To the editor,
From time to time one needs a book that you don’t want to end. A book so well written, that it could go on forever! Such a book is David McCullough’s John Adams.
For those who don’t know, John Adams was the second president of the United States before Thomas Jefferson. Before that, he’d been representative to the court of Louis XV. Along with Benjamin Franklin, he helped to persuade the French to back the American Revolution. Without France’s help, the revolution of 1776 could never have succeeded.
As Gore Vidal put it in Burr, this has mostly been forgotten, but that’s another story.
Unlike the two early presidents, George Washington and Jefferson, John Adams, his wife Abigail and the rest of his family, especially John Quincy Adams the son who became America’s sixth president, were strict abolitionists. Adams himself described slavery as “the dark cloud that hung above his beloved country.”
McCullough describes the U.S. as a country just like the rest of the planet that stumbled from one pandemic to the other.
People fled to other places in a mostly futile attempt to avoid the “plague.”
Smallpox inoculation began in Boston some 50 years earlier. The idea had come from one of Cotton Mather’s slaves Onesimus who pointed out that the practice was well-established in Africa. He had a scar on his arm to prove it.
Cotton Mather became an advocate for inoculation and ran afoul of the anti-vaxxers of his day. Because of a smallpox outbreak in Boston, Abigail, wife of Adams, took it on herself to have her whole family, including her servants, inoculated — seventeen in all.
Needless to say, the inoculation process was quite crude. Some of the Adams children were quite ill but all survived — free from the ravages of smallpox.
Let’s face it. It was the use of vaccines and inoculations that freed mankind from the tyranny of the many viruses that had stalked humanity from the dawn of time.
John Adams was said to have been very proud of his wife’s actions. Equality of the sexes was one more ideal the Adams family stood for.