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Notes on John Adams’ Biography

July 13, 2007 3 comments

Here are some things that I found interesting while audiobooking John Adams’ biography (written by David McCullough). I’ll keep this list updated as I go along:

  • 20% of the population at the time of independence was the slave population. That’s 500000 people for 2 million people overall in 1776. That is a fascinating statistic in and of itself, even though it has little to do with John Adams.
  • Everybody knows about Thomas Jefferson’s preference for illicit affairs with slave women. Not many know that Jefferson owned 200 slaves at the time he wrote the declaration of independence.
  • John Adams claims to have handed over the responsibility for drafting the declaration of independence to Thomas Jefferson since a Virginian needed to head up a statement of such great import. Virginia was the most populous and prosperous of colonies in 1776. This was before AOL showed up and start hawking CDs for goddamn free dialup.
  • Thomas Jefferson was merely 37 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. That is amazing.
  • The night before the Declaration was passed in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, 4 out of 13 states were voting against Independence or abstaining. Real slick there, South Carolina! Good to hear that you’ve cleaned up your act since. Well, maybe not.
  • John Adams’ wife Abigail was an amazing woman. At the age of 39, she had never traveled more than 50 miles out of her home town of Braintree, Mass nor received a formal college education. But her letters and her pronouncements belie that because she made extensive use of one of the great technologies of the time – the printed word.
  • The Declaration of Independence was actually passed on July 2nd.  On July 4th, Adams, a prolific diarist even neglected to mention any of his Congressional proceedings. Ditto for Jefferson!
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Categories: biography, history, john adams