Adams Family Correspondence, volume 7

John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 25 April 1786 JQA AA2 John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d, 25 April 1786 Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
John Quincy Adams to Abigail Adams 2d
Braintree, April 151 i.e. 25th, 1786

This is the eighth day it has rained and stormed without intermission, the weather is worse than that of England commonly is.

The parson2 has been here to-day. Smoked some pipes, was sometimes witty, and always ready to laugh at his own flashes. The vacancy expires tomorrow. The weather has been such that we could not stir out of doors. I have employed my time in reading, writing and taking lessons on the flute, for you must know we are all turning musicians. I never had before an opportunity of paying any steady attention to any musical instrument, now I am settled, in one place for fifteen months, vacancies excepted, and shall be glad for a relaxation from study, to amuse myself with a little music, which you know

When the soul is press'd with cares Awakes it with enlivening airs.3
Cambridge, Saturday 29th.

Charles and I came up on Wednesday. I spent the eve on Wednesday at Mr. D.'s,4 and was again there this afternoon. I saw there a gentleman and heard his name, but do not recollect it, who had a vast deal of small talk with Miss E.5 upon matrimony and so forth. I think the conversation of this kind is still more ridiculous in this country than it is in Europe; there, the theatres furnish subjects, and there is an opportunity, now and then, of hearing some good critical remarks; but here, complete nonsense is a word not expressive enough of the insipidity and absurdity that reigns in our polite conversation.

The class to which I belong recite this week to the Greek tutor. His name is Jennison; a youth who was chosen tutor before he had been three years out of college; he is not more than twenty-four now: and is very far from being possessed of those qualities which I should suppose necessary for a tutor here. He is so ignorant in Greek, that he displays it sometimes in correcting a scholar that is right, and other times suffering the most absurd constructions to pass unnoticed. We had a capital instance of this no longer ago than this morning, but notwithstanding these circumstances, he is not so unpopular in college as some other characters are, because he is not fond of punishing; he has, upon many occasions, shown his lenity in this way.


My room is directly over his, and am obliged to take the greatest caution to make no noise, for fear of a message from him. The other day a person came into my chamber, and seeing my flute on the table, took it up, and played about a dozen notes. I had immediately a freshman, who came to me with orders to go to Mr. Jennison; he said he would inform me once for all, that he desired I would confine myself for my amusements, to the hours allotted for that purpose. To tell him I did not play would have been of no service, for here you are responsible, not only for what you do yourself, but for whatever is done in your chamber. I have not been used to such subjection, but I find I can submit to it with as good a grace as any body. If there was not such an awful distance between a tutor and a scholar, I should submit to them with equal pleasure and be much better satisfied, but a Turkish bashaw could not be more imperious than they are; nor will they, in any manner, mix with the students so as to give them information upon any subject.

Tuesday 9th.

We attend this week Mr. James, the Latin tutor. He is not very popular, and indeed it would be difficult to point out more than one person belonging to our government that is, that one is Professor Williams; but to return to Mr. Jones James; no one doubts of his literary qualifications, but he is accused of great partiality towards his own class in general,6 and towards particular persons; and what makes this more disagreeable to the students is, that his partialities are not in favor of good characters, but are owing rather to interested views. But in this I am only the herald of public fame. Since I have been here, he has shown me no favor, nor any partiality against me. The tutors here, have a right to lay pecuniary punishment on the students for misbehaviour of any kind, and this is the greatest cause of their unpopularity. The tutors often show a fault in their judgment or their justice. If they have a pique against any particular scholar, they will gratify it by punishing him as often as they can possibly find opportunity, and sometimes without any valid reasons at all; but any one who is favored by a tutor, may do almost anything and it will pass by unnoticed; and when the students see one punished for a trifle, and another running into every excess with impunity, it is very natural they should dislike the tutor's conduct. But people out of college say Mr. James is much of a gentlemen, which we have no opportunity of discovering here; for it is entirely inconsistent for a tutor to treat a scholar like a gentleman. How do you 159think this sets upon your brother's stomach? My chum, who has already graduated, often has the tutors in the chamber. He always informs me of it a short time before, and I never fail of being absent at the time; for if I was to stay, I might be three hours in the room with them, without having a word said to me, or a look at me, unless one of a proud superiority. Such are these giants, who, like the Colossus, bestride the whole length of Harvard College. But you will think it does me good, as it will mortify my vanity and teach me a little humility. I wish it may have this good effect.

Saturday, 13th.

Nothing extraordinary has happened in the course of the week—the same scene continually repeated. My time is taken up much more than I expected it would be. I have adopted a system, which you will immediately see leaves no time: six hours of the day are employed in the public exercises of the college; six for study, six for sleep, and six for exercise and amusements; the principal of which now is my flute. I very seldom go into company out of college, and have been but once to Boston since I came here.

It is usual for every class, in the beginning of the senior year, to choose one of the class, to deliver a Latin valedictory or farewell oration, before the government of the college and the other classes, on the 21st of June next ensuing, the day when the seniors leave college, but this has been neglected by the present senior class till two days ago, when they appointed a youth by the name of Fowle to speak, not a Latin oration, but an English poem, he is quite young but a very pretty poet, I have heard some lines of his read which would do honor to any young man.7

Tuesday, 16th.

We recite this week to Mr. Hale, the metaphysical tutor; it would be difficult for me to name one student that loves this man; he is cordially hated even by his own class, which is not the case with the other tutors. Nobody accuses him of partialities in favor of any one; he is equally morose, surly and peevish to all; he has got the nickname of the cur. We this day experienced his ill nature, we had this morning to dispute upon a certain question that he gave out some time since; this is called a forensic. We began at 9 1/2, at 11 Mr. Williams had a philosophical lecture, when the bell rung two or three of those who had read their parts applied for leave to go out and attend Mr. Williams' lecture, and he refused them, so that we must 160infallibly, have lost a lecture, had not Mr. Williams been so kind as to wait near half an hour for us.

Remember me to all friends, and believe me yours. J. Q. Adams

MS not found. Printed from (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 3:106–112.)


This is probably a copying error for “April 25,” the correct date of the events of the opening paragraphs (JQA, Diary , 2:21).


For Rev. Anthony Wibird, minister of the First Church in Braintree, see vol. 1:146.


A paraphrase of Alexander Pope, Ode for Music on St. Cecilia's Day, lines 24–27: “If in the breast tumultuous joys arise, / Music her soft, assuasive voice applies; / Or when the soul is press'd with cares, / Exalts her in enlivening airs.”


Francis Dana, an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court since 1785, had served as JA's official secretary from 1779 to mid-1781. JQA accompanied Dana to St. Petersburg in 1781, when the latter took up his appointment as minister to Russia, and acted as his private secretary and translator for over a year (JQA, Diary , 1:ix—x; DAB ).


Almy Ellery of Newport, R.I., Dana's sister-in-law ( NEHGR , 8:318 [Oct. 1854]).


Perhaps a vestige of an archaic Harvard mode in which each tutor was responsible for administering all subjects in the curriculum as well as overseeing the general well-being of an entire class of undergraduates throughout their college career. In 1767 the system was revised and each tutor instructed all classes at the college in specific subject matter (Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge, 1936, p. 51–53; Samuel Eliot Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636–1936, Cambridge, 1936, p. 90).


Robert Fowle (1766–1847), Harvard 1786, served as the Episcopal minister of Holderness, N.H., from his ordination in 1791 until his death ( Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ; Samuel Seabury, A Discourse Delivered in St. John's Church . . . Conferring the Order of Priesthood on The Rev. Robert Fowle, A.M. of Holderness, Boston, 1791, Evans, No. 23755).

Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 7 May 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith AA Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 7 May 1786 Cranch, Mary Smith Adams, Abigail
Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams
My Dear Sister Braintree May 7th 1786

Yes my dear Sister I have thought it very long since I have receiv'd a Letter from you and thought it very Strange that you should not write me one line by the January Pacquit when mr cranch receiv'd one from mr Adams.1 You say you wrote but one Letter by it, but do not tell me who it was too none of your Friends here have receiv'd any, and mr King directed a number of other pioples to mr cranchs care. I have a suspician it was to mr T——l——r, but I have not heard a word about it.2 Pray tell me who it was too? You Surely did not call the three Lines you inclos'd in the Bundle of news papers a Letter.3 Your Letter by the Febry. Pacquit came last evening by the Post.4 Mr King could not find a Private hand to send it by, and truly my Sister, it contains wonderful things. A few more dashes and marks under names would have render'd it more intiligible. I cannot help thinking that mr —— has receiv'd its counterpart, for last evening he came home before nine, and went immidiately to Bed. He seldom 161comes home till after we are abed. I was Saying yesterday morning to Betsy, that nothing would afford me more pleasure than to hear that a cousin of hers was married to a worthy american who would come and settle among us. You have mention'd three in your Letter. If I am to guess among those, I Should Say that Colln H——m——s is the favor'd Man. Eliza says “no. He has been with you but a month!–what then.” This is not their first acquaintance. She recolects a mr murray of whom you have given a fine character and whose Letters to Cousin JQA 5 She has seen and admir'd. I hope you do not design to keep us in this Suspence long. It is now very generally known that my Niece has dismiss'd mr T and what it is for, and such universal rejoicing I beleive there never was before upon such an occation. I have thought it my duty to let it be known that she was not influenc'd to do it by any of her Friends, but that his neglect of her had open'd her eyes and made her think with the rest of the World that he was not calculated to make her so happy as she once thought he was. I want to know what Letters were pick'd up from Fletchers wreck.6 I thought I had not sent one by him. Young and he or cushing Sail'd So near together that I do not know whether some of my Letters might not be put aboard the ceres. Mr T writ by one of them. If you know what, I wish you would tell me. I know he was jealous of us at that time, but without a cause. He in general denys his being dismiss'd. Says there has been some little misunderstanding between them, that some Fiend or other on this side the water has occation'd it. That as soon as he gets his mills going and his Business into good order, he Shall visit you, and shall Settle the matter in half an hour. But what does He mean by keeping the things and Letters She desir'd him to deliver to Doctor Tufts?7 Will he wish to keep and wear the Picture when the origanal is in the possession of another?

I have written you largly by capn. Calhahan and hope they will reach you Safe but we have many fears about him. His vessel was So crank when She went out that many have thought she would overset if She Should meet with a heavey storm. The importance of Doctor Gordons History may save it. He and his History are on board. His Lady8 is with him also, and several other Ladies. Your Sons were well a few days ago. The two colegians spent an agreable vacancy here, for us it was so and I hope for themselves. They look'd very happy. I had miss N Marsh here all the time to help us. It is no small job to keep three Such Lads in repair. Eliza says she is sure she came home in the right time to make Gowns and wastcoats 162for them. Cousin charles must be equipt for the expiration of his Freshmanship. I have got him a Gown too. I was determin'd to please my Fancy if it could be done in Boston and I have done it. I hope he will think it as handsome as I do.

Mr Evans was married last thursday. He set out on monday for Philadelphia upon a visit to his Friends. His Lady goes with him. He will return to his charge in about two months.9

I hope you will not forget to send some linnen both course and fine for your sons. Charles Storer is going to Settle at the eastward there is nothing to be done at Boston to any purpose. We have not had a line from mr Perkins Since the Letter I mention'd to you last Fall.10 Mr Storer had some thoughts of going to Kentucky some time past, but he has alter'd his plan. He is indeed a fine youth. I could have wisht to have keept him among us. I do not recollect the Poem address'd to our army which you mention but I will inquir for it.11 Pray send me any thing that you approve of. We Want Something new. We go out but Seldom and want Something to vary our scene. Mr —— is nothing to us, he Sleeps here and that is all. My dear Niece need not fear that the world will charge her with fickleness or infidelity. Mrs P——l——r may and will I know.12 She means well but is not always judicious. I wish cousin to be very cautious in writing to her.

I long to have cushing come in. We begin to be anxious about him. We are all well, your Mother Hall and Brothers Family also. Our children will write as soon as they recieve Letters. What is the reason that cousin Nabby has not written to any of us for so long a time. Tell Ester13 her Freinds are in general Well. Ned Baxters wife has been sick but is better. Yours affectionatly

M Cranch

RC (Adams Papers.)


Probably JA to Richard Cranch, 12 Dec. 1785 (LbC, Adams Papers).


AA wrote to Royall Tyler in December (not found). See AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 June 1786, below.


AA to Richard Cranch, 23 Dec. 1785 (not found). Cranch acknowledges its receipt in his letter to AA of 13 April 1786, above.


Of 26 Jan., above.


William Vans Murray to JQA, 2 Aug. 1785 (Adams Papers).


JQA's letter to AA2 of 20–28 Aug. 1785 was rescued from the water (vol. 6:287–292).


Cotton Tufts had been asked to collect a miniature of AA2 and the letters she sent to Royall Tyler (vol. 6:285, 287).


Elizabeth Field Gordon, sister of London apothecary John Field ( DAB , William Gordon).


Rev. Israel Evans and Huldah Kent were married 2 May in Charlestown by Rev. Joseph Eckley of Boston's Old South Church (Boston, 30th Report, p. 78; Massachusetts Centinel, 6 May; Sprague, Annals Amer. Pulpit , 2:137–140).


Thomas Perkins of Bridgewater, Harvard 1779, tutored the Adams and Cranch children in the early 1780s. Perkins settled in western Virginia, now Kentucky, and prac-163ticed law (vol. 4:309). Perkins wrote to Elizabeth Cranch on 1 March 1785, a letter which was subsequently published anonymously in The Boston Magazine, Sept. 1785, p. 342–345 (Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 14 Aug. 1785, vol. 6:268–275).


David Humphreys, A Poem, Addressed to the Armies of the United States of America. See AA to Mary Smith Cranch, 26 Jan., above.


Elizabeth Hunt Palmer.


Esther Field, AA's servant.