As his parents' eldest son, John Quincy is expected to excel in many ways. His older sister, Abigail (Nabby), shares names with their mother. As a female in the eighteenth century, she escapes many of these demands but also, despite her great abilities, loses out on many opportunities. John Quincy has two younger brothers, Charles and Thomas Boylston. Charles is three years younger, and Thomas Boylston is five years JQA's junior. Neither Charles nor Thomas Boylston follows his father's or brother's paths to success.

JQA is expected to write to his siblings when he is overseas, and he usually complies. The letters of this section are from JQA's first two trips to Europe. The last letter, from sister Abigail, is to John Quincy when he is in St. Petersburg as private secretary to the U.S. minister to Russia.

With his younger brothers, JQA sometimes sounds like a parent. He warns Thomas in a letter of October 1, 1778, that all moments of childhood are precious, advice he offers to encourage the six-year-old to begin learning French.

Image credits:

Abigail Adams Smith. Oil portrait by Mather Brown, ca. 1785. Courtesy of the Adams National Historic Site, National Park Service.
Charles Adams. Miniature oil on ivory (?) by an unknown artist, c. 1795. Reproduced in "Wide Awake, an Illustrated Magazine," November 1888.
Thomas Boylston Adams. Miniature oil on ivory by Parker, 1795.