37 pages 1 hour read

Joseph J. Ellis

American Creation

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2007

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Key Figures

John Adams

Adams was a Massachusetts lawyer who studied at Harvard and became a leader of the revolution. His personality was excitable and energetic, “always on the verge of a volcanic eruption that threatened to overwhelm his opponents in a lava flow of words” (29). Because of his education, he often drafted political documents for the Continental Congress. He was a radical in desiring a split from England but was cautious enough to wait patiently for it. He thought the transition needed to be carefully managed in order to be successful, and he also sensed that it was an idea that needed time to ripen for the majority of the general populace. As a result, Ellis calls him “that rarest of creatures, a conservative revolutionary” (46).

In the spring of 1776, when a number of states sought his advice on drafting new constitutions, Adams wrote down his ideas, which were later published as Thoughts on Government. The book contained several ideas that would be used later when devising the Constitution. Adams also wrote a resolution in May of that year calling on states to draft new constitutions to replace their original British government charters. This was a declaration of independence in fact, if not in name, and Adams felt he never got his due—Jefferson’s later formal declaration eclipsed his.