May Madness is COMING!

You heard correctly. May Madness is coming.

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“Bring it on, Garfield”- 43rd President and South Region 9 Seed George W. Bush

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Upcoming schedule:

EAST REGION

5/2/14:

8) Herbert Hoover vs. 9) Benjamin Harrison

7) Rutherford B. Hayes vs. 10) Ulysses S. Grant

Byes: 1) Abraham Lincoln, 2) Theodore Roosevelt, 3) Dwight D. Eisenhower, 4) James Madison, 5) Ronald Reagan, 6) Bill Clinton

SOUTH REGION

5/2/14:

8) James Garfield vs. 9) George W. Bush

6) George H. W. Bush vs. 11) Warren G. Harding

7) Gerald Ford vs. 10) William Henry Harrison

Byes: 1) Franklin D. Roosevelt, 2) Woodrow Wilson, 3) James K. Polk, 4) James Monroe, 5) John Quincy Adams

MIDWEST REGION

5/5/14:

8) Calvin Coolidge vs. 9) Zachary Taylor

6) William H. Taft vs. 11) James Buchanan

7) Jimmy Carter vs. 10) Millard Fillmore

Byes: 1) George Washington, 2) Harry S. Truman, 3) John F. Kennedy, 4) Lyndon B. Johnson, 5) Grover Cleveland

WEST REGION

5/5/14:

8) Richard Nixon vs. 9) John Tyler

6) Martin Van Buren vs. 11) Andrew Johnson

7) Chester A. Arthur vs. 10) Franklin Pierce

Byes: 1) Thomas Jefferson, 2) Andrew Jackson, 3) John Adams, 4) Barack Obama, 5) William McKinley

 

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John Adams Crib Sheet

john_adamsVitals!

Name: John Adams AKA His Rotundity

Lifespain: October 30th, 1735 (?) or October 19th, 1735 (?) – July 4th, 1826. (Again, Julian Calendar people complicate everything. Leave it to the British to sort this out… http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/quick_reference.htm)

Home State: Massachusetts

Served as President: 1797-1801

Vice President: Thomas Jefferson

Spouse: His third cousin Abigail Smith Adams

Historian Rank: 12

Why you may LOVE him….

John Adams is not your flawless, cherry treeing, key in the lightning, rhetorical master the elusive “founding fathers” seem to embody. He was a brash, rude, vain and irritable man passionate about the American cause. Most would take that. Mr. Adams’ life reads like the back of a hall of fame pitcher’s baseball card. He took on the impossible task of defending the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre. After securing a legal victory for the British, Adams was one of the first and most vocal colonists to move toward independence. He turned aside pleas for continued patience and put the colonies full speed ahead toward independence. He then left his family and all he knew to become the most traveled American of his era. What Franklin had on him in years, Adams had in diversity. In an age where men would barely leave their birth town, Adams visited France, Holland, and Great Britain in just a handful of years. He hated slavery, never owned one and wanted it banned in the infant nation. After the war, Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution that became the first constitution to be ratified by the people. He is credited with being the loudest and most persistent advocate for checks and balances. He never swooned over the French Revolution as a worldwide crusade for liberty. He was the first Vice President where he was roundly criticized for his insistence on making America as respected as possible (Spoiler Alert: It backfired on “His Rotundity”). Finally as the second President John Adams was a staunch supporter for the “evil” strong military, a strong central government and kept America out of an impossible European War that surely would have snuffed the candle in the cradle. Going to war would have secured his legacy, staying out of it probably cost him his job. One of his final acts as president was appointing John Marshall Chief Justice. Marshall would go on to establish American Judicial Review thus securing a true three branched government. Opt hated, never ignored, John Adams knew he wouldn’t be beloved and at the end of the day he didn’t care. Is that not the rebel we all claim to love?

Why you may HATE him…

John Adams was the most traveled American statesman of his era. He didn’t speak French then tried to lecture the French people. It seems he embarrassed himself and America in the Court of St. James. All of his travels solidified his arrogance. Surely not unlike his contemporaries, Adams did not actually think highly of the so-called common man. His letters are littered with references to the “unwashed” and “unlearned” and he was not shy about limiting access to the federal government. He was never the “high” federalist like his friend (or foe?) Alexander Hamilton but he certainly would have been comfortable in a monarchy. He was a bitter and sore loser, leaving DC at 4 AM rather than see Jefferson sworn in as Washington had so gracefully done for him. I must be forgetting something… Oh yes! He jailed, imprisoned and convicted  political dissenters. No president before and since has so openly rounded up and targeted political opponents like John Adams. What Nixon may have done behind closed doors, Adams did through the Alien and Sedition Acts. He certainly was no advocate for liberty as he made criminal the act of critical journalism, public opposition and simply being a foreigner. Some many argue that he did what he had to do with a European War looming, sadly it looks like he was not pushed into the extremity of his views. They seemed to be in line with his thinking all along. He was the condescending and elitist guy that will always be better than you no matter what. Hey Mr. Adams, who decided to make you king?

Final Verdict in Five Words: Overlook at your own peril.

John Adams 1797-1801

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Book: John Adams: A Life

Author: John E. Ferling

Date Published- Originally published in 1992, this book stood as the best biography on the second President for years. The book may be from a previous generation yet still produces an unbiased and objective look at John Adams. With the McCullough effort postdating Ferling by almost a decade, this is not the go-to book for the most up to date look at Adams. However, despite being over 20 years old, the book still benefits from hindsight and the reflection needed to put the man in context. An Adams work predating Twitter and Facebook does not necessarily detract from a man who died in 1826.

Grade: B

Scope- The author seemingly runs out of steam right before Adams ascends to the Presidency. Truthfully, Adams is a man who leads a tremendously successful and full life with the Presidency mixed in. However, the successor to George Washington does not reach the highest office until almost three quarters into the work. The scope also fails to cover one of the longest post-presidencies in the Revolutionary era. In a time where men did not last past their 60s, Adams lives until the age of 91. His 25 years of retirement is consigned to a mere 30 pages where the tremendous correspondence with Jefferson, Rush and others does not receive its due. The scope of everything leading up to his election in 1796 is wonderful on the part of Ferling. Afterwards, the effort lacks the finishing touch. This book does not fail because it did not look into a decrepit Adams, it fails to touch on his indomitable will.

Grade: B-

Author- John Ferling is an accomplished author from the University of West Virginia. In addition to writing about Adams, Ferling has written about both the Revolutionary Era and about George Washington and Joseph Galloway. As an author ,he writes this work very much like a scholarly book would read. The narrative is progressive and certainly flows chronologically but the reliance on other historians’ work takes away from the flow. Ferling spends much time examining the previous findings of other biographers instead of breaking all the ground himself. The work of the author does not stand alone and conform entirely to the goal of the project.

Grade: C+

Length- The book provides all the functions of a short biography but does a disservice by neglecting the presidency and post-presidency. This length is ideal for a reader wanting to move at a brisk pace through the project as it does not get bogged down by irrelevant details or highly in depth examinations. The length provides a solid introduction to the life of Adams yet could be longer and give the due attention to the Presidency itself.

Grade: B+

Mission- Ferling seems to have two missions, only one of which is stated in his introduction. One is to examine the work of other biographies and put his work in the broad context of previous research. The second mission of the work is to examine John Adams the person, specifically his relationship with his family. Strangely, Ferling does not examine his family relationships or hardships until well into the work.  He describes Adams’ absence from his family in multiple instances but fails interestingly enough, to mention the similar absences of his contemporaries.  As a result, it seems Ferling does not paint the contemporaries of Adams with the same critical brush. It is an odd mission but because Ferling expressly mentions it in his introduction it reveals a mission unfulfilled.

Grade: C+

 

 

 

 

John Adams 1797-1801

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Book: John Adams

Author: David McCullough

1. Date Published- Originally published in 2001 and later an award winning mini series for HBO, this is the most recent authoritative biography available. Coming almost ten years after John Ferling’s work, the benefits of perspective and time give John Adams its due diligence. Adams was a man very sure of his conflicted sense of posterity famously uttering, “And then Franklin smote the ground and up rose George Washington, fully dressed and astride a horse! Then the three of them, Franklin, Washington and the horse, proceeded to win the entire revolution single handley!” The bias of the book seems to be in favor of the subject but not without cause. In the project the early presidents have the overwhelming benefit of hindsight and this book is strongly recommended on that account.

Grade: A

2. Scope- The book’s scope and subject matter is a huge consideration in scoring the book. There is without a doubt extensive coverage of Adams’ rise to the presidency. Normally this would strike out in the scope department as the President’s Project has as its main goal a slow burn examination of the office. However, the scope in this book is right. Adams is the main character in the revolution and it is in his exceptional case that the presidency pushed to the last third of the book does not violate its scope, it enhances it. However, it cannot be called exceptional because the coverage of the presidency moves like the rest of the book. The book has a tendency to move too quickly and here it does Adams time as president a disservice.

Grade: B+

3. Author- McCullough is trying to put Adams to his seemingly rightful place in American history. Book-ended by two consensus top five presidents (Washington and Jefferson), McCullough as an author attempts to extrapolate on Adams’ accomplishments and put him in his rightful place. The result is not a partisan angle, but it is certainly a rosy description. He alludes to the anger of Adams but places much of the blame on Jefferson for the inception of partisan squabbles and fracturing of American unity. However, McCullough’s scholarship is solid as evidenced by a quick scan of his sources and his authorship is outstanding. This book is far from the drawbacks of a partisan narrative which a contemporary account almost certainly would serve. It is a testament to the fantastic writing of McCullough that he will appear later on this blog (spoiler alert).

Grade: A

4. Length- This book reads like a short biography in that time moves quickly. However, the sheer length is a testament to two realities. One, Adams was an incredibly accomplished man as a delegate, ambassador, Vice President and President to name a few. Simply a helping of each would not produce a substantially shorter book. The other plain fact is that Adams lived to 91 years of age. For a frame of reference only Ronald Reagan lived into his 90s as a former president. The long book with irrelevant passages does not fit the mold of this 700+ page tome but ironically this is the best short biography available.

Grade: A

5. Mission- Though not stated explicitly, the mission is simple, bold and true from the start of McCullough’s book. John Adams, second president of the USA, has been overshadowed by contemporary giants as he feared he would as he lived. McCullough tries to bring us his greatness, his craft, and the reason why he almost seamlessly moved to be the most traveled and accomplished statesman of his time. The mission was a success but not without glossing over gross injustices seemingly at odds of his descriptions. For example, the man that seemed fair and forgiving was the same man whose Alien and Sedition Acts completely contradicted the 1st Amendment. It is here the mission tinges with dishonesty and falls short of being truly realized. As an attempt to restore greatness the mission is mostly accomplished with a few puzzling oversights.

Grade: B