about going to war with France; it would have cost thousands of lives. The 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence came on July 4, 1825. Both Adams and Jefferson were ill. Stranger than fiction, both died on that memorable anniversary. Thomas Jefferson died at 1 p.m. and John Adams died at 4:30 p.m. Adams' last words were "Thomas Jefferson still lives." He was not aware that his longtime cohort had died just a few hours earlier.

Kudos to PBS for presenting this special offering to the American public. Students of history will be enthralled with the manner in which our second President was so realistically portrayed.

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