John Adams

Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1793

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
30 October 1735 in the north precinct of Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy)
  DIED:
4 July 1826 at his home, Peacefield, in Quincy, Massachusetts
Buried at Quincy, in a crypt at United First Parish Church.

AUTHOR OF
  • Novanglus; or, A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin, in 1754, to the Present, 1775
  • Thoughts on Government, 1776
  • A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America, 1787
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He is vain, irritable and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men. This is all the ill which can possibly be said of him. He is as disinterested as the being which made him: he is profound in his views: and accurate in his judgment except where knowledge of the world is necessary to form a judgment. He is so amiable, that I pronounce you will love him if ever you become acquainted with him. He would be, as he was, a great man in Congress.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, 1788.

Portrait to come. See entry in Wikipedia.

As students of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau are always reminding us, the age of reason was really an age of sentiment. In this too, Washington was a man of his age. When he established the first general decoration in the American Army, the Purple Heart, it was not (as it became in the twentieth century) an award available to all soldiers wounded in the line of duty. Only privates and noncomissioned officers could win the original Badge of Military Merit, a cloth-shaped heart sewn over the man’s actual heart, which allowed him to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The symbol was not of heart’s blood shed, but of virtue proceeding from the heart. Limiting the award to nonofficers was meant to indicate that great virtue can be shown regardless of rank — that in Washington’s words, the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.

Garry Wills
Cincinnatus: George Washington & the Enlightenment (1984)