John W. Ellsworth (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Adams: The American Revolution as a Change of Heart?” in Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 4, August, 1965, pp. 293-300.

[In the following essay, Ellsworth studies Adams's famous comment that the Revolutionary War followed the real revolution, which took place in the hearts and minds of the colonists well before the commencement of hostilities.]

John Adams has lent much support to those historians who interpret the American Revolution as caused by slow changes in the sentiments of the American colonists. The main source of this interpretation, in Adams' writings, is a letter addressed to Dr. J. Morse in 1815.1 Here Adams remarked...

(The entire section is 3044 words.)

Wendy Martin (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Editorial: Correspondence of John and Abigail Adams—Considerations for the Bicentennial” in Women's Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1975, pp. 1-3.

[In the following essay, Martin asserts that Adams believed women were irrational and that their participation in politics posed a threat to the social order.]

Abigail Adams is often remembered for her admonition to her husband to “remember the ladies” when framing the constitution. On March 31, 1776, she informs him that “if particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or...

(The entire section is 917 words.)

Cecilia Tichi (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Worried Celebrants of the American Revolution,” in American Literature 1764-1789: The Revolutionary Years, edited by Everett Emerson, University of Wisconsin Press, 1977, pp. 275-91.

[In the following excerpt, Tichi studies the concerns of Adams, who, along with Benjamin Rush and Mercy Otis Warren, worried about the accurate historical representation of the events of the American Revolution.]


In 1815, eleven years before the jubilee of the American Revolution, John Adams began a letter to Jefferson with three crucial questions: “Who shall write the history of the American revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to...

(The entire section is 3688 words.)

Leslie Wharton (essay date 1980)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The New England Federalism of John Adams,” in Polity and the Public Good: Conflicting Theories of Republican Government in the New Nation, UMI Research Press, 1980, pp. 33-55.

[In the following essay, Wharton explores the apparent ideological split between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the years following the American Revolution and maintains that, contrary to popular belief, Adams's political philosophy remained fundamentally consistent throughout this period.]

John Adams, like Taylor and Jefferson, was concerned with establishing a form of government in America that would ensure the happiness, prosperity, and liberty of the American people. Like his...

(The entire section is 13261 words.)

Joyce Appleby (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Adams and the New Republican Synthesis,” in Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination, Harvard University Press, 1992, pp. 188-209.

[In the following essay, Appleby traces the changes in Adams's political philosophy from the time of the American Revolution to the publication of his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America in 1787.]

Early American historians have created a new republican synthesis which attempts to explain how colonial agitators became Founding Fathers.1 The historians who have produced this synthesis began by exploring the central role which certain key ideas had in...

(The entire section is 7956 words.)

Joseph J. Ellis (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Erudite Effusions,” in Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, W. W. Norton & Company, 1993, pp. 143-73.

[In the following essay, Ellis examines Adams's defense of his political philosophy through his correspondence with John Taylor, the main critic of Adams's A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.]

I am willing to allow your Phylosophers your opinion of the universal Gravitation of Matter, if you will allow mine that there is in some souls a principle of absolute Levity that buoys them irresistably into the Clouds … an uncontroulable Tendency to ascend. … This I take to...

(The entire section is 13638 words.)

James M. Farrell (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Letters and Political Judgment: John Adams and Cicero's Style,” in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Vol. 24, 1995, pp. 137-53.

[In the following essay, Farrell studies Adams's correspondence and concludes that he consciously modeled his letters after those of his hero, Cicero.]

A number of eighteenth-century rhetoricians offered prescriptions on letter-writing as part of their treatment of rhetorical style. As it had been in previous ages, letter writing remained in the eighteenth century among the genres of composition commonly taught by rhetoricians. Moreover, as had earlier rhetoricians, the writers of the belles lettres movement turned to...

(The entire section is 7633 words.)

C. Bradley Thompson (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Young John Adams and the New Philosophic Rationalism,” in William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 2, April, 1998, pp. 259-80.

[In the following essay, Thompson claims that most scholars have overestimated the importance of Adams's Puritan background and minimized the importance of philosophic rationalism in the formulation of his revolutionary philosophy.]

During his retirement years, John Adams was fond of saying that the War of Independence was a consequence of the American Revolution. The real revolution, he declared, had taken place in the minds and hearts of the colonists in the decade or two before 1776. What he meant by this evocative statement and...

(The entire section is 11453 words.)

John E. Hill (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Views on Property and Democracy,” in Revolutionary Values for a New Millennium, Lexington Books, 2000, pp. 173-179.

[In the following excerpt, Hill claims that Adams's writings on the balance of power were misunderstood: Adams had not abandoned democracy as his critics claimed.]

Two years before the Essex convention John Adams wrote about the issue of property in terms similar to the convention statement: “Such is the Frailty of the human Heart, that very few Men, who have no Property, have any Judgment of their own. They talk and vote as they are directed by Some Man of Property, who has attached their minds to his interest.”1 Adams, as...

(The entire section is 3920 words.)