Ellis describes Adams as a “short, stout, candid-to-a-fault New Englander.” “If Revolutionary credentials were the major criteria, Adams was virtually unbeatable,” Ellis writes (164). American independence had become Adams’s life's work. He was one of the Founding Fathers who would have “languished in obscurity” if he had been born in England or Europe. Like Hamilton and Franklin, Adams came from humble origins. By utilizing hindsight, Ellis notes that many of Adams's choices saved the U.S. from not only the 'Quasi-War' with France, but perhaps from destruction by ensuring it remained isolated in its early days. However, the circumstances of the time meant that no matter how hard Adams worked for his country, he was doomed to be considered a failure. Not only did he follow the nigh-sanctified George Washington, but he also inherited a situation of foreign trouble and domestic unrest that was impossible to navigate perfectly. In other words, while this book is largely about how these men made their time, Ellis also explores how the times make the man.