John Quincy Adams: A Life | Chapter 10 of 27

Author: Harlow Giles Unger | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 8937 Views | Add a Review

Please hit next button if you encounter an empty page

The Seeds of Statesmanship
From the first, the Boston seemed doomed.
“The wind was very high,” John Adams noted as they lost sight of the Massachusetts coastline. “The sea very rough . . . the snow so thick the captain thinks he cannot go to sea. . . . All is yet chaos on board. His men are not disciplined.”1 With British gunboats poised on the horizon, the Boston rolled almost helplessly and threatened to send Adams sliding across the deck. He kept a tight grip on the rail with one arm and wrapped the other around his ten-year-old son.
“I confess,” he said to himself, “I often regretted that I had brought my son, [but] Mr. Johnny’s behavior gave me a satisfaction that I cannot express. Fully sensible of our danger, he was constantly endeavoring to bear it with manly patience, very attentive to me and his thoughts constantly running in a serious strain.”2
Adams looked at the oncoming gunboats and wondered how they would survive if the British overtook them—until the sting of a crashing wave made him question how they would survive if the British did not overtake them. “The constant rocking and rolling of the ship made us all sick. Half the sailors were sick. I was seized with it myself this forenoon. My servant Joseph Stevens and the captain have both been very bad.” Adams waxed philosophic for a moment and analyzed the causes of “mal de mer” as stemming from “the effect of agitation combined with a variety of odors from coal, stagnant water, and those parts of the ship where sailors slept—often unwashed for days. There is the same inattention to the cleanliness of the ship and the persons and health of the sailors,” Adams complained, “as there is at land of the cleanliness of the camp and the health and cleanliness of the soldiers. The practice of profane cursing and swearing . . . prevails in a most abominable degree.”3
Adams and his son slept together in a small space in the “’tween decks” on the double mattress he had brought aboard, beneath their own sheets and blankets and using bolsters for pillows.
As the main deck was almost constantly under water, the sea rolling in and out at the ports and scuppers, we were obliged to keep the hatchways down—whereby the air became so hot and so dry in the ’tween decks that . . . I could not breathe or live there. Yet the water would pour down whenever a hatchway was opened, so that all was afloat.4
Although the Boston was “overmetalled”—that is, the weight of her guns (five twelve-pounders and nineteen nine-pounders) was too great for her tonnage—the captain ordered her “to sail with the guns out,” Adams explained, “in order to be ready, and this . . . made the ship labor and roll so as to oblige us to keep the chain pumps as well as the hand pumps almost constantly going.” The weight of the gun barrels extending off the sides made the ship “wring and twist in such a manner as to endanger the masts and rigging.”5
Father and son had sought shelter in their bunk, when the storm slammed the ship with explosive wind bursts and they heard the terrifying crash from above. An officer appeared almost immediately “and told us that the ship had been struck with lightening and the noise we had heard was a crash of thunder . . . that the large mainmast was struck. . . . We lost sight of our enemy, it is true,” John Adams’s shaky hand penned his diary the next morning, “but we found ourselves in a dreadful storm. . . .
It would be fruitless to attempt a description of what I saw, heard and felt during these next three days. To describe the ocean, the waves, the winds, the ship, her motions, rollings, wringings and agonies—the sailors, their countenances, language, and behavior is impossible. No man could keep his legs, and nothing could be kept in its place. A universal wreck of everything in all parts of the ship, chests, casks, bottles &c. No place or person was dry. On one of these nights, a thunder bolt struck three men upon deck and wounded one of them. . . . He lived three days and died raving mad.6
Just as calm settled over the surrounding sea, a boy about John Quincy’s age—the son of Connecticut merchant Silas Deane—approached John Adams with a note that startled Adams by asking him to “take care of the child in his situation as you would wish to have done to a child of your own. It is needless to mention his youth and helplessness.”7 In effect, the note told Adams he was now the boy’s guardian. Although taken aback, Adams was well aware of the bonds that tied members of New England’s Christian elite to each other—especially their minor children. Even if unrelated and unacquainted, all felt a deep kinship through their common ties to Puritan founders, whose intermarriages left many, if not all, somewhat related—even when they did not know it.
Silas Deane’s brother, Barnabas, saw Adams’s departure as a good opportunity to divest himself of responsibility for raising his brother’s son Jesse, and he simply put the boy on board with a note charging Adams to deliver him to his father in France.
John Adams had no sooner read Deane’s presumptuous letter when another boy—eighteen-year-old William Vernon—handed him an even more presumptuous missive from a member of the Continental Navy Board. “I presume it is unnecessary to say one word in order to impress your mind with the anxiety a parent is under in the education of a son. . . . Therefore I have only to beg the favor of you, Sir, to place my son with such a gentleman whom you would choose for one of yours.” He asked Adams to find a merchant “either at Bordeaux or Nantes, of Protestant principles,” to teach him “general and extensive business,” and he enclosed “a gratuity of one hundred pounds sterling that may be given to a merchant of eminence to take him for two or three years.”8
“Thus,” Adams puzzled in his diary, “I find myself invested with the unexpected trust of a kind of guardianship of two promising young gentlemen, besides my own son.” It was fortunate for all the boys that Adams had started his professional life as a teacher and found “few things that have ever given me greater pleasure than the tuition of youth.”9 As it turned out, Jesse Deane was only a year older than John Quincy, and the two, each grateful to have found someone his own age, became inseparable shipboard companions.
Between storms and other crises at sea, Adams himself read French literature and put his son and Jesse Deane in the hands of the ship’s French surgeon, Nicholas Noël, who agreed to teach the boys French. To ease tension among the seamen, the captain allowed them to stage “frolics,” with all the men dousing each other with flour then dancing on the main deck. Adams suspected the captain ordered such “whimsical diversions in order to make the men wash themselves.”10
A more prized diversion came a month after they left Massachusetts, when “we spied a sail and gave her chase . . . and came up beside her.” To Adams’s shock, “She fired upon us . . . so that the ball went directly over my head.” Adams’s ship immediately turned broadside with her big guns aimed squarely at the other ship, which immediately surrendered, yielding a prize Adams estimated at £80,000. Half went to the owner of the Boston, 12 percent to the captain, and shares ranging from 1 to 6 percent to the ship’s officers and crew, depending on rank.
On March 29, 1778, six weeks after they had left Massachusetts, John Adams and his son sailed into the estuary leading to Bordeaux, when a pilot came aboard and announced that France and England were at war. On April 1, the Adamses set foot on shore with Jesse Deane, eighteen-year-old William Vernon, and Dr. Noël. Two American merchants, who regularly checked incoming cargoes, took the famed John Adams and his friends for a sumptuous lunch and a tour of the town, a visit to theater before tea and the opera in the evening. Adams marveled at the splendor of French grand opera. “The scenery, the dancing, the music,” he gasped. “Never seen anything of the kind before.”11
Adams placed young Vernon with one of the merchants, and on April 4, he set off with his son by carriage for Paris, along with Jesse Deane and a small retinue. Covering 150 miles in only two days, they reached Poitiers in west-central France. “Every part of the country is cultivated,” Adams remarked. “The fields of grain, the vineyards, the castles, the cities, the parks, the gardens, everything is beautiful. Yet every place swarms with beggars.”12
From Poitiers, they rode north to Tours, then east to Orleans and finally Paris, where they checked into an expensive hotel and John Adams put two tired little boys to bed. “My little son,” he wrote in his diary, “has sustained this long journey of nearly 500 miles at the rate of an hundred miles a day with the utmost firmness, as he did our fatiguing and dangerous voyage.”13
After meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, John Adams learned to his distress that Jesse Deane’s father, Silas, had left for America to present himself to Congress and dispute the charges made about him. Adams would now have to care for Jesse indefinitely.
Putting servants in charge of the boys, Adams followed Franklin on a whirlwind tour of diplomatic receptions at the Palais de Versailles and the châteaus of the ruling French nobility—the Duc de Noailles, the Marquis de Lafayette’s father-in-law; Prime Minister Comte de Maurepas; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Comte de Vergennes, who took Adams to meet King Louis XVI.
To eliminate the high cost of lodging, Adams moved into a furnished apartment in the Hotel Valentois, a château that Franklin was renting in Passy, then a small town between Paris and Versailles.c Franklin charged Adams no rent and gave him the use of his nine servants as well as his elegant carriage and coachman. Adams enrolled his son and Jesse Deane with Franklin’s grandson, nine-year-old “Benny” Bache, in a private boarding school that was near enough to allow John Quincy to spend Sundays with his father. Hardly an intimate occasion, Sunday dinners chez Franklin saw a small army of celebrated figures in the arts and government feasting on a galaxy of delicacies and fine wines from Franklin’s cellar of more than 1,000 bottles from renowned French vineyards.
“He lives in all the splendor and magnificence of a viceroy,” John Adams wrote of Franklin after one Sunday feast, “which is little inferior to that of a king.”14
In addition to Latin and French, the boys learned music, dancing, fencing, and drawing, and within a few weeks, John Quincy spoke fluent French, the universal language of the European upper classes and diplomats everywhere. Not as harsh as many such schools, Monsieur Le Coeur’s Pension began the school day at 6 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. but included frequent periods for play to ease the strain of academic discipline.
“It was then that the idea of writing a regular journal was first suggested to me,” John Quincy recalled. As he wrote to his mother at the time, “My pappa enjoins it upon me to keep a journal or diary of the events that happen to me, and of objects that I see and characters that I converse with from day to day.” All but breathing his father’s thoughts and words, he told his mother,
I am convinced of the utility, importance & necessity of this exercise . . . and although I shall have the mortification a few years hence to read a great deal of my childish nonsense, yet I shall have the pleasure and advantage of remarking the several steps by which I shall have advanced in taste and judgment and knowledge. I have been to see the palace and gardens of Versailles, the Military School at Paris [École Militaire] . . . & other scenes of magnificence in and about Paris. . . .
I am, my ever honored and revered Mamma, your dutiful & affectionate son John Quincy Adams15
Benjamin Franklin invited John Adams and his eleven-year-old son, John Quincy Adams, to live in his château on the outskirts of Paris after Adams’s arrival as one of the American commissioners soliciting financial and military aid from the French government. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
His father’s mission to Paris would prove short-lived, however. After barely a month, John Adams wrote to Congress urging the appointment of Franklin as sole American envoy to France, saying that commissions inevitably generate too many internal frictions to make them effective in international diplomacy.
The Palais de Versailles, where Benjamin Franklin took John Adams to meet French foreign minister Comte de Vergennes.
“The public business has never been methodically conducted,” he grumbled, “and it is not possible to obtain a clear idea of our affairs.”16 He found his fellow commissioner Arthur Lee argumentative, sharp-tongued, and disagreeable, with a violent temper, and he considered Franklin a dissipated “charlatan,” posing as a philosopher without ever having studied philosophy or the great thinkers. Although Franklin was exceptionally generous, he was a confirmed sybarite, rising late in the morning and, according to Adams, “coming home at all hours.” Franklin, Adams concluded,
has a passion for reputation and fame as strong as you can imagine, and his time and thoughts are chiefly employed to obtain it, and to set tongues and pens, male and female, to celebrating him. Painters, statuaries, sculptors, china potters and all are set to work for this end. He has the most affectionate and insinuating way of charming the woman or the man that he fixes on. It is the most silly and ridiculous way imaginable, in the sight of an American, but it succeeds to admiration, fulsome and sickish as it is, in Europe.17
With Franklin pursuing his rich social life, few diplomatic reports had flowed from Paris to Congress, and Adams assumed the burden of combing through hundreds of accumulated documents and condensing them into a series of reports that left him with too little time to enjoy Paris or, for that matter, get enough sleep. All but dismissed by a loyalist acquaintance as “a man of no consequence,” the work-oriented Adams seemed “out of his element” in the world of diplomacy—especially in Paris.
“He cannot dance, drink, game, flatter, promise, dress, swear with the gentlemen and talk small talk or flirt with the ladies. In short, he has none of the essential arts or ornaments which constitute a courtier,” one of his friends remarked.18 Adams himself admitted, “I am wearied to death with gazing wherever I go at a profusion of unmeaning wealth and magnificence. Gold, marble, silk, velvet, silver, ivory, and alabaster make up the show everywhere.”19
In March 1779, eleven months after they had arrived in France, John Quincy and his father were elated to begin their trip home to America, taking a coach from Paris to Nantes, where the Loire estuary empties into the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean. Franklin agreed to care for Jesse Deane and relieve John Adams of that responsibility.
Few ships sailed or docked on schedule in a world at war, and their ship, the Alliance, was not in port. The two Adamses spent the next seven weeks seeing the countryside, reading books, writing letters, attending theater, concerts, and operas, and visiting the castlelike home of Maryland merchant Joshua Johnson, his English wife, Catherine, and their three little girls. Adams had befriended Johnson’s brother, Maryland governor Thomas Johnson, at the Continental Congress, establishing a tie that would bind the two families for the rest of their lives.
On April 22, the Alliance arrived at Nantes, and the Adamses all but leaped aboard—only to be told to disembark. The vessel would not sail to America because the French government had assigned it to John Paul Jones’s squadron to harass British shipping in the English Channel. “This is a cruel disappointment,” Adams railed in his diary.
A few days later, the Adamses traveled westward along the southern shore of Brittany to the port of Lorient, where they were told they were more likely to find a ship bound for America. What they found were weeks of boredom in a town devoid of culture. The highlights of their stay were several dinners with John Paul Jones and a visit to his ship, the Bonhomme Richard—once a decrepit French ship that Jones had refitted with forty-two guns and renamed in Franklin’s honor.d
On June 17, three months after leaving Paris, John Quincy and his father boarded the French frigate Sensible in Lorient, along with the first French ambassador to the United States, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, and his aide, the Marquis François de Barbé Marbois. In what proved a smooth, uneventful crossing, John Quincy Adams displayed both his language skills and his pedagogical skills absorbed from teachers at his French school, as he succeeded in teaching the two French diplomats to speak serviceable English—in just eight weeks.
“The Chevalier de la Luzerne and Mr. Marbois,” John Adams beamed, “are in raptures with my son.”
I found them this morning, the ambassador seated on a cushion in our state room, Mr. Marbois in his cot at his left hand and my son stretched out in his at his right—the ambassador reading out loud in Blackstone’s Discourse . . . and my son correcting the pronunciation of every word and syllable and letter. The ambassador said he was astonished at my son’s knowledge; that he was a master of his own language like a professor. Mr. Marbois said “your son teaches us more than you. He shows us no mercy. We must have Mr. John.”20
The Sensible reached Boston at the beginning of August 1779, and John Adams had no sooner stepped ashore than his friends, neighbors, and family elected him to a special convention to draft a constitution for Massachusetts. The convention, in turn, asked him to draft the document himself, and drawing from his brilliant Thoughts on Government, he wrote most of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Beginning with a bill of rights, it placed all political power in the hands of the people and guaranteed such “natural, essential, and unalienable rights” as free speech, a free press, and free assembly. It also guaranteed free elections and the right of freemen to trial by jury and to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, and “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties” and “of acquiring, possessing, and protecting their property.”21
When John Adams had blotted the ink at the end of his draft, word arrived from Congress that, based on his recommendations, it had dissolved the commission in Paris in favor of a single ambassador, but instead of Franklin, it voted unanimously to appoint him, John Adams, to fill the post.
Seventy-one days after landing in Boston, Adams and his son boarded the same ship that had brought them home, the Sensible, and sailed for France for the second time in a year.
“My habitation, how disconsolate it looks!” Abigail raged at her husband. “My table, I set down to it but cannot swallow my food. O why was I born with so much sensibility and why possessing it have I so often been called to struggle with it?”22
Adams, however, had not hesitated to accept the appointment, which he believed would allow him to negotiate peace with England and recognition of American independence. “Let me entreat you,” he pleaded with Abigail, “to keep up your spirits and throw off cares as much as possible. . . . We shall yet be happy. I hope and pray and I don’t doubt it. I shall have vexations enough. You will have anxiety and tenderness enough as usual. Pray strive not to have too much.”23
Knowing he would no longer live in Franklin’s orbit and being more familiar than before with Parisian life, John Adams brought his middle boy, ten-year-old Charles, as a companion for John Quincy, and Abigail’s cousin John Thaxter as a tutor and part-time guardian for both children. Thaxter had tutored John Quincy once before, while studying law at John Adams’s Boston law offices. Also traveling with Adams aboard the Sensible was the new legation secretary, Francis Dana, a Harvard graduate like Adams and a successful Boston lawyer. A Revolutionary War veteran, he had served five months at Valley Forge with George Washington. All were elated by the prospect of life in Paris except John Quincy, who had wanted to prepare for Harvard. Setting aside her own disappointment, Abigail tried to lift her son’s spirits: “These are the times in which a genius would wish to live,” she told him. “It is not in the still calm life . . . that great characters are formed. . . . When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”24
Having only just turned twelve, John Quincy saw no advantages to being either a hero or a statesman, but his parents were raising him to be both, and he knew he had little choice but to try to fulfill their ambitions. Although he had made several false starts at keeping a diary, he now began again in earnest. He had no way of knowing then, but his new diary would become an addictive, lifelong pastime and evolve into one of the greatest personal histories of the times ever recorded by an American. He left no doubt of its design on the title page:
Journal by Me
His journal’s opening words were far more prophetic than either he or his mother could realize at the time: “1779 November Friday 12th. This morning I took leave of my Mamma.”25
Three days of savage storms in the North Atlantic split the ship’s seams, and as water seeped through the hull, the captain ordered all adults to take turns working pumps, each of them enduring four hour-long shifts per day. Even twelve-year-old John Quincy manned a pump until he fell to the floor exhausted. On December 9, 1779, the ship came within sight of the northwestern coast of Spain, and abandoning plans to sail to Bordeaux, the captain put into the tiny port of Ferrol. Less than an hour after the men stopped pumping, seven feet of water had filled the hull of the ship.
“One more storm would very probably have carried us to the bottom of the sea,” John Quincy wrote to frighten his mother and demonstrate his heroism in having manned the pumps.
Although they were safely ashore, gale-force winds and relentless rain made further travel by sea impossible—on any ship. They now faced crossing the all-but-impenetrable Pyrenees to reach France, over dangerous roads and mountain trails where highwaymen lurked behind every bend, ready to assault unsuspecting travelers. John Adams organized a mule train with thirteen mules and three old carriages that John Quincy said had been “made in the year one.” Adams hired two local muleteers, one to guide them, the other to take up the rear, and he bought himself a set of pistols.
“We set out like so many Don Quixote’s and Sancho Panza’s,” John Quincy scrawled in his diary at the end of the first day. When they reached Coronna near the base of the Pyrenees, they dined at the house of the French consul, then lodged at a local inn. Heavy rains pinned them down until the day after Christmas, when they began their trek through the Pyrenees and what John Quincy called “the worst three weeks I ever passed in my life.”
The roads in general are very bad. . . . The streets are filthy and muddy. . . . The lodgings I will not try to describe, for it is impossible . . . chambers in which anybody would think a half dozen hogs had lived there six months. . . . As for the people, they are lazy, dirty, nasty, and in short I can compare them to nothing but a parcel of hogs.26
Making their trip even worse, they all contracted “violent colds,” developed fevers, and, according to John Adams, “went along the road, sneezing, coughing in all that uncomfortable weather . . . and indeed were all of us more fitted for the hospital than for travelers. . . . The children were sick. Mr. Thaxter was not much better. . . . I was in a deplorable situation. I knew not where to go or what to do. . . . I had never experienced anything like this journey. . . . In my whole life, my patience was never so near being totally exhausted.”27
Although rain and snow slowed travel, it apparently discouraged highwaymen as well as ordinary travelers. The Adamses encountered none and escaped the Pyrenees on Sunday, January 15, 1780, when Adams, his sons, and his aides reached the Spanish port city of Bilbao—and the luxurious home of merchant Joseph Gardoqui. After several days recuperating, they set off in comfortable carriages and reached Paris on February 9, settling into the posh Hotel de Valois on the rue de Richelieu, in the heart of the city. A day later, Adams enrolled both boys in a boarding school, where John Quincy resumed his studies of Latin and Greek, geography, mathematics, drawing, and writing. To his delight, he reunited with Jesse Deane, whom Franklin had taken under his care while the boy’s father, Silas Deane, was in America.e
Once Abigail Adams learned that her son was safe and in school, she wrote pleading for a word from him.
My dear Son,
Writing is not a la mode de Paris, I fancy, or sure I should have heard from my son; or have you written and have I been so unfortunate as to lose all the letters which have been written to me for this five months. . . . Be dutiful my dear son.28
John Adams, meanwhile, took up his duties as American ambassador, writing Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes at Versailles, “I have now the honor to acquaint you that . . . the United States Congress did me the honor to elect me their Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate a peace with Britain and also to negotiate a treaty of commerce with that kingdom.”29
To Adams’s consternation, Vergennes responded to his every effort to promote peace negotiations with objections couched in diplomatic niceties. Although Adams could not know it at the time, Vergennes had no intention of fostering peace between the Americans and their former overlords. Intent on weakening Britain enough to permit French reconquest of Canada, Vergennes planned on providing the Americans with enough military aid to prolong the American Revolution indefinitely and sap the military strength of both sides—without allowing either to win. As an autocratic monarchy, France had no interest in promoting the rights of man or independence for Adams’s self-governing republic.
Frustrated by Vergennes’s diplomatic obstructions, Adams decided to go to Amsterdam to enlist financial help from the Dutch government “to render us less dependent on France,” as he explained to Congress.
Once there, Adams enrolled the boys in the city’s famed Latin school, but the headmaster found their inability to speak Dutch too great an impediment, and Adams withdrew them. At the suggestion of a friend who was studying medicine at the University of Leyden, Thaxter took John Quincy and Charles to that city, rented lodgings, then enrolled in the university himself and took the boys with him to lectures. He tutored them intensively until each of them—first John Quincy, then Charles—acquired enough knowledge to enroll in the university as full-time students, despite their ages.
“You have now a prize in your hands indeed,” the proud father told his older son, who had turned thirteen. “If you do not improve to the best advantage,” he cautioned the boy, “you will be without excuse. But as I know you have an ardent thirst for knowledge and a good capacity to acquire it, I depend on it, you will do no dishonor to yourself nor to the University of Leyden.”30
Abigail was equally proud. “What a harvest of true knowledge and learning may you gather from the numberless varied scenes through which you pass if you are not wanting in your assiduity and endeavors. Let your ambition be engaged to become eminent, but above all things, support a virtuous character and remember that ‘an honest man is the noblest work of God.’”31 Still a mother, however, she did not neglect maternal concerns: “I hope, my dear boy, that the universal neatness and cleanliness of the people where you reside will cure you of all your slovenly tricks and that you learn from them industry, economy, and frugality.”32
Slovenly though he may have been, thirteen-year-old John Quincy was scholarly to a degree that astonished many accomplished university professors and caught the attention of Jean Luzac, a prominent lawyer, history scholar, and editor of the influential Gazette de Leyde. He became great friends with the boy, who scored his first diplomatic triumph by introducing Luzac to his father. Their encounter turned Luzac into Holland’s most outspoken advocate of Dutch financial aid to the Americans and produced substantial loans to the Americans and eventual recognition of American independence.
In early summer 1781, Congress appointed Francis Dana minister to the court of Empress Catherine II in St. Petersburg to seek Russian recognition of American independence. Though a fierce autocrat, Catherine pretended to embrace social progress, when, in fact, she had reduced Russia’s free peasantry to serfdom. Some members of Congress hoped commercial interests might encourage her to establish diplomatic ties to the New World and encourage other neutral nations to follow suit. Oddly, the otherwise brilliantly educated Dana spoke no French, which was the language not only of international diplomacy but of everyday social inter-course among the Russian aristocracy. Taken by John Quincy Adams’s erudition, social maturity, and language skills, Dana invited the boy, who was still fourteen, to serve as his secretary and interpreter, and John Quincy, eager for independence and in awe of working with a veteran of Valley Forge, accepted. It was an incredible choice, but Dana—like most people who talked with John Quincy—often forgot he was talking to a mere boy. John Quincy was remarkable, and Dana believed it would take too long to find and transport to Europe another American—of any age—to serve as a more effective secretary of legation.
John Quincy Adams, seen here at sixteen, a year after having gone to St. Petersburg, Russia, as American minister Francis Dana’s translator and legation secretary. (NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE, ADAMS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK)
“This morning, brother Charles and I packed up our trunks,” John Quincy wrote in his diary on June 28, 1781, “and I went to take leave of our riding master.” Unlike his older brother, Charles had been unhappy in Europe and was returning to his mother in America. John Quincy Adams was about to turn fifteen and begin life on his own—in the service of his country as a foreign diplomat. A devoted scholar by then, he would not leave without copying some of his favorite works to take with him. In the days before his departure, he copied Alexander Pope’s “Ode for Music on St. Cecilia’s Day” and “Universal Prayer,” as well as “Mr. Addison’s Tragedy of Cato.” American patriots—none more than George Washington—cherished the Roman statesman Cato’s noble sentiments: “What pity is it that we can die but once to serve our country.”f33
On the day of his departure, John Quincy made this entry in his diary: “Saturday, July the 7th, 1781: This morning we packed up everything to go on a journey.” The boy diplomat closed his journal, slipped it into his coat, and embarked on the beginning of what would be a lifelong adventure of service to his country.34


user comment image
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

Share your Thoughts for John Quincy Adams: A Life

500+ SHARES Facebook Twitter Reddit Google LinkedIn Email
Share Button
Share Button