Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shaw's Biography Overall Review

After reading Peter Shaw's The Character of John Adams I would warn you against picking this volume up if you are expecting a good over view of Adam's life and the events that impacted the world he lived in. This biography zooms over what we would see as major events in a person's life such as the deaths of two of his children and his wife and chooses to focus in an unbalanced manner on John Adam's as a man consumed only by a desire to defend his own glory and pride. Shaw does a great job focusing on this aspect of Adam's character throughout his entire life but fails to paint Adams as caring about anything else. Adams, like all of the founding fathers, had his enemies and critics and it seems like he was always in a correspondence to clear his reputation. Yet we have to assume there is more going on in a person's life than their never ending pursuit of a clean name. While Adams certainly did care about his reputation, he also cared about the future of America and his family both of which take up a total of only about a quarter of Shaw's discussion of Adams. In conclusion, as a discussion of Adam's pride and vanity this biography does a good job of covering these topics from his early life to his death. However, Shaw speeds over important events and deaths and expects the reader to have a previous knowledge of the events like the Alien and Sedition acts as he approaches his next example of how John Adams was defending his name. For a general overview this biography is not what your looking for. I would suggest reading another biography first and reading this one only if you are interested in Adam's defense of his character through his life.

The most widely acclaimed biography on Adams is McCullough's John Adams I knew about this book when I chose Shaw's biography and decided to stick with Shaw because McCullough's piece is 750 pages and I needed a speedier read for my winter break restraints. I plan on some day reading McCullough's piece when I have the time and I hope it fills in the gaps that might be left from Shaw's biography.

As I process Shaw's work and try to organize my thoughts for a synopsis of Adam's spiritual life I am finding myself much more confused than with Washington. Shaw focused very very little on this aspect of Adams so there is little I can gather either for or against his standing with Jesus. I am hoping to get a conclusion out about John within the next week. I am also considering writing about Abigail Adams (John's wife) as she was very outspoken in her letters about the Lord and her life is equally as intriguing as her husbands.