The documents selected for "One President's Adolescence" span the years 1773 to 1782, a crucial time in the life of both young John Quincy Adams and of the young republic. Although Adams lived into the 1840s and in his later years remained active as a congressman and as an attorney who successfully defended the mutinous slaves of the frigate Amistad, such post-Revolutionary accomplishments are beyond the limits of the present unit.

The documents and accompanying curriculum are easily adaptable for independent study, with or without a teacher's guidance, for home schooling, or for enrichment for individual students who require more of a challenge within a classroom setting; and the materials are useful in social studies, language arts, or an interdisciplinary unit. Additional information is included in Suggestions for Classroom Use.

The letters can be read in order from sections one through ten, or sections can be chosen to suit individual interests. For students who are working alone, it is especially important to place the documents into a meaningful context before beginning study. In order to do that readers are advised to:

read the biographical sketches on

John Quincy Adams
John Adams
Abigail Adams

read the background material in each section prior to reading the primary documents

Tips for Reading the Primary Documents:

To add emphasis to the events unfolding in the letters, the present tense is used in the background information for each section.
Students working independently are encouraged to read both the original and the transcription of each letter. Handwritten documents provide a fascination lost in an age of word processors.
The language is challenging, and dictionaries may be needed to understand certain passages.
Reading aloud can be a powerful means to hear the voices in the unit.
Spelling and grammatical inconsistencies are found in many of the letters. Even future presidents and their families err in the most ordinary ways, although it should also be pointed out that dictionaries (let alone spell checkers!) were scarce and that Noah Webster had not yet issued his famous Spelling Book, which would subsequently regularize American usage.

For the student working independently but under the guidance of a teacher or parent:

Using the primary documents and your own experiences as focal points, address the following essay question:

Are the issues faced in childhood and adolescence in the eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries more similar or more different?

Because the question is a broad one, you will have to narrow it to specific concerns as you formulate a thesis.

How To Obtain an Answer Key:

Students or parents who are interested in receiving a Guide to Answers should e-mail or send a written request to Educating Youth, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215. Please provide your name, e-mail address, home address, department and school address (if you attend school), and telephone number. The answer key will be forwarded by e-mail or, if you prefer, regular mail.

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