In Boston: John Adams Unbound

Warren Seamans

There is an extremely interesting and relevant exhibit currently at the BPL [Boston Public Library]  -- John Adams Unbound.  By reading any of the documents in this large exhibit one is immediately struck with an awareness of the tremendous chasm that separates the talent and abilities of the second president of the country with the shadow that holds the office today.

On entering the gallery housing the exhibit (on the ground floor of the McKim building) a portion of John Adams' library is an overpowering example of the differences between the second and forty-third presidents.  Much was made recently of Bush's having read something by Shakespeare--or at least he may have looked at it.  It is highly doubtful that he could have understood it even if he had tried to read it.

Most timely and important, however, are the documents that relate to John Adams' fears of an imperial presidency and the threat that he saw in the government's power being concentrated in the hands of a few.  He foresaw the need for separation of the branches of government, and the need to keep religion out of politics.

As a warning to anyone who goes to this marvelous exhibit, please allow lots of time to study the content.  It takes a long time to absorb so much material!

From the Boston Public Library Website (

John Adams Unbound -- Sept. 22 through April 1 in the Changing Exhibits Room (Ext. 2379).
This exhibit marks the first public exhibition of the complete personal library of founding
father and lifelong book collector John Adams. This event is the culmination of a three-year
project to catalog, preserve, digitize and provide access to the extraordinary personal library
of the second president, which has been held by the Boston Public Library since 1894.

BPL volunteer tour guides will lead exhibit tours Thursdays at 6 pm. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.,
Oct.2 - March 29.

Curator Beth Prindle offers tours at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays,
Oct. 11, Nov. 8, Dec. 6, Jan. 10, Feb. 7 and March 7.

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Harvard Square Commentary, October 9, 2006