Founding Brothers

How were the collaborations similar and/or different?

Chapter 5: the collaborators

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Ellis spends a great deal of time in Founding Brothers describing the bond between Adams and Jefferson. Their friendship, with its marked decline and then reconciliation, serves as a great symbol for the broader relationships between all of the Founding Fathers.

Despite being the “odd couple of the Revolution,” with different approaches to life and politics, they shared a patriotism and idealism that was more important than their differences. They encouraged each other in their writings - most importantly when Adams encouraged Jefferson towards the Declaration of Independence - and were proud to consider the Union as their life's work. 

However, once they returned to serve in Washington's first cabinet, personal and political differences began to manifest. Partly, these were due to Adams's jealousy. He felt ignored as Vice President, while Jefferson became more popular amongst the public. Meanwhile, Jefferson, who was not as involved in drafting the Constitution as he had been in the earlier period, was perturbed by the ramifications of a central federal government. As he found a new collaborator in Madison, he seems to have lost any sense of loyalty towards his former friend John Adams. By the time of Jefferson's first "retirement," the two men were wary of one another. Adams considered Jefferson dangerous because of his pro-French sympathies, and Jefferson had developed a dismay over Federalist principles that would soon lead him to personally slander Adams. Differences in ideology had become more important than that spirit of '76. You can read more about this at the gradesaver link below: