Americans today are all too familiar and fed up with political fighting, but we sometimes forget that even the founding fathers had disagreements over how the government should work. Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud reveals the story of how two of our most famous presidents went from being friends to bitter enemies and back to friends again, showing us that disagreement over politics has always been a part of our country and reminding us that even though we may not agree, we can still be kind.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were complete opposites in many ways, from their personalities to their physical appearances, but they were good friends anyway. As the American colonists grew weary of King George’s unfair laws, the two worked together first to convince their fellow Americans that they should be free and independent and then to convince other countries to support the new nation. After so many years of working together toward a common goal, though, they found themselves with radically different ideas about how the new American government should be run. Instead of talking it out, the two friends fought it out. For more than twenty years–and both of their presidencies–the two men argued and neither one was willing to budge an inch, no matter how much their friends begged them.
Finally, as 1812 began, John Adams sent Thomas Jefferson a letter wishing him a happy new year. A month later, a letter arrived from Jefferson, and after that, the two friends corresponded frequently. The two men admitted their fault in the arguments to each other and resumed their friendship until the day they died–both on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after America declared its independence.
Suzanne Tripp Jurmain’s book is a great way to spark discussion with your children; it takes a philosophical disagreement between two historical figures and makes it relatable to kids in the 21st century. After all, almost everyone has had an argument with a friend before. What makes this situation different from all the political fighting we see today, though, is that these two men chose to set aside their differences for the sake of their friendship, which is a valuable lesson for kids to learn. We do not have to agree on every point in order to extend kindness and grace to others, and our nation would be better off if we would all put this into practice. During this election season, share Worst of Friends with your kids and they can learn about history and friendships!