When I was a youth and I had to study history, I always found it amazingly boring. I never understood how anyone could make a career out of history. My grades in history were bad, and I spent as little time on it as I could get away with.
Yet, I was exposed to it at an early age, and studied history about the ancient Greeks and Romans, through the middle ages into the modern European times. Then finally American History in high school. I read Roman history in Latin, German history in German, and American History in English. I remember very, very little, but I do suspect all those classes contributed to make me the person I am today.
In those days I always thought that I’d have the rest of my life available to read anything I want.
Now, as I just finished reading Seldon Edwards’ The Little Book, I was inspired about Austrian/Hungarian history, all the way up to Hitler. I actually spent some time at Border’s poking around on the shelf for books about Hitler and saw Mein Kampf, and I thought I should read it some time.
After reading John Adams, I am inspired to read up more about the revolutionary period as well as about biographies of all the other presidents.
And now I realize that all the days I have left in this world are not enough just to read the history books I still want to read. That does not leave time for the 100 greatest books of all time, all the science fiction I still want to read, and the day to day current events stuff I want to keep up with. Too much knowledge to gain, too little time left. Why didn’t my teachers get that through to me when I was a kid? I was not listening.
Another striking fact regarding outlook on history has to do with perspective and scale. The story of John Adams starts in 1776, but really flashes back to the Boston Massacre in 1770. Let’s say 1775 for round numbers. Then the years of the Revolutionary War and the formation of our country brings us to 1789 and the beginning of George Washington’s presidency of eight years. We go on to the four years of Adams, then the eight years of Jefferson, and twenty years go by. It all seems like the same time from our current vantage point, namely long ago and far away. But those years of the first three presidents are analogous to the years starting 1988 with Bush Sr. (four years), then Clinton (eight years), and finally Bush Jr. (eight years). That’s a long time, thinking back now to Bush Sr.
So while, to me, 1775 and 1825 look really close together, it was a full 50 years, and the difference between Adams as a man in his thirties, and Adams as a man in his eighties, an enormous stretch of time.
One more interesting fact about the first 7 presidencies is that the two Adamses were the only ones with four year terms and were defeated by their opponents. All others had eight year terms.
- Washington (8)
- John Adams (4)
- Jefferson (8)
- Madison (8)
- Monroe (8)
- John Q. Adams (4)
- Jackson (8)
Aren’t you glad you know that now?