Adams Family Correspondence, volume 5

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 May 1783 JA JQA John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 May 1783 Adams, John Adams, John Quincy
John Adams to John Quincy Adams
My dear son Paris May 19. 1783

I am glad to learn, by your Favour of the 12th, that you have begun to translate Suetonius. This is a very proper book to teach you to love your Country and her Laws. Do you translate it into French or English?

You Should always have a Book of Amusement, to read, along with 163your Severe Studies and laborious Exercises. I should not advise you to take these Books always from the shelf of Plays and Romances, nor yet from that of History. I Should recommend to you Books of Morals, as the most constant Companions, of your Hours of Relaxation, through the whole Course of your Life. There is in Barbeyrac's Writings, an History of the Rise and Progress of the science of Morality which I would have you read with Care, early in Life. It is printed with his Puffendorf I think in English.1

The Writings of Clark, Cudworth, Hutchinson, Butler, Woolaston,2 and many Sermons, upon Morals subjects will be worth your Attention, as well as Cicero Seneca &c.

I cannot enlarge, because the Post is on the Point of departing.

Your affectionate Father John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); marked in JA's hand at the bottom of the second page: “Mr Dumas.” The notation may have indicated this brief letter's enclosure in JA to Dumas, 19 May LbC , (Adams Papers).


Jean Barbeyrac, An Historical and Critical Account of the Science of Morality . . ., transl. by “Mr. Carew of Lincoln's Inn,” appeared as a preface to Samuel Pufendorf 's Of the Law of Nature and Nations, London, 1729, which Barbeyrac annotated ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


All of these writers based morality on reasoning, whether psychological or philosophical. Samuel Clarke, Francis Hutcheson, and Joseph Butler are extracted or cited in JA's Literary Commonplace Book of 1755–1756 (JA, Papers , 1:9, 10). Ralph Cudworth, a seventeenth-century professor of Hebrew and one of the Cambridge Platonists, is best known for his The True Intellectual System of the Universe: wherein All the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism Is Confuted, and Its Impossibility Demonstrated (1678). William Wollaston became famous for his Religion and Nature Delineated (1724), which sold ten thousand copies soon after its publication. Wollaston offered an intellectual basis for morality by deducing it “from logical necessity.” All of these writers appear in DNB , and all except Wollaston are represented in JA's library, although the edition of Clarke is of a later date than this letter ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 May 1783 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 May 1783 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Paris May 20. 1783

No News yet from America!1 We Yesterday, exchanged Full Powers with Mr. Hartley, and have agreed to meet at my House, every Evening at Six o Clock, untill We Shall have finished.2 This looks as if We were under Weigh, and I hope We shall reach Port. But cannot guess, how Soon.

My Residence in Holland has given me many faithfull Remembrancers, and among the Rest the Scurvy. I walk every day, never less than a League and some days two or three. I am as carefull of my Diet, Rest &c. as possible: but all is not enough. I shall never get rid 164of the Rests of that Fever and the damp Chills and Sour putrid Steams of the Low Countries.

Their Records are full of me, and my Veins are full of their Stagnant Water, they send me Medals too to perpetuate the Remembrance. Three different Medals have been sent me Since I have been in Paris, one in Commemoration of the Resolution of the States of Friesland, in Feb. 1782 to receive me, another of that of the states General of 19th. of April 1782, and a third of the signature of the Treaty 8 Oct. 1782.3

I hope a Voyage home, and a little Repose may restore me to health or at least give me some Relief.

I wonder of what Materials, Congress think I am made? When they found it necessary to recall that honest Steady, persevereing virtuous Patriot and Citizen Mr. Silas Deane, they were anxious to Save his Reputation, and covered up his Faults by a pretence that they wanted to consult with him about their foreign Affairs. When, at the Instigation of French Finesse, they took from me Authorities, in the Execution of which I had gone so far, and which french Finesse wanted taken from me for no other Reason but because it knew I should execute it too faithfully, they never thought of assigning any Reason at all. Stat pro ratione Voluntas.4 And Posterity are left to accuse or suspect me if they can. Thank God they can accuse, nor suspect me of any Thing, but an Integrity of full Proof in all Tryals. But Posterity can think very meanly of those Members of Congress, who voted for those Sordid Resolutions.

RC (Adams Papers).


JA writes this sentence in unusually large characters.


See JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:120–121.


These medals are now in the MHi. The second of those mentioned here appears as an illustration in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:x, and opposite p. 65. All three medals, and two others, are illustrated in Celeste Walker, John Adams & a “signal Tryumph”: The Begining of 200 Years of American-Dutch Friendship, Massachusetts Historical Society, Picturebook, Boston, 1982, illustration 24.


Will stands for reason. JA also writes this well-known maxim, adapted from Juvenal (Satire VI, 223), in exceptionally large characters.