Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Soul of Adams

A number of references in Peter Shaw, The Character of John Adams, give us insight into the soul of Adams. Many of these insights are taken from Adams's diary or letters, in which we can see a lot of introspection into his soul.

As a young man, he read an essay by Jonathan Mayhew that Adams's claimed, took possession of his soul. Adamas idolized certain elements of English culture. At the same time, he grew up in a period during whcih there was a “gradual erosion of parental authority.” “A universal drift away from seventeenth-century Puritanism” (11).

As a young man, he tended to Enlightenment religious ideas, God as a creator who has a plan of operation of the universe. He was struck by the Seven Years’ War. He freely discussed universal sufferage, Arianism, Deism, and Atheism (“that all Religion was a cheat, a cunning invention of Priests and Politicians”) (16).

“For the secularized Adams as for the religious Puritan the scrutiny of the self-examiner proved to be more severe than that of any putative future judge” (23).

“Passion remained the hallmark of his spirit. It led him to youthful revolt against his father, his tutors, his best friends’ advice that he become a minister, and the constrictions of a provincial society; later in life it led him to revolution…in the characteristic …of assuming rather than rejecting responsibilities.” (38-39). Throughout, Adams thought that he was called to suppress his passionate spirit (38).

The Puritans, in the mind of Adams, were the inheritors of the Ancient desire for freedom and thirst for knowledge. They had brought that desire with them in laying the foundation for the United States (56).

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Blogger Tortoise(notHare) said...

Thank you for the citation; I will put that book on my list of books to read soon.
It seems that the passionate JA was also his own most passionate critic. He very often is severe in his self-criticism in his diary. [I believe that he was such a devoted diarist because that was a technique of spiritual self-examination that he learned as a young man at the Church at which his father was a Deacon].
It also seems that he worked hard to master his passions, to try to keep them under control as best he could (while certainly not perfect).
TJ certainly did not attempt to mortify, deny or control his passions. Quite the opposite, he died bankrupt because the Founding shop-a-holic could never deny himself whatever self-indulgence he wished. Homes that he RENTED in Paris, in New York, in Philadelphia were extensively remodeled by TJ at his expense, and in most instances he did not live in those homes very long.
As a young man in Boston JA was at times teased and called the name "John the Roundhead" because of his Cromwellian POV. Indeed while serving as American Ambassador he made sure to visit the various battle grounds and historical locations in England which related to Cromwell and the revolution he led. Interestingly in England they do not have much in the way of historical markings for these locations; they don't have a Gettysburg-like national tourist park set up (the various battle grounds remain as open fields in the English countryside).
I very much appreciate your comments on JA's soul. I believe that he grew and changed through time, and also that his "dearest friend" Abigail was a great help to him changing for the better.

12:07 PM  

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