John Quincy Adams may have followed George Washington as the 2nd President (inaugurated on this day in 1797) but his life was full of firsts. A “Federalist”, he was the 1st Vice President, Member of the Continental Congress, Minister to Great Britain, Minister to the Netherlands and along with Thomas Jefferson, penned the “Declaration of Independence”.
Adams was an unusual, gifted and alluringly complex figure. He was a cantankerous and self-righteous New Englander, a well-educated and extremely well-read intellectual. He was passionate about his interests, often self-absorbed, haughty and somewhat arrogant. Curiously, for a politician, he hated small talk. He “knew” he was always right (except when he was wrong and Abigail was right), often seemed paranoid (seldom without cause), and feared posterity would forget his efforts (no worries there!)
How many novels of Presidents have won Pulitzer Prizes? Just one, David McCullough’s, “John Adams”. There have been many novels and biographies about John Adams. Here’s a nice little blog about the best biographies about John Adams.
And Adams may have lived less than a few hundred years before movies about him came around but those too have enjoyed enormous success! You can’t miss HBO’s “John Adams” starring Paul Giamatti (2008) a seven-part mini-series that goes beyond intriguing, covering 50 years of Adams life.
Actor Anthony Hopkins preceded Giamatti as a much older Adams in the Spielberg movie, “Amistad”. In the movie, Adams as a 73 year-old abolitionist, jumped at the offer of defending the enslaved prisoners and gave a nine-hour-long argument critiquing Congress. It is an enthralling film that truly relies on Hopkins’s scene-stealing acting.