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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 5

Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0211

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Date: 1784-07-27

John Adams to Abigail Adams 2d

[salute] My Dear Daughter:

With the tenderest emotions of a father's heart, I congratulate you on your agreeable voyage, and happy arrival; and hope that your journeys in Europe, and your returning voyage to your own country, will be equally prosperous.
At your age, travels are pleasing and instructive. But that you may be able to derive the full benefit from them, let me recommend to you to keep a journal.
I have never had influence enough with your brother to prevail upon him to attend to this exercise, as pleasant as it is useful. But the punishment of this negligence is certain; if he lives sixty years, he will spend them all in continual repentance, and self-reproaches. A regular journal of his travels would be very valuable.2
{ 401 }
I cannot reproach myself, because my eyes have made it impracticable.3 With the utmost difficulty have I performed the writing, which my public duty required of me; and I may add, that my head and heart have been so occupied with necessary business, that objects of curiosity, and even the fine arts, had few attractions for me.
Your case and that of your brother are very different. In travelling with me, through the Dutch and Austrian Low Countries to France, you will have a great opportunity.4
In London you see one of those enormous masses of human nature, which exhibit to view its utmost extremes of grandeur and littleness, of virtues and vices, of wisdom and folly. In Paris you will see another; and all along between them, are countries and cities which will deserve your attention.
I need not say to you, that the end of travel, as well as study, is not the simple gratification of curiosity, or to enable one to shine in conversation, but to make us wiser and better.
The British Museum, Sir Ashton Lever's Museum, Wedgwood's Manufactory of Earthen Ware, Parker's Manufactory of Glass, I saw with great pleasure. You cannot see Mrs. Siddons, as she is absent. Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Church you should see.5
But I presume you will not be long in England after your brother's arrival.

[salute] Hasten, my dear girl, as much as you can with prudence, to your affectionate father,

[signed] John Adams
MS not found. Printed from (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , 1:3–5.)
1. The date is likely a printing or transcription error. JA did not know of AA2 's arrival in London, on 20 July, until he received AA 's letter of 23 July, which he answered on the 26th (both above).
2. For JA 's first known exhortation to JQA to keep a diary, in 1778, and JQA 's initially sporadic but often successful attempts to do so, from Nov. 1779 through Dec. 1783, see vol. 3:92–93, 224, note 1, 400, 425, note 1; JQA, Diary , 1:xxxvii–xli. On 8 Aug., after an eightmonth hiatus, JQA resumed his Diary, and after another lapse in the fall, he began keeping it regularly in Jan. 1785.
3. JA had complained of inflamed eyes and weak vision since 1774. See vol. 2:163, 243; vol. 4:37, 45; JA, Papers , 2:200, 404; 3:11, 49, 87; 4:413.
4. Compare JA 's attitude here toward his own duty to perform “necessary business,” and his belief that AA2 and JQA had much greater cultural opportunities than he did, with his earlier celebrated observation that he “must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy . . . . in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine” (to AA , [post 12 May 1780] , vol. 3:342).