Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 14 May 1783 JA JQA John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 14 May 1783 Adams, John Adams, John Quincy
John Adams to John Quincy Adams
My dear Child Paris May 14. 1783

Mr. Hardouin has just now called upon me, and delivered me your Letter of the 6 Instant.

I find that, although, your hand Writing is distinct and legible, yet it has not engaged So much of your Attention as to be remarkably neat.1 I Should advise you to be very carefull of it: never to write in a hurry, and never to let a Slovenly Word or Letter go from you. If one begins at your Age, it is easier to learn to write well than ill, both in Characters and Style. There are not two prettier accomplishments than a handsome hand and Style, and these are only to be acquired in youth. I have Suffered much, through my whole Life, from a Negligence of these Things in my young days, and I wish you to know it. Your hand and Style, are clear enough to Shew that you may easily make them manly and beautifull, and when a habit is got, all is easy.

I See your Travells have been expensive, as I expected they would be: but I hope your Improvements have been worth the Money. Have you kept a regular Journal?2 If you have not, you will be likely to forget most of the Observations you have made. If you have omitted this Usefull 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.

Your Exercises in Latin and Greek must not be omitted a Single day, and you should turn your Mind, a little to Mathematicks. There is among my Books a Fennings Algebra. Begin it immediately and go through it, by a Small Portion every day. You will find it as entertaining as an Arabean Tale. The Vulgar Fractions3 with which it begins, is the best extant, and you should make yourself quite familiar with it.

A regular Distribution of your Time, is of great Importance. You 161must measure out your Hours, for Study, Meals, Amusements, Exercise and Sleep, and suffer nothing to divert you, at least from those devoted to study.

But above all Things, my son, take Care of your Behaviour and preserve the Character you have acquired, for Prudence and Solidity. Remember your tender Years and treat all the World with Modesty, Decency and Respect.

The Advantage you have in Mr. Dumas's Attention to you is a very prescious one. He is himself a Walking Library, and so great a Master of Languages ancient and modern is very rarely Seen. The Art of asking Questions is the most essential to one who wants to learn. Never be too wise to ask a Question.4

Be as frugal as possible, in your Expences.

Write to your Mamma Sister and Brothers, as often as you have opportunity. It will be a Grief to me to loose a Spring Passage home, but although I have my fears I dont yet despair.

Every Body gives me a very flattering Character of your Sister, and I am well pleased with what I hear of you: The principal Satisfaction I can expect in Life, in future will be in your good Behaviour and that of my other Children. My Hopes from all of you are very agreable. God grant, I may not be dissappointed.

Your affectionate Father John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “J. Adams. 14. May 1783.”


JQA's letter of the 6th has two words crossed out and two others written over. JA had repeatedly criticized JQA's hand in 1780; see vol. 3:309, 315–316, and illustrations 10 and 11 following p. 212; and vol. 4:47.


JQA's Diary entries, brief but fairly numerous during his stay in Russia (JQA, Diary , 1:101–153), varied greatly in length on his return journey through Sweden, Nov. 1782 to Feb. 1783 (same, 1:154–173), and then virtually ceased for the remainder of his journey through Denmark, Germany, and Holland (same, 1:174–175).


That is, common fractions, although in this case the numerators and denominators were algebraic expressions rather than numbers ( OED , under “Fraction”). The book is Daniel Fenning, The Young Algebraist's Companion, or, A New and Easy Guide to Algebra, 2d edn., London, 1751 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


This sentence appears to have been inserted after the next one-line paragraph was written.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 May 1783 JA JA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 May 1783 Adams, John Adams, John
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Paris May 18. 1783

You may well Suppose that I am not very easy when you are informed that We have no News from America, and that the definitive Treaty is neither Signed, or likely to be Signed very Soon. Mr. Hartley it is true is here and is well disposed to finish, with Liberality and 162with dispatch: but he must wait for orders at every Step, and his principals are either not firm in their Places or not decided in their System: So that it is impossible to foresee, when the End will be. I hope the first Ships will bring me, my Quietus. If my Resignation is accepted, I do not yet despair of embarking in the Month of June. If it is not, I must wait for a Fall Passage, which will be much less agreable. I am at Sea and must wait the Motions of Winds and currents.

What I most dread is, that my Resignation will not be accepted, in which Case I shall be necessitated either to go home without Leave, or Stay in Europe in a ridiculous state of Torture. This last I will not long submit too. I have already contracted in Holland, Disorders which will perhaps never leave me, and the poisonous Steams of that Country, are utterly inconsistent with my Health, besides it is a Place where I can do no good; for which Reasons I am unalterably determined not to remain there.

To send another to England and oblige me to remain in Holland would be a Piece of Tyranny; and a Slight and an affront to me which I will not bear at all Events. To take the Conduct of a publick affair from a Man who has, made Voyages and Journeys run Risques and made Sacrifices, in the discharge of his Duty and brought it almost to a Conclusion, is regarded by every Man, who knows any Thing of human Feelings, as a most invidious Injustice. And whoever is the sordid Crawler to swallow it, I am not.

Our Son is at the Hague in good health, and pursuing his Studies. I hope, our other Children are well. I hear Coffin is arrived and I hope what he had for you and my other Nabby were satisfactory.1

Yours for ever John Adams

RC (Adams Papers).


“Other” is inserted above the line. For Coffin's cargo, see JA to AA, 7 April and note 3, above.