In allowing JQA to travel to Europe, John and Abigail Adams risk losing valuable time in their eldest son's intellectual development. While many Massachusetts boys of JQA's social class are faithfully preparing for their entrance to Harvard College, which often falls during the early teen years, JQA is frequently unable to study the right subjects in the proper manner. In fact, after he returns from Europe, Harvard rejects JQA (his Greek isn't good enough!); he is admitted only after he completes more of the traditional preparatory work but is then enrolled as a junior.

The business of American independence often takes John away from his sons while they are together in Europe, and so JQA is often forced to study on his own. With his father's advice, he designs a course of studies, and John Adams carefully monitors his son's progress. Abigail's focus is not on specific subjects but on a different type of personal development. Taken together, the plans his father and mother outline for JQA's intellectual and moral improvement are quite ambitious.

Image credit:

• "Prospect of the Colledges in Cambridge in New England." Engraving with hand coloring attributed to John Harris after William Burgis, 1726.