Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 22 March 1780 JA JQA John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 22 March 1780 Adams, John Adams, John Quincy
John Adams to John Quincy Adams
My dear Son Paris March 22 1780

I have just now received your Letter, of Yesterday, and am very well pleased with it, because it is written with care,1 in an handsome Hand, and is prettily expressed, which shews that nothing is wanting but Pains and care, to make you an excellent Writer, for your Age.

I am of Mr. Pechini's Opinion that it is better to keep your Brother Charles to conjugating Verbs for some time, I agree therefore to his Proposition, and will give him some Assistance in this Exercise, by making Charles a Present of another Grammar, which I found Yesterday. The Title of it is, Les Verbes Francois, ou nouvelle Grammaire en form de Dictionaire Par. M. Demarville.2

The Critical Reviewers, March 1 1767 said of this Book. “Every one acquainted with the french Language, knows, that the Intricacies of the irregular Verbs render it the most difficult for Foreigners to speak or write with Propriety; and this Pocket Dictionary will certainly be serviceable to those who are desirous of attaining the Niceties of the French Tongue.”

The monthly Reviewers say. “It is sufficiently known to every one who has studied the French Language, that the most difficult Part of the Task, consists, in the Conjugation of the Verbs. In almost every Language indeed, the Conjugation of the Verbs, constitutes one of the most essential, and at the same Time one of the most difficult Parts of Grammar. Even in English, the few Verbs that can properly be said to be conjugated, are so amazingly irregular, that they give foreigners a great deal of Trouble. But the French Verbs are very different from the English, and like those of the Latin are conjugated through the different Moods and Tenses. The Work before Us is calculated to remove this Difficulty, and will in a great measure answer the Intention and save the Learner much Time and Trouble.”

Mr. Demarville's Grammar is confined, wholly to one Part of Speech, the Verb. There are a great Number of Verbs conjugated through all the Moods and Tenses, some of them both of the Active and Passive Voices, and some are even conjugated affirmatively, negatively, and interrogatively.

I should Advise Mr. Charles to take his Pen and Ink, and tran-316scribe some of these Verbs as conjugated by Demarville, and place the English down against every Word.

As the Letter you inclosed3 in yours to me, was not Superscribed to any one: I thought it was intended for me, and accordingly opened it, when, to my Surprize I found it written very differently from that to me—very hastily: very carelessly: the Letters badly made, the Lines as crooked as possible. I desire you would write it over again, and take more care. I will not over look one such heedless Piece of Work. I have suffered too many Inconveniences my self, from writing a bad Hand, all my Life, to neglect your Education in this Particular, as mine was.

Let me give you one Piece of Advice more, which is not to spend much of your Time in learning to flourish, with your Pen. Ornaments of this Kind, if not done with very great skill, are worse than none, and an Accuracy, and real Elegance in them would cost you more time to acquire than they are worth.—I am with the tenderest Affection, your Father,

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in JQA's hand of about 1800: “J. Adams. Paris 22. March 1780”; contains other docketings in unidentified hands.


JQA had taken the pains, after his father's rebuke in his letter of 17 March (above), to line his letter paper and thus to regularize his handwriting in his letter of 21 March (also above, and see a facsimile of this letter reproduced in this volume), to which the present letter is a reply.


JA had purchased this lexicon of French verbs for English students from the bookseller Pissot the preceding day; see his Personal Expenditures as printed in his Diary and Autobiography , 2:437, 441. The volume, which is a copy of the 2d edition, “augmentée,” London, 1773, survives among JA's books in the Boston Public Library, and its titlepage is reproduced as an illustration in the present volume. The extracts from English reviews, quoted by JA below, were printed as advertisements in the 1773 edition.


Probably JQA's letter to William Cranch, 17 March, above, which fits JA's description.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 March 1780 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 March 1780 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Portia Paris March 24. 1780

This goes by Colonel Fleury, whom you know, who desires to carry a Letter to you.1 My three Boys dined with me Yesterday, being a Playday for them, in fine Health and Spirits.

I long to hear, whether Captain Trash arrived from Corunna, who had Letters from me to you, or Captain Babson who had Letters and more. I dont know whether you have yet heard of our Arrival.

There are a great Number of Letters for You, in the Hands of the Marquis de la Fayette, the Viscount de Noailles, Mr. Lee, Mr. Brown, 317Mr. Izard, and others. I hope you will receive them and some small Packetts with some of them.

My dearest Love to my Nabby and Tommy—Affections, Duties, and Respects, &c.

If you send me any Minutes in future of any Thing to send you, pray be more particular in describing the Things. I find a great difficulty in getting french Words to express them often, because not knowing the Nature and the Prices of the Things myself, I am puzzled.


RC (Adams Papers).


François Louis Teissèdre de Fleury, a volunteer French officer who had served with distinction in the Continental Army, 1776–1779, and who then, following a leave in France, returned to serve with Rochambeau's army, 1780–1781 (Lasseray, Les français sous les treize étoiles , 2:425–433; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:104). Congress voted Fleury a medal for his gallantry in the storming of Stony Point, July 1779; see reproduction in Lasseray, vol. 2, facing p. 430. From a list of passengers recorded in JQA's Diary under date of 24 Nov. 1779, it appears that Fleury returned to France on the Sensible with the Adams party; thus he could have met AA in Boston or Braintree before they sailed. See, further, Fleury to AA, 6 Oct.; AA to JA, 15 Oct. and 13–24 Nov., in vol. 4, below.