Friends Divided : John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
by Gordon S. Wood

Overview - A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2017

From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times -bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.  Read more...

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More About Friends Divided by Gordon S. Wood
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2017

From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy's champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England's rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. They worked closely in the crucible of revolution, crafting the Declaration of Independence and leading, with Franklin, the diplomatic effort that brought France into the fight. But ultimately, their profound differences would lead to a fundamental crisis, in their friendship and in the nation writ large, as they became the figureheads of two entirely new forces, the first American political parties. It was a bitter breach, lasting through the presidential administrations of both men, and beyond.

But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters. In their final years they were the last surviving founding fathers and cherished their role in this mighty young republic as it approached the half century mark in 1826. At last, on the afternoon of July 4th, 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration, Adams let out a sigh and said, "At least Jefferson still lives." He died soon thereafter. In fact, a few hours earlier on that same day, far to the south in his home in Monticello, Jefferson died as well.

Arguably no relationship in this country's history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America's collective story.

  • ISBN-13: 9780735224711
  • ISBN-10: 0735224714
  • Publisher: Penguin Press
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 512
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

Related Categories

Books > History > United States - Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Political
Books > Political Science > American Government - General

BookPage Reviews

America’s fascinating past and present

How has the United States changed over the past 250 years, and how has it remained the same? Here are five gift ideas for readers with a serious interest in where we’ve come from, how we got this far and just how far we have left to go.

The word “frenemies” wasn’t around during the founding of the United States, but it could certainly be applied to the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, which is detailed by Gordon S. Wood in Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The acerbic Adams and the idealistic Jefferson were divided by geography and social standing in addition to temperament. Yet they forged a friendship in the early days of the nation before later falling out over issues large and small as the years rolled by and both served presidential terms. The rift was healed with the help of a mutual friend in their later years, providing a heartwarming ending to the intertwined biographies of two men who famously both died on the Fourth of July, 1826. Their differences remained to the end, but as Wood shows—with the help of the numerous letters between the pair that survive—the combatants’ jousting took on a mutually respectful tone. A 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Wood is a skillful guide to Revolutionary-era principles, both profound and personal.

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This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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