Adams Family Correspondence, volume 8

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 23 January 1788 Adams, John Adams, John Quincy
John Adams to John Quincy Adams
Grosvenor Square Jan. 23. 1788 My dear John

I am much pleased with your Oration and much obliged to you for it. it seems to me, making allowance for a fathers Partiality, to be full of manly Sense and Spirit. By the Sentiments and Principles in that oration, I hope you will live and die, and if you do I dont care a farthing how many are preferred to you, for Style Elegance and Mellifluence.

To Vattel and Burlamaqui, whom you Say you have read you must Add, Grotius and Puffendorf and Heineccius, and besides this you should have some Volume of Ethicks constantly on your Table.1 Morals, my Boy, Morals should be as they are eternal in their nature, the everlasting object of your Pursuit. Socrates and Plato, Cicero and Seneca, Butler and Hutchinson, as well as the Prophets Evangelists and Apostles should be your continual Teachers.2

But let me advise you, in another Art, I mean oratory, not to content yourself with Blair and Sherridan, but to read Cicero and Quintilian.—and to read them with a Dictionary Grammar and Pen and Ink, for Juvenal is very right

Studium Sine Calamo Somnium.3

Preserve your Latin and Greek like the Apple of your Eye.

When you Attend the Superiour Court, carry always your Pen and Ink & Paper and take Notes of every Dictum, every Point and every Authority. But remember to show the same respect to the Judges and Lawyers who are established in Practice before you, as you resolved to show the President Tutors Professors, and Masters and Batchelors at Colledge.

Mr Parsons your Master is a great Lawyer and should be your oracle.

But you have now an intercourse with his Clients, whom it is your Duty to treat with Kindness, Modesty and Civility, and to 220whose Rights and Interests you ought to have an inviolable Attachment. Mr Parsons's honour, reputation and Interest Should be as dear to you, as your own.

I hope to see you in May; Meantime I am / with the tenderest affection your Father

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr John Quincy Adams.”; endorsed: “My Father 23. Jany: 1788.” and “Mr: Adams. Janry: 23. 1788.” Tr (Adams Papers).


JQA indicated in his Diary that he read Jean Jacques Burlamaqui's The Principles of Natural and Political Law in Oct. 1786 and Emmerich de Vattel's Le droit des gens in Sept. 1787 (2:109, 118, 287, 292). The other works JA recommended were Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, London, 1738; Samuel Pufendorf, Of the Law of Nature and Nations, 4th edn., London, 1729; and Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, A Methodical System of Universal Law, 2 vols., London, 1741, all three of which are in JA's library at MB ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


JA had previously made similar reading recommendations to JQA; see JA to JQA, 19 May 1783, vol. 5:162–163.


To study without a pen is to dream.

John Adams to Cotton Tufts, 23 January 1788 Adams, John Tufts, Cotton
John Adams to Cotton Tufts
Grosvenor Square Jan. 23. 1788 Dear Sir

So many Things appear to be done, when one is making Preparations for a Voyage, especially with a Family, that you must put up with a short Letter in answer to yours.1

We shall embark in March on board of the ship Lucretia Captn Calahan, and arrive in Boston as soon as We can: till which time I must suspend all Requests respecting, my little affairs. Your Bills shall be honoured as they appear.

You are pleased to ask my poor opinion of the new Constitution, and I have no hesitation to give it. I am much Mortified at the Mixture of Legislative and Executive Powers in the Senate, and wish for Some other Amendments.— But I am clear for accepting the present Plan as it is and trying the Experiment. at a future Time Amendments may be made, but a new Convention at present, would not be likely to amend it.

You will receive, perhaps with this, a third Volume of my Defence, in which I have Spoken of the new Constitution, in a few Words.2 This closes the Work, and I believe you will think I have been very busy. I have rescued from everlasting Oblivion, a number of Constitutions and Histories, which, if I had not Submitted to the Drudgery, would never have appeared in the English Language. They are the best Models for Americans to study, in order to Show them the horrid Precipice that lies before them in order to enable and Stimulate them to avoid it.


I am afraid, from what I See in the Papers that Mr Adams is against the new Plan. if he is, he will draw many good Men after him, and I Suppose place himself at the head of an Opposition. This may do no harm in the End: but I should be Sorry to see him, worried in his old Age.

Of Mr Gerrys Abilities, Integrity and Firmness I have ever entertained A very good opinion and on very solid Grounds.— I have seen him and Served with him, in dangerous times and intricate Conjunctures. But on this Occasion, tho his Integrity must be respected by all Men, I think him out in his Judgment.— Be so kind as to send him in my name a Set of my three Volumes.

My Duty, Love and Compliments / where due. Yours most respectfully / and affectionately

John Adams

RC (NN:Manuscripts and Archives Division, John Adams Papers); addressed by AA2: “Honble: Cotton Tufts Esqr. / Member of the Senate / Boston / Massachusetts.”; internal address: “The Hon. Cotton Tufts.”; endorsed: “J. Adams Esq / Jany 22. 1788.”


Cotton Tufts to JA, 28 Nov. 1787, in which Tufts provided JA with a lengthy report on the activities of the Mass. General Court. Tufts also wrote, “It would give me great Pleasure to have your Sentiments (for my own private Use if not otherways permitted) upon this proposed Constitution—and I flatter myself that you will not withhold from Your Friend that Light, wch. your extensive Knowledge of Governments & long Experience enables You to afford me” ( Doc. Hist. Ratif. Const. , 4:326–327).


See JA, Defence of the Const. , 3:505–506.