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.
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.
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
John Quincy Adams
the background material in each section prior to reading the primary
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:
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?
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
or parents who are interested in receiving a Guide to Answers should
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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