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Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0002-0005-0011

Author: Adams, John Quincy

[Cipher]

hzo er fryjei of vaf jhfirnofj
hzo vijzear er frjjei of vaf jhfirnofj rokof ha pero ih zado.1
a b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u v, w, x, y, z.
u, p, h, z o m, b, w e, r, c, x q d, a g, n, f k, v, i, j, y, l, s, t.
1. These two lines and the alphabet cipher which follows, appear undated, facing each other on two different and otherwise unused leaves, separating JQA 's second and third “volumes” of his journal in D/JQA/3. For related material, see the titlepage and note for D/JQA/3 (above).
The inscription, above, contains two lines in code, the latter being an elaboration of the first. Through the help of Ralph E. Weber of Marquette University, and Brian J. Winkel of Albion College, Albion, Michigan, the message has been deciphered as follows:
hzo vijzear er frjjei of vaf jhfirnofj rokof
the fashion in russia is for strangers never
ha pero ih zado.
to dine at home.
There is an error in the cipher for the plain text is, which should be enciphered “ej.” Some similarities exist between the transposition cipher JQA began to construct on the titlepage and the encoded message above, for the letters e, i, o, and r remain enciphered the same. The code appears to be much simpler than typical codes used during the American Revolutionary era, which generally employed letter and number substitutions, but Prof. Weber has found ciphers similar to this being used by John Jay and Robert Livingston in 1780 (Edmund C. Burnett, “Ciphers of the Revolutionary Period,” American Historical Review, 22:329–334 [Jan. 1917]; Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979, p 37–38). It seems likely that JQA was attempting to create a cipher, possibly inspired after his meeting on 7 Aug. with C. W. F. Dumas, the close associate of JA , who devised Revolutionary codes built upon more sophisticated methods (Burnett, “Ciphers,” p. 330–331). JQA 's enciphered message apparently antedates all others in the Adams Papers, the next earliest of which appears in a letter from James Lovell to JA the following December. JQA 's work on a cipher suggests that codes were a focal point of conversation among the Adamses for some time (“The Lovell Cipher and Its Derivatives,” Adams Family Correspondence, 4:393–399).