America's First Dynasty
The Adamses, 1735--1918
Brookhiser's canvass starts in colonial America, when John Adams had to teach himself the law and ride on horseback for miles to find clients. It does not end until after the Titanic sinks -- Henry had booked a room but changed his plans -- and World War I begins, with Henry near the action in France. The story of this single family offers a short course in the nation's history, because for nearly two hundred years Adams history was American history. The Adamses were accompanied by an impressive cast of characters, from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to Andrew Jackson and Ulysses Grant, to Teddy Roosevelt. America's First Dynasty offers telling portraits of the great men of our past, and many of the women around them. John and Abigail's great love affair was destined to be repeated by their offspring and offspring's offspring.
As with any family, there was a darker side to the Adams story: many of its members were abject failures. Alcoholism was a familiar specter, and suicide was not unknown. Only one of the four great Adamses was a kind man and father; the others set standards so impossibly high that few of their children could meet them. Yet despite more than a century of difference from John to Henry, certain Adams traits remained the same. In the story of our first and still-greatest family, we can all see something of our own struggles with family, fate, and history.
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The first time anyone asked a member of the Adams family about his famous ancestors, she was joking.
In April 1778, John Adams, lately of the Continental Congress, arrived in Bordeaux, France, to represent the new nation as a diplomat. His second day ashore, he was introduced to polite conversation at European dinner tables. "Mr. Adams," a pretty young woman asked him, "by your name I conclude you are descended from the first man and woman." Did he know of any family tradition that might explain how Adam and Eve "found out the art of lying together"? "I believe at first I blushed," wrote Adams in his diary that night, but... see more