Book

Abigail and John Adams

G. J. Barker-Benfield

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780226037431
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226037448 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226037448.001.0001
Abigail and John Adams

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During the many years that they were separated by the perils of the American Revolution, John and Abigail Adams exchanged hundreds of letters. Writing to each other of public events and private feelings, loyalty and love, revolution and parenting, they wove a tapestry of correspondence that has become a cherished part of American history and literature. With Abigail and John Adams, this book mines those familiar letters to a new purpose: teasing out the ways in which they reflected—and helped transform—a language of sensibility, inherited from Britain but, amid the revolutionary fervor, becoming Americanized. Sensibility—a heightened moral consciousness of feeling, rooted in the theories of such thinkers as Descartes, Locke, and Adam Smith, and including a “moral sense” akin to the physical senses—threads throughout these letters. As the book makes clear, sensibility was the fertile, humanizing ground on which the Adamses not only founded their marriage, but also the “abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity” they and their contemporaries hoped to plant at the heart of the new nation. Bringing together their correspondence with a wealth of fascinating detail about life and thought, courtship and sex, gender and parenting, and class and politics in the revolutionary generation and beyond, the book draws a portrait of a marriage endangered by separation, yet surviving by the same ideas and idealism that drove the revolution itself.

Keywords: American Revolution; John Adams; Abigail Adams; language of sensibility; Descartes; Locke; Adam Smith; moral sense; letters; gender

Book.  513 pages. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Abigail and John Adams

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Sensibility and Reform in Abigail and John Adams

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