Diary of John Quincy Adams, volume 1

Descriptive List of Illustrations


xvii Introduction Introduction
The Manuscript

John Quincy Adams began his Diary when he was twelve, “upon embarking on board the French Frigate la Sensible, at Boston” on 12 November 1779.1 The last journal entry in his own hand was made on 24 December 1847, a little more than 68 years later. The actual Diary, which remains on the shelves of the Adams Papers, consists of fifty manuscript pieces, of which ten are gatherings of stitched, pinned, or loose sheets, some with covers; ten are printed almanacs or annual registers in which journal entries were written on blank pages; and thirty are volumes of varying size bound in calf or vellum.2

Stupendous as the Diary is in its scope and mass, full journal entries were not made with regularity throughout the period the diary was kept. In fact, the Diary consists of entries of differing kinds: full and complete entries, notes for entries, and line-a-day or abbreviated entries. From 1 January 1795 to 6 May 1821 there is a full entry for each day without interruption, an extraordinary diaristic achievement. For briefer periods, each of more than a year's duration, full entries were also made: 1 January 1785 – 23 August 1788, 1 February 1827 – 24 June 1828, 1 January 1829 – 24 March 1832, 5 July 1832 – 26 December 1834, 17 March 1839 – 30 September 1845. The periods of unbroken full entries add up to 43 years and 6 months. In addition, over 2,900 complete entries, the equal of eight years, are found in periods for which sequence was less rigorously maintained.

Of the days and months lacking full entries, by far the largest portion are represented by abbreviated entries; a much smaller number, by notes clearly intended for expansion into full entries. In the closing years of the Diary a few periods have no entries of any kind.3 Adams resorted to the short or line-a-day xviiientries as substitutes for complete ones primarily in the earlier years, before he had settled into persistent and habitual journal-keeping.4 Later he used them to piece out gaps during 1821, 1823–1825, and 1835. The notes for entries occur mainly during times of heavy public responsibilities. When he was secretary of state and woefully in arrears with his journal, he wrote:

My physical powers sink under it.... I had hoped to keep this as a minute and circumstantial record of my share in the affairs of my country while I continue a member of its Administration. I must renounce this hope, and content myself with a mere abridgement of memoranda in future. In summer I can barely keep pace with the current of events. In winter, during the sessions of Congress, one indispensable occupation succeeds another, which absorb the morning hours, and leave me none for the daily narrative of yesterdays.5

The “memoranda,” or notes for entries, begun shortly afterward, continue for parts of each year following to the end of his term as president in 1829. They resume in 1832, at the start of his service in the Congress, and at intervals from 1834 to 1838.

Beyond utilizing shortened entries as expedients when he found it impossible to complete the full record, Adams also, during numerous and extended periods, wrote such entries along with and in addition to full journal entries. The purpose seems to have been to perfect the technique of the abbreviated and condensed entry in the expectation that shortly he would be physically unable to write at length. We learn from a passage written late in his life, just after Adams had dislocated his right shoulder in a fall in the House of Representatives, that he had experienced since childhood continuing difficulties with his writing hand:

I... could scarcely refrain from repining at the peculiar untowardness of the disability ... of my right arm. One of the first questions asked me by Dr. May was whether the shoulder had ever been dislocated before. I had no recollection of any such event; but remembered having been told by my mother that when a child two or three years old, I was straying out into the street, when the Nursery maid ran out after me, and seizing me by the right hand, gave it an involuntary sudden jerk and dislocated the shoulder. My right hand has consequently I suppose upon this early disability been weaker than the left all my days. xixAlways unable to write fast, and for the last twenty-five years unable to write at all as other men do with the forefinger and the thumb. My right hand has been many times further disabled by casualties of various and different kinds against all which I have struggled to the utmost of my ability, considering it as the business and duty of my life to write.6

The fear that he might have to curtail the daily stint is apparent intermittently from his early years. In 1788, after more than three years of unbroken entries, Adams writes of “an indisposition which for two months has prevented me from writing....I will not however immediately drop all memorials of my transactions; but the remainder of this volume will probably contain a space of time as long as that recorded already in more than two volumes and an half.”7 In 1816, five years before the twenty-six-year sequence of full entries is broken, he muses on adopting a “practice which I now expect will be my last resort”:

The increasing difficulty that I experience in writing with my own hand, has sufficiently convinced me that it cannot be long before I shall be compelled either to cease keeping this Diary altogether, or of reducing within the smallest compass the record of every day. The idea occurred to me, of beginning to keep a separate minute; allotting one line to every day, and by an arrangement which would give one page to every Month.8

Despite his recurrent complaint that, burdened as he was with the discomfort of writing, he would soon face the need to curtail or cease diary-keeping in his own hand, Adams continued the Diary without resort to amanuensis until 30 September 1845. One day earlier, in an unusually cramped hand, he had made note of a “paralytic affection which disables me from writing,” and on the 30th he recognized that “the total disability to write with my own hand compels me to discontinue the daily journal of my life.” Thereafter, the entries in the manuscript are in the hands of amanuenses to 31 August 1846.9 Then, once more, xxby strength of will, he kept his journal in his own hand to 17 November. For each of the two days following, he began the entry but had to abandon it. The next day he suffered his first cerebral hemorrhage. The dictated entries do not resume until 1 April 1847 (continuing to 4 January 1848). In the interim, however, he did persist in daily “minutes” or brief entries in his own hand that he had begun on 1 May 1846 and would continue, with the omission of some days, until 24 December 1847.10

The variations in the physical character of the manuscript volumes and in the kinds of entries that constitute the Diary of John Quincy Adams differ markedly from his retrospective view of how his journal should have been maintained:

A page a day and rarely two pages have been my continual task but the keeping of a diary that I would recommend would be Quarto volumes of one size of 500 pages each—every page divided by two red lines into 3 equal parts. The entries to be made in abridged style and form of memoranda, never to exceed or fall short of one third of a page. Each volume to contain the record of 4 years. In 60 years this would make 15 volumes of 500 pages each—quite enough for the autobiography of one man.11

The variations perhaps seem to confirm what has been said of the Diary, that it was kept in a disorderly fashion. That description is justified only for particular periods and does not reflect habit. For the periods during which Adams was able to complete full journal entries on successive days, all the entries are made in due sequence within an ordered series of volumes, the integrity of each being observed without exception. Adams' employment of more than one volume at a time for entries during a span of any length, thus introducing “disorder,” marks three periods of the Diary: the years before he settled into a strict routine, 1788–1794, when he kept entries in one set of volumes and abbreviated entries in almanacs; the later years of his secretaryship and the years of his presidency (1821–1829); and his first years as congressman (1832–1839). In these last two spans, when the xxi image stresses of office were greatest, Adams had to select for a given entry one of three volumes he had in current use—one for full entries, one for abbreviated ones, and one for notes that were to be expanded and transferred when time permitted. From time to time during these periods he wrote the Diary notes in volumes which he also used for various memoranda: lists of visitors, dinner guests, members of the Congress, artists to whom he had sat, lands to be surveyed, newspaper titles, his published and unpublished writings; commentaries on Bible passages; notes on his reading; population statistics, election returns, meteorological observations, metrical versions of Psalms, poems; inventories of clothing, of the content of trunks; indexes to his letter-books; and the like. There are five such volumes among the fifty that constitute the Diary, four of which bear the word “Rubbish” on their spines.12

Given the variety of entries and the several ways in which they were kept, it is not surprising that Adams himself wrote that the Diary entries for the years preceding 1795, written on “loose sheets, Sybil leaves, interleaved Almanacks, and motley volumes of all sizes, are many of them lost.”13 Probably a number of these that Adams was unable to locate at any given time and that were “lost” to him during his lifetime were packed away in one or another trunk kept in Washington or Quincy. Much was submerged among the mass of his papers that were not brought into order until after his death, or left, while Adams was abroad for long periods, in the custody of his brother Thomas Boylston Adams or another.14 Yet despite almost limitless opportunities for losses, the evidence suggests that when Charles Francis Adams had completed the analysis and arrangement of his father's papers in preparation for their publication, no manuscript volume in which John Quincy Adams had made diary entries had failed to survive.15 The only clearly identifiable losses are of some entries made in a single loosely bound volume. There, leaves containing parts of the entries for 8, 11, 12, 27 July and 17 August 1781 and all the entries between these last two dates are xxii image missing. When the leaves disappeared is not clear, but in April 1911 Worthington C. Ford noted in the manuscript that they were missing.16

Earlier Use and Publication of the Diary

John Quincy Adams began keeping a diary or journal because of his father's repeated urging. The ends to be served were the perpetuation of “many observations that I may make,” the recollection of “both persons, and things, that would other ways escape my memory,” and the cultivation of “patience and perseverance.” These were the objectives with which John Adams had begun his journalizing. In consequence, L. H. Butterfield believes that the father regarded his Diary as a private and impermanent record: “The text of the Diary is almost wholly free of indications that the writer supposed anyone, including himself, would read it later.” To the young John Quincy Adams, however, a diary's usefulness was not alone as a “means of improvement to myself,” but as a source of interest and entertainment to others, though he admitted that the journal of a “Lad of Eleven years old, Cannot be expected to Contain much of Science, Litterature, arts, wisdom, or wit.” What may have been the earliest use of the Diary for the edification of others came less than a year after he made his first journal entry. His older friend John Thaxter Jr. recorded that “He sends me now and then small portions of his Journal,” and in acknowledging to the diarist one such “Continuation,” wrote that by it, “You have refreshed my Memory encore.”17

At first the Diary was essentially a travel journal in which John Quincy Adams recorded what he had observed, a number of persons perhaps being allowed to see extracts. Only when the entries began to include reflections and opinions on persons or events did he enforce a stricter privacy. Gradually, as he matured and entered upon a lifetime of public service, the Diary assumed its fundamental character, that of a daily record of occurrences so full and faithful that it would be accepted as a valid reference. As the controversies that marked his career mounted, xxiiiAdams repeatedly had recourse to the Diary for substantiation. This is manifest from the several lengthy extracts made by amanuenses during his life that relate to disputed matters and survive in the Adams Papers. Yet those that remain are but specimens of more frequent usage. In the course of one disagreement, he wrote: “I thought it advisable to have extracts from my diary made....As a copy must be made by an entirely confidential hand, my wife undertook the task. She has often assisted me in the same manner before.”18 Adams' custom of resorting to the Diary to buttress his testimony is particularly well-documented in the papers bearing upon the suit of Levett Harris v. William D. Lewis for libel filed in 1821.19 In the course of the action Adams several times had to respond to interrogatories before appointed commissioners and to submit affidavits. Believing it “indispensable to the ends of justice that I should answer fully and explicitly,... I am re-examining all my papers having reference to these transactions, to bring all the facts as fresh as possible to my recollection.” At the conclusion of his search, he had extracts from the Diary made and introduced them as “vouchers” for the facts asserted in his testimony.20 In the Adams Papers are 24 pages of these extracts, of which those for the years 1810–1812 are docketed by the commissioners as received in evidence.21 When the commissioners permitted Calhoun to read parts, he reported to Adams that he “saw the benefit of keeping a diary.”22

Ten years later Calhoun, then vice-president, perhaps remembering that earlier impression, provided the occasion for another xxiv image recourse to the Diary. The issue, important to President Jackson, was whether Calhoun or William H. Crawford or both had supported, in meetings of President Monroe's cabinet in 1818, the effort to discipline the then General Jackson for having exceeded his authority in invading the Spanish province of Florida. The position Adams had taken in the meetings was also in dispute. Confronted by requests from Calhoun and Crawford for confirmation, Adams had extracts made for them of those Diary entries that related to the Seminole War and to the cabinet discussions about it. Reflecting that both men had earlier cooperated to effect his ruin, Adams nevertheless thought it his duty “to discard all consideration of their treatment of me;... to conceal nothing which it may be lawful to divulge, and which may promote truth and justice between the parties.”23

Even as his life neared its end, John Quincy Adams continued under the necessity of defending his public acts, relying heavily upon his Diary. Once more he was pitted against Jackson, on this occasion over the annexation of Texas to the Union. The necessity for Adams' making a detailed defense arose from a communication from Jackson to Aaron Vail Brown, U.S. representative from Tennessee, 12 February 1843, and from Vail's letter to the Washington Globe, 21 March 1844. The charge had to do with Secretary Adams' conduct of the negotiations with Spain in 1819 that culminated in the Florida treaty, in which the Sabine River was accepted as the western boundary of Louisiana, and hence of the nation as it then was. Jackson claimed that Adams had deliberately neglected to consult him, a consultation to which his position and knowledge entitled him and one which President Monroe had requested. Adams saw the claim as “a fable fabricated to justify the robbery of Texas from Mexico, by the pretense that Texas had been by me treacherously surrendered to Spain.” In his view, “The Florida Treaty was the most important incident of my life and the most successful negotiation ever consummated by the Government of this Union. And this is precisely selected, above all others, as an engine for the total destruction of my good name.”


Adams determined to reply at length. He chose as his vehicle an address to the Boston Young Men's Whig Club on 7 October 1844. In it he undertook to vindicate himself and “to expose to the world and to after-times the infamous means used to accomplish the annexation of Texas.'' In preparation he combed the Diary and had his nephew Walter Hellen copy extracts from entries of 1818–1820. These copies, now in the Adams Papers, come to 78 manuscript pages.24 From them Adams was able to demonstrate conclusively that he, contrary to Jackson's assertions, did consult with Jackson to obtain his opinion on the proposed boundary, that Jackson had expressed no objection to the proposed boundary at the Sabine, and that Jackson's interest at the time was centered upon Florida, not Texas. In the Address, which was printed and reprinted within the next few weeks, Adams quoted to great effect the diary entries of 1–3 February 1819.25

After John Quincy Adams' death, Charles Francis Adams initially responded freely to requests for extracts from his father's Diary with a view to their public use. The first such request of which there is a record came in only a few months from John Adams Dix, U.S. senator from New York. Dix wished to quote, in a speech on the Wilmot Proviso, the adverse opinion Adams had expressed on the slavery compromise in the ordinance of 1787. Charles Francis, enclosing transcripts of the entries for 3–6 March 1820, wrote:

I know of no reason why the information should be suppressed. If there be anything in these Extracts which may serve the public at this time, it will give me great pleasure to have you make use of it.

My father's position that Slavery cannot be established by Congress in a country where it does not exist, though it can be prohibited seems to me to be the true ground upon which to battle with all the schemes of compromise afloat that surrender that principle.26

Dix used the extracts on 26 July in a speech in the Senate on the xxvi image bill to establish territorial governments in Oregon, California, and New Mexico.27

Publication had unexpected consequences. A year and a half later, 22 January 1850, Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan, speaking on the same issues but to a different end, quoted at length from the passages Dix had used. His denunciation of John Quincy Adams' sentiments made it clear that Adams' death had not lessened the intensity of partisanship. Averring that public access to portions of the Diary would add nothing to Adams' “claims (and they are many)” on the good opinion of the citizenry, Cass lashed out at Adams' view that the compromise on slavery by which the Constitution was adopted was “morally and politically vicious” as an opinion “no right-minded American” could hold. This led him to a savage characterization of Adams, and a censuring of that “member of his family” who by permitting the quotation had exposed the statesman's weaknesses.28

The incident gave clear warning to C. F. Adams that by allowing others to quote from the Diary he exposed his father's name to the same accusations that had marked his life and rendered himself, as the protector of his father's reputation, chargeable. That he long felt the full force of the unpleasantness is evident in his response to Thomas Hart Benton's request in 1857 for permission to use and quote in the Abridgement of Debates of Congress passages from the Diary in 1821 bearing on cabinet discussions of the actions of Andrew Jackson as governor in West Florida. Identifying the Dix-Cass episode as decisive, Adams wrote Benton that thereafter he had refused repeated requests to permit any publication and that he presently allowed reading xxviiof the passages needed, but with the stipulation that there be no quotation nor citation of source. In offering Benton a transcript, he insisted upon its return without a copy's being made.29

Other applicants for the use of the Diary included William H. Seward, Josiah Quincy, Charles Sumner, and Bancroft Davis. Adams granted each request, it appears, with stipulations similar to those made to Benton. The biographies of John Quincy Adams written by Seward and by Harvard's President Quincy bear evidence that the authors had consulted the Diary—but neither contains lengthy or significant quotation from it.30 Sumner's interest was satisfied with a reading of extracts relating to the origin of the Monroe Doctrine; Bancroft Davis' request was for “information of the mode of opening the commission at Ghent in 1814.”31

The Dix-Cass misadventure was not the only cause of the more restrictive conditions C. F. Adams came to impose upon use of the Diary. As early as 1853, he was himself considering publishing somewhat extensive extracts from the Diary. The difficulties faced were in deciding what parts could be published and whether any should be during his lifetime.32 Both his reluctance to permit others to publish extracts and his own hesitancy arose partly from fear that their appearance in print would raise demands “for explanations, and further elucidations, that might end in a premature publication of the most delicate portions of that record.”33 Charles Francis Adams was inhibited also by his commitment to completing the editing of his ten-volume Works of John Adams, 1850–1856. Then, after little more than a year, he assumed an active role in public life—in the Congress and as minister to Great Britain—that would not xxviii image end until 1868. In that interval, however, he did return to the study of the Diary and employed an amanuensis, Dr. Steele, to copy those selections he had made for publication. Adams had not decided at this juncture whether to publish the Diary alone or with materials from his father's correspondence.34 It appears, too, that by 1860 he had faced up to the likelihood that he could not look forward to an early return to editing.35

Throughout his tenure as minister in London, Adams retained a sense of obligation unfulfilled, and when he returned to America he resumed editorial labors. He devoted the early months of 1870 to reading the Diary and to formulating plans for an edition. With the decision made to focus upon his father's public life, he entered into correspondence in April with J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia publishers. He was then, with the copying not yet half finished, unable to predict the length of the projected work. After a year it seemed measurable, but of “fearful” size, even allowing for “extensive reduction.” Lippincott remained cordial, suggesting that terms and decisions await clarification of procedures. As a way to avoid the limited sales to be expected in a publication of this magnitude and to stimulate interest in the larger work, the publisher suggested beginning with a two-volume abridgment. Adams' conception, however, was that his edition should offer “permanent materials for the history of half a century,” convinced, as he was, that the Diary was unique in the record it established. The issue was settled when the “leading statesmen” sounded out by Lippincott agreed with Adams' position. Bowing to this opinion, the publisher announced in the firm's “Monthly Bulletin of New Publications” the impending publication of the Diary covering the years 1795–1848, and in “Our Monthly Gossip” offered a seductive sample —the entry for 11 December 1814 recording conversation at Ghent among the Peace Commissioners. An introductory statement promised that the editor's selection from the “mass” xxix image would include “whatever must have a permanent value” and would, when published, run to five or six volumes.36

Here a new cause for delay arose—Adams' appointment in August to the tribunal on the Alabama Claims to convene at Geneva. Despite Lippincott's offer of a contract, along with a proposal to put the first volume in print before his departure, Adams ultimately concluded to postpone any publication until his return. His official responsibilities and other commitments kept him away from scholarship longer than he had anticipated. Not until the summer of 1873 did he feel free to sign the deferred contract and to resume steady work on the Diary.37

Meanwhile, during C. F. Adams' absence abroad, Henry Adams, relying upon the announcement that the Diary would commence at 1795, and with apparent knowledge of his father's editorial plans, published in the North American Review some excerpts from the Diary written during his grandfather's years as a student at Harvard College, 15 March 1786 – 24 May 1787. The passages, interspersed with commentary, were not presented chronologically. An essay-review of two small volumes on Cambridge and Harvard in earlier days by T. C. Amory and Edward Everett provided the occasion and excuse for including the Diary excerpts. Henry Adams nowhere in the article mentioned that the student who kept the diary was John Quincy Adams.38

Charles Francis Adams' far larger editorial enterprise, when resumed, progressed rapidly. Before the end of September 1873, Lippincott had in hand copy for the first volume, with publication scheduled for January. By the end of 1874 three volumes had appeared, and Lippincott dispatched a fourth to Adams early in January 1875. However, the four volumes had brought the diarist only to February 1820. With the length of the work still estimated at five or six volumes, the publisher was led to xxxinquire whether the editor had “any idea how many more volumes the work is likely to make.” But Lippincott's persistent requests to Adams for more copy indicated no loss of appetite for the enterprise.39 There were no undue delays, although Adams was discovering that providing the necessary annotation required more time and effort than he had anticipated.40 Three additional volumes appeared in 1875, Volumes 8–11 in 1876, and the final volume with index in 1877. Relations between editor and publisher remained cordial throughout. Adams, on receiving the balance ($1,051.50) due him, wrote Lippincott: “I trust that I need not express to you how pleasant has been the relation I have had with you ... and how faithfully the work has been carried through on your part, considering its magnitude. With such assistance I should be led to regret that instead of finishing my last labor, I was not recommencing upon my first.”41

Charles Francis Adams' mood, as he came to the end of his long editorial labors on the works of his father and grandfather was exultant: “Justice will at last be done by posterity to the men who had hard measure when alive.” Evident also was a profound sense of release: “Eighteen years have passed away since the will of my father laid this heavy responsibility upon me. I am at last my own Master again.”42 His conviction that he was so obligated is made no less real by our awareness that the facts were otherwise. The will of John Quincy Adams makes no allusion to publication of the Diary, nor indeed to the Diary itself (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 607). In what was apparently the last conversation between father and son on the subject of the Diary, Charles Francis recorded that John Quincy Adams “said that his Diary was closed, he should never write any more of it. He should place it in my hands to do with it what I might think proper, at the same time, distinctly stating that it had never xxxibeen written for extended publication and it was not his wish that such publication be made.”43

This position is consistent with what John Quincy Adams had maintained over the years. Upon examining John Adams' Diary, he had written: “The journal is ... deeply interesting to me ... but altogether unfit for public inspection, and such as ought to be reserved from all eyes but those of affectionate descendants. My own Journal will be of the same character.” Of that Journal and its disposition, he was later more explicit but to the same purpose: “I have already more volumes, and multitudes of fragments—Trash inexpressible, which I pray to God may never be exposed, but which I leave to my Son to be used according to his good judgment for a memoir of my life; and if, by the Mercy of God, the manuscripts should be preserved, to be left, with those of my father, to one of my grandsons who may be worthy of possessing and passing them down to further generations.”44

C. F. Adams came to believe that he had a mandate to publish the Diary, but also that he was committed by his father's wishes and his own to reserve from public scrutiny matter that he judged to be private. The methods by which he proposed to resolve these aims that were not altogether consonant are made manifest in his Preface to the Memoirs :

The chief objects to be attained by publishing the papers of eminent men seem to be the elucidation of the history of the times in which they acted, and of the extent to which they exercised a personal influence upon opinion as well as upon events.... In the present instance there remains a record of life carefully kept by John Quincy Adams for nearly the whole of his active days, and in condition so good as but to need careful abridgment to serve the purposes above pointed out.... Assuming this to be certain, it became necessary to fix upon a rule of selection which should be fair and honest. To attain that object I came to the following conclusions: 1st. To eliminate the details of common life and events of no interest to the public. 2d. To reduce the moral and religious speculations, in which the work abounds, so far as to escape repetition of sentiments once declared. 3d. Not to suppress strictures upon contemporaries, but to give them only when they are upon public men acting in the same sphere with the writer.... 4th. To suppress nothing of his own habits of self-examination, even when they might be thought most to tell against himself. 5th. To abstain altogether from xxxiimodification of the sentiments or the very words, and substitution of what might seem better ones, in every case but that of obvious error in writing.... I have confined myself strictly to the duty of explanation and illustration of what time may have rendered obscure in the text. Whatever does appear there remains just as the author wrote it.45

Comparison of widely separated sections of the text of the Memoirs with that of the manuscript Diary justifies the conclusion that C. F. Adams conformed unexceptionably to the rules he had set.46 This is also the judgment of the late Samuel F. Bemis, who reported that “constant searching behind the Memoirs into the Diary,... has yielded little new historical matter.” One concluded on the evidence that Adams had applied his announced principles of selection with such conscientiousness that the Memoirs became a virtually complete chronicle of the public aspect of John Quincy Adams' life. “Wherever there was any doubt ... C. F. Adams printed, so copiously that some of the descendants have felt that he went too far.”47

A different, more subjective, judgment on the Memoirs and on C. F. Adams as editor was voiced by C. F. Adams 2d.48 That same son in 1901 brought to public notice a further selection from John xxxiii image Quincy Adams' Diary, the first since the Memoirs . He read to a Newburyport audience entries from the period of young Adams' residence in that town.49 In November 1902, Adams read more extensively from entries of the same period at a meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, noting that “Though I found in this record much which greatly interested me, no use whatever was made of it by my father in his publication entitled ‘Memoirs of J. Q. Adams'; for it contains little of, so-called, historical value.” He placed the two appropriate Diary booklets in the hands of Charles C. Smith, the Society's editor, “with permission to make such use of their contents as he saw fit.” From the Newburyport entries, 9 August 1787 – 18 September 1789, Smith “incorporated in the Proceedings such extracts as to him seemed of interest or value.” He chose to print the record almost in entirety, Adams commenting that “some insignificant portions of the diary have been omitted either because the events recorded were too trivial or commonplace to merit publication or because they related to matters of student life and intercourse now of interest to no one.” The entries were accompanied by lengthy and impressive annotations prepared by Miss J. C. Watts, a Radcliffe alumna, “thoroughly trained and indefatigable in research.”50

Another, and seemingly the last, of C. F. Adams 2d's addenda to what his father had printed in the Memoirs concerned public matters that fell well within the senior Adams' guidelines for inclusion. Mistakenly he had omitted all entries from the period 24 March–30 November 1832, because “the minutes remaining ... xxxivare not deemed sufficiently perfect for publication.”51 In December 1905 the younger Adams read a communication to the Massachusetts Historical Society on the debates in the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues raised by the protective tariff and internal improvements. He included lengthy extracts from John Quincy Adams' published and unpublished correspondence as well as extracts from the Diary for 30, 31 May; 4, 6, 14, 18, 24, 25, 28, 29 June; and 5, 6, 8–13, 17–26 July 1832.52

Plans for publishing additional sections from the Diary manuscript were made unlikely by the decision in 1905 of the first Charles Francis Adams' heirs who were then of full age to create the Adams Manuscript Trust, in which the ownership, care, and supervision of the whole corpus of papers would vest. The archive had three years before been transferred from Quincy to the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. There the papers remained unused until 1908, when Worthington C. Ford came to the Society as Editor. Ford set himself to study and arrange the manuscripts with a view to publishing some of them, but not including in his plans any Diary excerpts.53

Although publication of selections from the Diary came to a stop, some consultation and use of the Diary manuscript by members of the Adams family persisted. Brooks Adams, for example, made considerable use of it, including the unpublished portions, in preparing his “Life of John Quincy Adams,” 1903–1909.54 In his later years, however, he was opposed to permitting the use of any of the papers, and after his death in 1927 no direct access to the papers by scholars was allowed.55 Only when Samuel F. Bemis had begun the research that would eventuate in his xxxvtwo-volume biography of J. Q. Adams was the rule relaxed, and apparently for him alone.56

Soon more fundamental developments governing the availability of the Diary and of the rest of the family's papers were at hand. In 1952 the then trustees of the Adams Manuscript Trust determined to publish on microfilm an edition of the whole archive. The story ends with the action of the trustees' transferring ownership of the papers to the Massachusetts Historical Society, and with the formulation of plans for a letterpress edition of the papers that would include in their entirety the diaries of the Adams statesmen.57

The Young Diarist

These two volumes, comprising thirteen manuscript booklets and books, record John Quincy Adams' activities and thoughts from the age of twelve to twenty-one. The earliest Diaries start with Adams' second visit to Europe, a sojourn of six years, during which time he lived in or visited more than a half-dozen countries. The Diary continues with his return to the United States, residence in Haverhill, where he prepared for entrance to Harvard, year and a quarter at college, leisurely summer after graduation, and the first fifteen months of his legal training in Newburyport. It affords a remarkable picture of the maturation of a serious, precocious, and thoroughly disciplined young man.58

Before starting his Diary in November 1779, John Quincy Adams had read more widely and had experienced more of life than most boys. By the age of ten he had read two volumes of Smollett's Complete History of England, some Shakespeare and Pope, and Thomson's The Seasons and had attempted Milton's xxxvi Paradise Lost. Already he was asking his father for advice on how to proportion his play and study time, writing, “I am more Satisfied ... when I have applied part of my time to Some useful employment than when I have Idled it away about Trifles and play.” The elder Adams encouraged him to write and advised him on his reading, suggesting that, despite his “tender Age,” he should study the histories of revolutions to help “throw Some Light upon his Father's character” and to contrast the present war with other European revolutions. In the summer of 1777 Adams recommended to his son Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, for future times might require new wars, councils, and negotiations. Such works, John Adams told him, would afford “the most solid Instruction and Improvement for the Part which may be alloted you to act on the Stage of Life.”59 From these ambitious beginnings sprang John Quincy Adams' lifelong interest in books, which continued unabated and is amply documented in the earliest Diaries.

In early 1778 John Quincy Adams and his father sailed for Europe from Massachusetts on the frigate Boston. John Adams had been appointed a third United States commissioner, with Arthur Lee and Benjamin Franklin, at the Court of France. In France, John Quincy immediately entered the private boarding school of M. Le Coeur at Passy, where his schoolmates included Americans Jesse Deane, Benjamin Franklin Bache, and William Temple Franklin. During this first trip away from puritan New England, Adams acquired an interest in and devotion to the theater. He attended the principal theaters of Paris, including the French and Italian comedies and the Théâtre des Petits Comediens du Bois de Boulogne, “where a company of Children performed two or three times a week.” Just as John Quincy had begun to master French, John Adams started making plans for a return to America, for he learned that the congress had appointed a single minister, Franklin.60

Almost immediately after their return in August 1779, John Adams was appointed a minister plenipotentiary at Paris for the negotiation of a peace treaty with Great Britain. Although John Quincy had been eager to accompany his father on the first trip, xxxviihe was reluctant to return to Europe, preferring to prepare for Harvard at Andover. Abigail Adams, however, took her son aside and, with “resolution and ... Roman matronlike affection,” Adams recalled years later, urged him to return to Europe. Eventually her “persuasive reasoning and tenderness” convinced him to go. Two months after the father and sons John Quincy and Charles had left, Abigail wrote reassuring John Quincy that his decision had been correct:

These are times in which a Genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.... All History will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the Lessons of retirement and leisure.

Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherways lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and Statesman.61

John Quincy's second trip to Europe marks the start of his Diary, but he had given some thought to personal record-keeping before then. In June 1777 he asked for a blank book in which to write notes from his wide-ranging reading. A year later, while Adams was attending school at Passy, his father admonished him to keep a journal or a diary; but the eleven-year-old thought that the task, though important and useful, required too much “patience and perseverance.” Yet, less than a year later, he began to journalize, no doubt out of a sense of filial duty and perhaps to conform with others in their company who kept records of their journey.

The first entries describe, at times vividly, the stormy ocean crossing in the leaky La Sensible, which was forced to land at the closest Spanish port on 8 December. Later John Quincy Adams recorded such routine matters as seating arrangements in the carriages, miles covered on the day's journey, meals consumed, and occasionally impressions of the countryside. His comments often paralleled those in the diaries of adults on the trip. Numerous entries were devoted to drafts of letters later sent to family and friends back home.

Adams abandoned his Diary shortly before the completion of xxxviiithe journey from Spain to Paris, but he took it up again when his surroundings changed. After nearly half a year in school at Passy, the boys left with their father for Holland, where John Adams was to negotiate a loan for the United States. In a new country and the unfamiliar city of Amsterdam, John Quincy diligently copied into his Diary from guidebooks long passages about points of interest in the Dutch towns he visited, thereby heeding his father's injunction to write down something useful to reflect upon.62 After a short time in Amsterdam, however, and after minister Adams' energies turned to his diplomatic mission, John Quincy was reduced to recording the times of arrival at and departure from his lodgings and of going to bed, until, at last, he stopped writing.

Although Adams catalogued his activities and those of people around him, almost nothing in the earliest Diary booklets expresses his own feelings. Perhaps such sentiments in writing were too much to expect from a boy in his early adolescence or were beyond the scope of his father's guidelines for diary-keeping. John Adams' diplomatic labors in the Dutch city apparently left him little time to devote to his sons, but the diarist never permitted himself to express disappointment or complain of neglect, although the meticulous notation of his father's arrivals and departures may suggest loneliness. On one occasion when Adams asked his sons whether they wanted to return to Amsterdam from Leyden, John Quincy burst out in reply “With all my heart”! Such flashes of sentiment are rare in the earliest Diaries.

Life as the young son of an American commissioner had disadvantages. John Quincy and Charles were sent to school in Amsterdam; the meager diary entries give no hint of what the older boy thought of being enrolled in a Dutch-speaking school or whether John Adams had discussed the prospect with his sons. They were expected to remain in the cold, inhospitable environ-xxxixment of the school for some time: “How long we shall stay here,” John Quincy wrote, “I can not tell.” Even during vacations the boys remained at school; but with few amusements to describe, the Diary entries become perfunctory, then subside altogether. The school was an unhappy experience, and John Adams angrily withdrew his sons when the master complained about the behavior of John Quincy, who resented being kept at a level below his abilities because of his deficiency in Dutch. On the recommendation of Benjamin Waterhouse, the boys thereafter pursued their studies with private tutors in Leyden, where they were also permitted to attend lectures at the university.63

John Quincy resumed his Diary a half-year later, on the very day his father came to take him and his brother from Leyden. As before, John Adams must have inspired and persuaded his oldest son to return to his Diary. The elder Adams had for some time been concerned that the boys' education lacked adequate exposure to English literature. John Quincy's earlier practice of copying passages from English essays had soon waned. Stimulated anew, he copied from Shakespeare, Pope, Garth, Addison, and Waller and long passages from William Guthrie's Geographical Grammar , to which he appended corrections drawn from his own experience.

About this time Adams, now almost fourteen, left for St. Petersburg with Francis Dana. On the two-thousand-mile journey to the Russian capital Adams added interesting detail to his Diary, but once settled in St. Petersburg, he mentioned only the routine features of daily life, without assessment or elaboration of his experiences. With monotonous repetition he recorded comings and goings, walks along the quay, and daily temperatures in St. Petersburg (until the thermometer was stolen). Extenuating circumstances make this part of the Diary less revealing. It was Adams' first attempt to keep a Diary for any extended period without the stimulus of constantly changing people and places that a journey affords. The Russian capital proved dreary and confining, hardly the environment for producing long, interesting journal entries.

The nature of Dana's mission, the disappointed expectations of the Adamses, father and son, and the dearth of tutors and schools in Russia also may have contributed to this passivity. xlDana had been sent as United States minister in the hope that he could persuade Catherine the Great to receive his country into the League of Armed Neutrality by a treaty that would include formal recognition of the independence of the newly created republic. But the American minister never received acknowledgment as the representative of an independent power. Without it, Dana was treated as an outsider by the other foreign ministers until Dutch recognition of American independence. Thus, during his fifteen-month stay, Adams' role as an aide was a minor one. Dana, who had little familiarity with French, probably found his help with the diplomatic language of some use, even though French Minister Verac thought the young man's command of French only middling. Adams also served as copyist, but few documents and little important correspondence appear in his hand among Dana's papers. Adams was more of a friend and companion than an assistant to Dana, for whom Russia was an unfriendly, faraway place.64 For all practical purposes the youth was reduced to continuing his studies; but without schools and proper books, he could do little more than make elementary Latin translations and read English history and poetry. Dana, admitting that there was little he could do to help, deplored John Quincy's loss of time for regular study.65 It is not surprising, then, that Adams' Diary throughout much of 1782 is barren of description and details, even in his account of noteworthy events, such as his trips to Oranienbaum and Peterhoff.

During the next two years Adams kept his Diary irregularly. Occasionally he added a touch of whimsy with pencil sketches of the dance assembly and the church congregation he observed while visiting Sweden on his return from St. Petersburg. But there was no sustained interest in recording more systematically his daily activities; he even avoided significant comment on the negotiations and signing of the Definitive Treaty, because it forced him to discuss politics.

Later, Adams conceded that he lacked during these early years the one quality essential for diary-keeping—perseverance. He was constantly encouraged by his father to continue his efforts, but now the elder Adams asked him to do more than make xlia mere record of events. “Have you kept a regular Journal?” he asked upon John Quincy's return from Russia:

If you have not, you will be likely to forget most of the Observations you have made. If you have omitted this Useful Exercise, let me advise you to recommence it, immediately. Let it be your Amusement, to minute every day, whatever you may have seen or heard worth Notice. One contracts a Fondness of Writing by Use. We learn to write readily, and what is of more importance, We think, and improve our Judgments, by committing our Thoughts to Paper.66

Young Adams purchased three blank books in August 1783, undoubtedly for this purpose, but he did not gain firm resolve until January 1785, when he began to make use of the first of them.

His renewed efforts transformed the Diary. Visually the difference is apparent in the disappearance of his exaggerated writing style, with its special flourishes, and the far fewer crossouts and rephrasings, so common in his early efforts. (See Illustrations Nos. 1 and 12 11 .) For the first time he began to question the quality of his entries, and this self-searching helped give the Diary added significance and an enduring character. It became a more personal document—so much so that he occasionally refrained from recording the substance of conversations because of the prying curiosity of others.

The metamorphosis may have come about for several reasons. Aware by late 1784 that he must return shortly to the United States to enter Harvard and eventually to pursue a career, Adams savored his final months in Paris. The company of a reunited family (his mother and sister had joined John and John Quincy in the summer of 1784) and the sights and opportunities in the French capital offered added stimulation for writing. Accounts of evenings with Jefferson, dinners at the home of Lafayette, and other glimpses of life in Paris show John Quincy's maturation and ability to enter into the world of his father and the men of the Revolutionary generation. Such events were worth recording. Arriving in New York in midsummer 1785, he won ready acceptance despite his mere eighteen years. He was entertained almost constantly by members of the congress and xliibecame a house guest of its president, Richard Henry Lee. On long walks Adams discussed politics and diplomacy with government leaders, and he enjoyed the hospitality of many of New York's leading families. The fulfillment of his promise to maintain a steady correspondence with his sister was made easier by a well maintained and detailed diary.

Once settled for six months in Haverhill and away from the attractions of Paris and New York, John Quincy Adams recognized that it would be a problem to maintain the same interest in his Diary that he had had during the past months. He adopted a new strategy: “My Plan will now be very different,” he wrote, “Little narrative, and the most part of what I write will be observations.”67 In the months that followed, the Diary's candor and openness illuminate our understanding of Adams, his generation, and his times. Buoyed with personal confidence from his experience on the Continent, he was more at ease in evaluating persons and experiences, surrounded as he was by people his own age and adults less distinguished than those he had known abroad.

His sketches, some brief, some extended and formal, offer penetrating accounts of those he met. The Diary also carries the reader through his critical encounter with Nancy Hazen, who charmed and finally irritated him. Here and there Adams assesses his own performance and conduct, revealing concern about self-confidence, ambition, and the proper use of time. The Diary now devotes more space to social commentary, ranging from opinions on religion to education and politics. Increasingly it portrays a young man more involved with people, institutions, and ideas in a world in which he was playing a larger role.

Adams brought to his character sketches a precociously analytical mind as well as impetuous and tenacious judgments. These contrasting qualities were readily apparent to his admiring, though not uncritical, family. His sister, Abigail (Nabby), warned him about the “warmpth of temper which led him to judge rather prematurely and to condemn without sufficiently considering the for and against.” His mother was well aware of the impulsiveness which occasionally carried him to excess. She hoped Cousin Eliza Cranch, temporarily living in Haverhill, might cure him of his tendency to be a “little too possitive.”68


Adams had begun to write penetrating analyses of people in his Diary in 1785. In deciding to maintain an almost continuous correspondence, John Quincy and Nabby agreed to write opinions on various people they met. The passengers, officers, and some crew members on Le Courier l'Amérique, on which Adams returned to America, were his first subjects. From Harvard, he sent his sister sketches of members of the college government. After the start of his senior year he began to make in the Diary long appraisals of his classmates, finding nearly every gradation of disposition and intelligence. Adams predictably approved as “respectable Characters” studious classmates like himself, remaining convinced of an exact ratio between the hours at study and good scholarship. Although not always proved correct in his analysis of his classmates, he offered some perceptive insights. How seriously he took his evaluations is suggested by his modifications of some portraits on closer acquaintance and his consultation of his evaluations long after leaving Harvard.69

The prose sketch was not the only form Adams employed. Impressed by “The Receipt for a Wife,” a satirical poem written by and about several young women whom he met in New York, he sought to compose better ones himself. Several young women in Haverhill and Cambridge became subjects for poems, acrostics, and occasional lines, many preliminary efforts for longer pieces he published later. These sharpened his skill at satire, clarified his views about feminine personality, and apparently satisfied his “passion for rhyming.”70

Adams' Diary judgments went beyond descriptions of attractive women and character sketches. He interpreted his social environment in Haverhill and at Harvard in critical, often scathing, fashion. In Haverhill, he complained about the constricted life of a minister's family and looked forward to the changes Harvard would bring. Disdainful of household rules which interfered with late-night studying, he found just as disagreeable his uncle's unbending Calvinism. The six months at the Shaws', besides preparing him for college studies, underscored the contrast between the stimulating activities in Europe and the life of rural America, staid and conservative despite its happy and serene moments.

Admitted to advanced standing as a junior at Harvard in xlivMarch 1786, John Quincy Adams spent the next sixteen months, as he acknowledged at the time and throughout his life, in a pleasant and exhilarating environment. What sets his Harvard Diary apart from those of other eighteenth-century students is his almost total absorption with the institution and the educational process. It tells us more about students and their daily routine and activities, college officials, tutors, educational policy and practice, and curriculum than does any other personal record of this period.

Leading an almost cloistered existence, John Quincy Adams never missed a lecture until near the end of his senior year. Eliza Cranch once complained of his chamber's “learned dirt.” He was thinner, and she thought he looked unkempt, so she busied herself in setting things straight.71 The Diary provides information on the subjects studied, the texts used, and the methods and quality of instruction and administration. Particularly important to Adams were the disputations and orations that were part of the academic routine. The preparations he made, his feelings about the subject, and the speeches themselves were usually faithfully recorded. Topics varied from the immortality of the soul to social inequality as essential to liberty.

Despite Adams' fondness for Harvard, he found that the daily routine made it impossible for independent minds like his own to concentrate effectively on study. He lamented that “as soon as I get in a way of thinking and writing upon any Subject, the College Bell infallibly sounds in my Ears, and calls me, to a lecture, or to recitation or to Prayers.” Only by remaining at the college during the summer vacation could a student enjoy uninterrupted study.72

Adams found President Joseph Willard dull and aloof, and with the exception of the affable Professor Samuel Williams, the faculty almost too haughty to bear. The tutors had the double fault of inadequate knowledge of their subjects and of imposing between themselves and the students artificially created and rigid social barriers, which caused hostility and an occasional student rampage. Classroom recitations, instead of providing enlightenment, simply repeated an author's words; no independent thought was engendered. Tutors returning to college several years after their own graduation were out of touch with xlvtheir subjects, and few remained long enough to achieve an understanding of their discipline or their students.73

Harvard meant not only a return to formal study and instruction, recently all too infrequent, but also a retreat from the society of adults to the company of peers. Time spent away from prescribed studies was devoted to a variety of extracurricular clubs, including the Handel Sodality, and the Musical, Junior Tea, Breakfast, Dancing, and Tuesday clubs, in addition to “A.B.” and Phi Beta Kappa. The last two, which afforded further opportunities for composition and oratory, reflected the interest that began among some students in the early 1770s in perfecting their writing and elocution. There were dinners at nearby taverns, trips to Boston, refreshment and good talk in the rooms.

Looking back upon his months at Harvard, Adams thought they had produced “very good effects; particularly, in reducing my opinion of myself, of my acquirements, and of my future prospects, nearer to the level of truth and reality.” More than ever before, the Diary reveals an intense inner life—his reflections upon his ambition, self-worth, and use of time. He worried most about his suitability for the law, hoping he “had just Ambition enough to serve as a Stimulus ... and just Vanity enough to be gratified with small Distinctions.” But he realized that his headstrong behavior required a curb and that his vanity was often obvious to others. Warned years before by his mother of his need to check his passions, Adams now began to recognize that he impetuously aired sentiments that a more rational behavior would conceal. Yet, accepting his vanity, he preferred to live a purposeful life, in which he might receive “the applause of his Country, and the Esteem of mankind” rather than settle for an unambitious, ordinary existence.74

Still, he was often troubled by a lack of self-confidence and of a sense of self-worth. He agonized over comparisons between himself and others for college honors. He viewed himself as “plodding along, mechanically” After graduation he declared that he was a “mere cypher in creation; without any employment and without any character,” who was waiting to begin studying xlvilaw so that he might have something to say in his Diary.75 As with other Adamses, his paramount concern was the use of time. Opportunities for leisure made him uneasy. At home in Braintree he belittled exercise as a dull though perhaps necessary routine that took him away from the improvement of his mind. He found that he had “even discarded thought, and lived more like any of the domestic animals, than like man.” At year's end Adams often added moral reflections to his last entry, disheartened by the amount of time he had “lost” which could not be retrieved, but reassured that he had done nothing seriously reproachful.76

Despite Adams' doubts about his accomplishments, the Diary bears evidence of significant growth. He developed well-considered opinions on religion and politics. Tolerant of the religious beliefs of others, he eschewed a strong denominational commitment, maintaining a reasoned conviction about God and revealed religion. He was scornful of Biblical literalism, from his own study and translation of ancient authors, and impatient with the impracticality of “abstruse points of religion.” Calvinistic election, he held, was incompatible with a god who was good and wise as well as powerful.77

Adams' accumulated experience in Europe, as the journal of his last months there occasionally reveals, made him an ardent republican even before his return; his speeches in college confirmed and refined his thoughts on the subject. On the grounds that limited size was necessary to maintain a republic, he opposed enlarging the powers of the Continental Congress. He recognized and applauded the social revolution that republicanism was accomplishing in America. He noted that in Boston few wealthy or politically important families possessed a genteel ancestry of several generations. Families in high repute, he thought, would fall to their lowest ebb within three decades. “And there is a great chance,” he reflected soberly, “that I myself shall at some future period serve as an additional example of this truth.” Adams' sense of republicanism led him to view the United States Constitution as designed to give more power, influence, and wealth to those who already possessed them. After xlviiMassachusetts ratified, however, he became “converted, though not convinced”78

In one of his Harvard forensics, Adams argued that even civil disobedience was not altogether deplorable, provided that it was kept within bounds. Well managed, such civil discontent might encourage the growth of republican government. In a favorite metaphor, he saw such convulsions as like certain drugs, “which of themselves are deadly Poison but if properly tempered may be made, highly medicinal.” Thus, he was not wholly opposed to Shays' Rebellion. When the Shaysites arose in armed military companies, they threatened the fabric of republicanism and deserved public condemnation; Adams recognized, however, that threats to social order might arise outside the lower orders. The Society of the Cincinnati, dangerous, if not fatal, to a republic, equally merited public censure.79

Adams spent the three years after graduation studying law in the office of Theophilus Parsons of Newburyport. Fifteen months of that period are covered in the second of these two volumes. Adams' record of the reading chosen by his mentor and of other activities gives some idea of the course of instruction thought appropriate by one of the leading trainers of lawyers of that day. Besides overcoming ponderous legal tomes, some requiring several readings, he spent his first months on the drudgery of completing a copybook of legal forms for later use in his practice and assisted Parsons to get ready for court days—all this amid the noise and chaos occasioned by law office visitors and fellow apprentices. Meaningful study was fitful, to say the least.80

Adams' attention to the law did not isolate him from friends, relatives, and social activities, especially after he had made some progress in his studies. He found it necessary to engage in some diversions in order not to appear “too singular.” A club of apprentices, several being old classmates, met weekly in Newburyport and filled some of his most pleasant evening hours. Occasionally club members or town acquaintances gathered in tav-xlviiierns; the Diary dutifully recorded bouts of intoxication and Adams' reprimands to himself in the days that followed. He joined in dancing, card playing, singing, kissing games, and other entertainments in Newburyport homes. The young ladies he met inspired sketches and satirical pieces for poems.81

Distraction from his legal studies induced guilt, despite his recognition of the need for relaxation, and with it anxiety and depression. In reflective moods, Adams questioned the value of ambition and fame. His Phi Beta Kappa address, delivered in September 1788, admonished his audience to avoid the distresses and bitterness of aspiration by keeping desires “within rational bounds.” He insisted that if everyone filled the station in life allotted to him, he would win respect and escape envy. The final months of that year were for Adams ones of ill health and frequent despair.

The Editorial Method
Materials Included and Their Arrangement

Sequential entries in a number of instances have been derived from more than one Diary book or booklet. Whenever two booklets carry an entry for the same day, both entries are included only if additional information is provided. In most cases, the minor entry is mentioned with citation in a note to the main Diary entry. Monthly summaries in one of the early Diaries have been retained. Extended passages copied from Adams' literary readings, guidebooks, or newspapers have usually been deleted, but a description of the passages and the sources used has been supplied. Adams' own compositions included in the Diary, such as his college essays and speeches, are of course retained.

Textual policy

In general, the text follows the rules set forth in the Introduction to the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams , 1:lv–lix, to which readers are referred to find a complete statement of policy of the Adams Papers. The nature of the Diary of John Quincy xlixAdams, particularly for the early years published here, does require, however, certain minor variations and emphases.

Spelling. Adams' many French passages are printed unchanged, with numerous spelling and accent errors, unless intelligibility is impaired. The same is true for his inaccurate rendering of Greek accents and breathings. Many of the towns and villages visited by Adams on journeys through Spain, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and elsewhere have their names incorrectly spelled, no longer have the same name, or are occasionally misidentified by the diarist. When possible, corroborative sources, such as John Adams' Diary and Autobiography , Francis Dana's Journals, or contemporary guides and maps, are used to correct place names or doubtful spellings.

Translations. Latin and Greek quotations have been translated; French passages, with only a few exceptions, have not been.

Paragraphing. Adams usually broke long Diary entries with a period and dash to indicate a change in subject matter. In the present edition these breaks have been interpreted as marking the beginnings of paragraphs. As his Diary progressed, Adams, writing with a smaller hand, made more economical use of space, virtually filling the page. In some of his college essays, for example, the Diary runs for pages without any break indicated. Where appropriate, the editors have supplied paragraphing with an accompanying explanatory note.

Punctuation. Adams' original punctuation has been generally preserved, with the exception of his comma practice. Throughout the Diaries, Adams consistently used periods for commas, a habit he also followed when copying passages from printed sources. These have been changed to commas where terminal punctuation was not intended. When Adams' purposes are not clear, a note is provided. Occasionally it has been necessary to supply minimum punctuation for intelligibility in dialogue and quoted material.

Annotation. General principles are laid down in the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams , 1:lx–lxii. If for published works referred to in the Diary there is a personal copy now among Adams' books at the Stone Library, Quincy, and several other locations, that fact is noted, provided it is reasonable to assume that he owned and used them at the time. In most other cases, annotations give the earliest known place and date of publica-ltion. Occasionally reference is made to Henry Adams 2d's Catalogue of the Books of John Quincy Adams Deposited in the Boston Athenaeum ..., although all of this part of Adams' library, with the exception of his voluminous bound pamphlet tracts, was returned to the Stone Library, Adams National Historic Site, during the 1970s. Many books now in John Adams' library at the Boston Public Library were borrowed by John Quincy during the early years, and some of the younger Adams' books made their way into that library, even though bookplates and other evidence clearly show that their owner was the son, not the father.

No thorough and systematic attempt has been made to identify every line of poetry John Quincy Adams copied into his Diary. Since quotations, however, are clues to his early education and reading habits and served as models for his attempts at satirical rhyming, an effort has been made to trace such passages to books Adams owned or used at the time.

The double-dated letters written from St. Petersburg by John Quincy Adams and Francis Dana to various Adamses are referred to in the notes with a single date for the convenience of readers wishing to find them in the Adams Papers Microfilm; but several letters written by Dana to other than Adamses retain Old and New Style dates to aid in locating them in Dana's letterbooks.


JQA, Diary, 26 July 1816 ( Memoirs , 3:407).


Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 4–52.


28–31 Jan., 22 Feb., 6 March 1836; 1–29 March 1837; 12 Jan.–16 March 1839; 20 Nov. 1846–31 March, 26–31 May, 12 June–6 Aug. 1847.


In 1783 and from 1788 to 1794.


Diary, 20 March 1821 ( Memoirs , 5:334).


Same, 20 May 1840.


Same, 24 Aug.–2 Sept. 1788.


Same, 26 July 1816. This project, of undertaking for the future an “Index” to his Diary, he began on 1 July 1816 and continued without break until 3 Dec. 1835. In the same month he commenced a “retrospective Index,” or line-a-day epitomes of earlier journal entries, which he completed for the periods 1 Jan. 1795–12 May 1801 and 5 Aug. 1809–July 1816. He devoted a separate volume (numbered 23 among the volumes of the Diary of JQA in the Adams Papers) to these line-a-day epitomes.


Except for one sentence in his hand in the entry for 20 Oct.


In addition, there are fuller entries in JQA's hand for 14 and 20 March 1847, which he designated “Posthumous Memoir,” and retrospective entries for 8–12 Feb. 1847, apparently written on 7 April 1847. The last entry in his hand, that of 24 Dec. 1847, is followed in the Diary volume by three poems in his hand, two of them dated 20 Feb. 1848, one day before his seizure on the floor of the House and three days before his death.


Diary, 7 Nov. 1842 ( Memoirs , 11:266–267).


They bear the Adams Papers designations: D/JQA/33, 47, 48, 49, 50. The numbering system employed by Charles Francis Adams for the Diary volumes is somewhat different.


Diary, 26 July 1816.




The Adams editors are understandably reluctant to be more positive on the point. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:xlii and JA, Earliest Diary , p. 1–2.


D/JQA/4, p. 113–114, 127–128, 149–156. See note to entry for 8 July 1781.


Adams Family Correspondence, 3:92–93, 412–413, 418; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:lxiv–lxv.


Diary, 15 Jan. 1831 ( Memoirs , 8:277).


Harris, American consul at St. Petersburg during Adams' ministry there, later chargé d'affaires, and in 1817 a candidate himself for the ministry, was publicly charged by Lewis with malfeasance in the performance of his duties. In rebutting the charges, Harris cited letters from Minister Adams approving his work. Adams, having afterward become aware of Harris' venality, found himself chargeable also: “I was very slow and dull of sight, even before admitting in my mind a suspicion against Harris's integrity.... And even after becoming convinced... I was still unwilling to expose him.” Only when Harris' appointment as minister was being weighed did Adams reveal his knowledge to the President and secretaries Calhoun and Crawford. And when Adams' views became known as at least an indirect source for Lewis' public accusations, Harris averred that Adams' earlier views destroyed the validity of the later ones (Diary, 11 March 1821; Memoirs , 5:328–329). For a full account, see James B. Rhoads, “Harris, Lewis, and the Hollow Tree,” American Archivist, 25 (1962): 295–314.


Diary, 11, 18 March, 3, 4 Nov. 1821 ( Memoirs , 5:328–329, 330, 382–383).


Extracts from entries for 19 Sept., 11, 27 Oct. 1810; 12 Aug. 1811; 2, 18, 23 May, 3, 4, 6, 7, 17, 19, 22 June, 9, 11, 20, 29 July 1812; 3, 12, 14, 16, 28 Nov., 3, 6, 7, 12, 13, 19 Dec. 1817. The extracts are in Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 410, 440 (under the dates 19 Sept. 1810 and 3 Nov. 1817).


Diary, 6 Nov. 1821 ( Memoirs , 5:387).


Same, 14, 15 Jan. 1831 ( Memoirs , 8:274–277); see also Memoirs , 1:ix. The controversy is summarized in CFA, Diary, 3:406–407, 428. Public airing came with the publication of parts of the correspondence, including extracts from the Diary (but without identification as such) in Niles' Register, 40:11–45 (5–19 March 1831).


Diary, 27 Sept., 2, 3, 7 Oct. 1844 ( Memoirs, , 12:78, 81, 84). The extracts are drawn from entries of 23 Oct. 1818–2 March 1819 and 31 Jan.–28 Feb. 1820 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 530).


Boston Daily Atlas, 9 Oct., p. 2, col. 3–8; Niles' Register, 67:105–111 (19 Oct.); Quincy Aurora, 31 Oct., p. 1, col. 1, p. 2, col. 2. The printer's copy in JQA's hand (36 p.) is in the Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 530.


To John A. Dix, 14 July 1848, LbC (Adams Papers).


Congressional Globe, Containing the Debates and Proceedings, 1833–1873, Washington, 1834–1893, 30th Cong., 1st sess., App., p. 1177–1183; the Diary extracts are at p. 1179. The speech appeared subsequently in John A. Dix, Speeches and Occasional Addresses, 2 vols., N.Y., 1864, 1:346–382.


“Strong prejudices, not to say bitter ones, and a temperament often ill-regulated and always excitable, too frequently interfered . . . with that calm investigation, so essential to the exercise of a correct judgment. This contemporaneous record of his feelings and opinions exhibits these traits ... in bold relief, ... a melancholy proof that a vigorous intellect may be overshadowed by strange aberrations, and rendered useless and sometimes dangerous by wayward views . . . and maintained with characteristic tenacity and with little respect for the opinions of others.”

“How often has the memory of distinguished men been injured by the zeal of indiscreet friends, who, instead of going backward with a garment to cover them, reveal their infirmities to the curiosity of the world? . . . Better that it had been entombed, like the ancient Egyptian records, till its language was lost, than have been thus exposed” (Congressional Globe, 31st Cong., 1st sess., App., p. 69). See also JQA, Memoirs, 5:12, note.


Benton to CFA, 13 Oct. 1857; CFA to Benton, 20 Oct. 1857, LbC (both in Adams Papers). The transcript of excerpts from entries of 23 Oct.–3 Dec. 1821 was sent on 3 Nov., was subsequently returned, and is now in the Adams Papers.


William H. Seward, Life and Public Service of John Quincy Adams, Auburn, N.Y., 1849; CFA, Diary, 5 April 1854; Josiah Quincy, Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams, Boston, 1858. Quincy was able to say in a prefatory note (p. v), “derived . .. from authentic unpublished materials.” In his Journal (3 Nov. 1855), Quincy records that on his own handling of the student rebellion of 1834 at Harvard: “Until I had the reading of JQA's diary, I never understood the malignity with which I was assailed, nor the laborious zeal with which I was defended by Mr. Adams” (CFA, Diary, 5:371–372).


CFA, Diary, 15 Nov. 1855; 21 Feb. 1871.


“The early portion ... is harsh upon others in a manner which his own later judgment would have disapproved” (CFA, Diary, 15 Jan. 1853; 5 April 1854).


CFA to Thomas Hart Benton, 20 Oct. 1857, LbC (Adams Papers).


CFA, Diary, 18 Feb.–18 May 1858 passim. At a much later time, he dated the initiation of his work on the Diary as in 1856 (CFA to J. B. Lippincott & Co., 12 July 1877, LbC, Adams Papers).


The conclusion derives from a conversation reported by CFA2 (Autobiography, N.Y., 1916, p. 68) with two of his father's friends: “General Nye asked me about my grandfather's diary, when would it be published, etc? Seward seemed to think it a dangerous experiment; and expressed a hearty concurrence in my remark that the great thing concerning that diary was ‘Who was to edit it?' For on the editor must depend the great question of extracts, and the light in which the diarist would be shown. ‘Nothing,' said he, ‘is so dangerous to the reputation of a public man as a diary.'”


CFA to Lippincott, 20 April 1870, 4, 19 April, 12 May 1871, all LbC's; Lippincott to CFA, 10, 24 April, 15 May 1871; both issues of Lippincott's announcements are enclosures in Lippincott to CFA, 3 July 1871 (all in Adams Papers).


Martin B. Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, 1807–1886, Boston, 1961, p. 384–388. CFA to Lippincott, 12 Aug., 16, 25 Sept., 18 Oct. 1871; 7, 28 July 1873, all LbC's; Lippincott to CFA, 18 Aug., 21 Sept., 4 Oct. 1871; 9, 31 July 1873; “Monthly Bulletin,” Nov. 1873 (all in Adams Papers). Publishing arrangements as detailed in this correspondence provided, among other things, that manufacturing costs and profits would be shared equally between publisher and author, that 750 copies would be printed, that the price per volume would be five dollars to subscribers, six to others.


North American Review, 114:110–147 (Jan. 1872). The excerpts, with somewhat reduced commentary, were later published in Henry Adams, Historical Essays, N.Y., 1891, p. 80–121.


CFA, Diary, 6 July–23 Sept. 1873 passim; 19 May 1874; CFA to Lippincott, 22 Sept. 1873, LbC; Lippincott to CFA, 26 Sept., 4 Nov. 1873; 13 Jan., 13 Feb., 9 March, 2 April, 8, 25 May, 18 June, 6 July, 13 Aug., 3 Sept. 1875 (all in Adams Papers).


“Almost at every step there appears something to explain. The investigations which follow are precisely what I like best of all literary occupations” (Diary, 19 July 1873); “Diary . . . needs more annotation than I can make without a greater consumption of time and space than would be prudent. . . . Yet the labour is a pleasure” (same, 28 Aug. 1873).


7 Aug. 1878; see also same to same, 12 July 1877, both LbC's (Adams Papers).


CFA, Diary, 30 Aug. 1876; see also, same, 12 July, 10 Aug. 1877.


Same, 19 Jan. 1847.


JQA, Diary, 30 July 1826; 7 Nov. 1842 ( Memoirs , 11:266–267).


Memoirs , 1:vii–ix.


CFA was not so absolute in the exclusion of family matters as might be inferred. For example, he provides a few glimpses of JQA in the role of father; he includes adverse comments by JQA on CFA (5:219), and a passage on the death of GWA (8:159–160).


Bemis, JQA, 1:x–xi. See also the opinion of L. H. Butterfield as quoted in Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, p. 510. His judgment on CFA's procedures in editing the Diary and Autobiography of JA ( Diary and Autobiography , 1:xxvi–xxx, xlvii–lii) includes much that is appropriate to CFA's procedures in editing the Memoirs .


“The Memoirs as edited by CFA are most unsatisfactory to me. He was then old and tired; and ... his theory of editing such papers seems to me to have been radically wrong. Had I edited that diary, it would have been a very different publication. About half as bulky, with much more editorial work; and above all, with a copious index and many cross references. It is now, to me, a very exasperating work”(CFA2 to W. F. Reddaway, 30 Nov. 1898). “As the volumes of the Memoirs one by one came out, they unmistakably revealed in their editorial work the hand of a tired man,—one who, in his own language, most of all wanted ‘to be left alone.' Containing much that was superfluous, there was in them more which it would have been better to have suppressed. Missing links, also, essential to a correct understanding of the narrative, had not been supplied, manifestly because investigation had become irksome and writing difficult” (CFA2, Life of CFA, MS draft, p. 1803). Both documents in Adams Papers, Fourth Generation. These views are reflected in Duberman's account (Charles Francis Adams, p. 388–389). Another charge was leveled by Edward Everett Hale, who, apparently without much familiarity with the Memoirs , wrote: “Some day . . . some one will print in twenty volumes more the rest of John Quincy Adams's diary, which the prudence of his son . . . suppressed” (Memoirs of a Hundred Years, 2 vols., N.Y., 1902, 2:139).


Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Meeting House of the First Religious Society in Newburyport, October 31, 1901, Newburyport, 1902, p. 43–46. The extracts published were from the entries of 3, 15, 18 Nov., 9 Dec. 1787; 6, 20 Jan., 10 Feb., 27 April, 4, 11 May, 3, 10, 14 Aug. 1788.


MHS, Procs. , 2d ser., 16 (1902): 292–462. The text and notes as they had appeared in the Proceedings were published in Boston in 1903, with some changes in C. F. Adams' introduction and the addition of an index, as Life in a New England Town: 1787, 1788: Diary of John Quincy Adams, While a Student in the Office of Theophilus Parsons at Newburyport. The first and third quotations are from the Proceedings, p. 292–294; the rest, from p. 8 and 9 of Life in a New England Town.

In 1904 CFA2 furnished to William W. Crapo, with permission to publish, entries of 14–21 Sept. 1835 relating to a visit to Nantucket and New Bedford (Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Historical Sketches, No. 47 [1918–1919]: 13–22). See also CFA, Diary, 6:226. It is likely that Adams also furnished a similar unpublished passage, this one of 26 Sept. 1826 recounting a dinner and evening party in Cambridge, for publication in Hannah Winthrop Chapter, D.A.R., An Historic Guide to Cambridge, Cambridge, 1907, p. 170.


Memoirs , 8:502. It would appear that the decision was made after insufficient study of the Diary manuscript for that time span. The entries occur in vol. 47 of the MS, one of the “Rubbish” volumes; those for 25 March–4 July do conform to CFA's statement, being memoranda or notes for later expansion. However, for 5 July–30 Nov. the entries are complete or “perfect” ones, publishable according to CFA's standards.


CFA2, “J. Q. Adams in Twenty-Second Congress,” MHS, Procs. , 2d ser., 19 (1905): 504–553. The Diary extracts are at p. 520–534. Allan Nevin's one-volume condensation of the Memoirs (The Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1794–1845, N.Y., 1928) has not been brought into this account because it includes no material from the Diary not earlier published.


JQA, Writings , 1: vi. For a more detailed account of the history of the Papers during this period, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:xxx–xxxi.


Adams Papers, Fourth Generation; Henry Adams, on the other hand, appears to have used only the Memoirs in writing his History of the United States, 1801–1817.


JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:xxxi–xxxii.


Bemis' prefatory statement to John Quincy Adams and the Union in 1956 that the papers had been placed “unreservedly at my disposal” seems to apply to conditions after the death of Henry Adams 2d in 1951. The Bemis-HA2 correspondence, 1938–1951, preserved in the Adams Papers, Fourth Generation, makes it clear that although Professor Bemis did enjoy direct access to the papers he needed during those years, that access was always with Mr. Adams' aid and in his presence. The earlier situation is properly mirrored also in Bemis' preface to the first volume (1949) of the biography where he acknowledges that his “searching” was “with the uninhibited and indefatigable assistance of Mr. Henry Adams, 2d” (Bemis, JQA, 1:x–xi; 2:xi).


For a full account, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:xxxii–xxxiv.


A physical description of each of the thirteen Diary booklets and books is given in the notes with the text.


Adams Family Correspondence, 2:254–255, 261, 290–291, 307–308; JQA, Diary, 24 Sept. 1829 ( Memoirs , 8:156–157); JQA to Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody, 29 July 1812, LbC (Adams Papers).


Adams Family Correspondence, 3:93–94, 99–100; JQA, Loquitur, 14–21 Oct. 1824, LbC (Adams Papers).


JQA to Henry Coleman, 25 Aug. 1826, LbC (Adams Papers); Adams Family Correspondence, 3:268; see also p. 293.


A generation later, when GWA and JA2 were departing from Boston to join their parents, JQA and LCA, in Europe, JA admonished his two grandsons, doubtless as he had his own son three decades earlier, always to keep with them a pencil book, pocket inkhorn, and some paper so that they could “minute on the spot any remarkable thing they might see or hear.” Without a diary, JA warned, “your Travels, will be no better than the flight of Birds; through the air. They will leave no trace behind them. Whatever you write preserve. I have burned, Bushells of my Silly notes, in fitts of Impatience and humiliation, which I would now give anything to recover. ‘These fair Creatures are thyself.' And would be more useful and influential in Self Examination than all the Sermons of the Clergy” (JA to GWA and JA2, 3 May 1815, Adams Papers).


Adams Family Correspondence, 4:10, 11–12, 31–32, 34–35.


JQA, Loquitur, 14–21 Oct. 1824, LbC (Adams Papers); Francis Dana letterbooks and other papers, Dana Family Papers (MHi); Francis Dana to JA, 28 March 1782 (Adams Papers).


Francis Dana to JA, 16 Sept. 1782 (Adams Papers).


JQA, Diary, 26 July 1816 ( Memoirs , 3:407); JA to JQA, 14 May 1783 (Adams Papers). In 1834 JQA noted that this perseverance “requires a character given to very few of the sons of men ... to which toil is a pleasure, and of which untiring patience is an essential element” (JQA, Diary, 1834; Memoirs , 9:159).


JQA, Diary, 1 Oct. 1785.


AA2 to JQA, 26 Aug.–13 Sept. 1785 (Adams Papers); AA to Elizabeth Cranch, 2 Sept. 1785, AA, Letters, ed. CFA, 1848, p. 267.


JQA to JA, 30 Aug. 1786 (Adams Papers); JQA, Diary, 5 April 1788.


AA2 to JQA, 1 Sept.–12 Oct. 1786 (Adams Papers).


Elizabeth Cranch to AA, 1 July 1786 (Adams Papers).


JQA, Diary, 21 Sept., 20 June, 23 March 1786.


JQA to AA2, 18 May–17 June 1786, AA2, Jour. and Corr., [3]: 118; JQA, Diary, 1, 8 May, 13 June, 4 Sept. 1786; 11 March 1787.


JQA, Diary, 26 April, 30 Dec. 1785; 29 Sept. 1786; 20 June 1787; Adams Family Correspondence, 3:312.


JQA, Diary, 21 May, 11, 28 July 1787.


Same, 31 Dec. 1785; 14 April, 12 July 1787.


Same, 25 Sept., 27 Nov., 18 Dec. 1785; 20 Jan., 17, 22 Feb., 5 March 1786. For Adams' views on Calvinistic, evangelical preachers, compare his Diary analyses of sermons with the biographical notes, beginning with entry for 11 Feb. 1786, note 1, during Adams' stay in Haverhill, as well as later remarks in such entries as 2 March, 8 Aug. 1788.


JQA to AA, 30 Dec. 1786 (Adams Papers); JQA, Diary, 19 July 1786; 6 Jan., 2 Aug. 1787; 7 Feb. 1788; Douglass Adair, "‘That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science': David Hume, James Madison, and the Tenth Federalist,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 20:348–349 (Aug. 1957).


JQA to JA, 30 June 1787 (Adams Papers); (“Whether civil discord is advantageous to Society”), JQA, Diary, 6 July, 7 Sept. 1786.


JQA, Diary, 17, 24 Sept., 2 Oct., 22 Dec. 1787; 21 March 1788.


JQA, Diary, 30 Sept., 1, 20 Oct., 6 Dec. 1787.