Descriptive List of Illustrations
Comte d'Estaing, Admiral of the French Fleet ||facing ||
Charles Henri Théodat, Comte d'Estaing (1729–1794), lieutenant-general and vice-admiral, commander of the French fleet or squadron assigned to operate in American waters against the British, from an engraving by Goldar after a painting by d'Haigue. The engraving was published in London by John Fielding in 1785 and was used in the third volume (facing p. 302) of John Andrews' History of the War with America, France, Spain, and Holland, 4 vols., London, 1785–1786.
Following the ill-starred Rhode Island campaign of 1778, Estaing brought his fleet into Boston Harbor in September for refitting (p. 113
, below). He paid his respects to Mrs. Adams promptly at a meeting arranged for his convenience at Colonel Josiah Quincy's house because of its location on the shore of the Bay in sight of the fleet (see
Adams Family Correspondence
); and received her and party on board his flagship on 15 October with an “entertainment fit for a princiss” as well as at an earlier sumptuous feast with “Musick and dancing for the young folks” (Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21
October 1778, below). To reports of these events from his wife, Adams responded: “The accounts from all hands agree that there was an agreable intercourse, and happy harmony upon the whole between the inhabitants and the Fleet, the more this Nation is known, and the more their language is understood, the more narrow Prejudices will wear away. British Fleet and Armys, are very different from theirs. In Point of Temperance and Politeness there is no Comparison” (18 December 1778
On the professional side, John Adams averred that the Comte d'Estaing was “allowed by all Europe to be a great and worthy Officer, and by all that know him to be a zealous friend of America” (to Abigail Adams, 6 November 1778
, below). Despite often disappointing results from the aid the fleet was able to render the American cause, Adams seems to have maintained his regard for Estaing (to Abigail Adams, 23 February 1780
, below). For an account of his part in the several campaigns, see John J. Meng, The American Expedition of the Comte d'Estaing, 1778–1779
, New York, 1936.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Henry Laurens of South Carolina ||facing ||
Stipple engraving, signed “B.B.E.,” after a drawing by Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1736?–1784), and published in London in a col•
lection of Du Simitière's work entitled Portraits of the Generals, Ministers, Magistrates, Members of Congress, and Others Who Have Rendered Themselves Illustrious in the Revolution of the United States of America
. . ., R. Wilkinson and J. Debrett, 1783. The particular example used here is a separate, bound into an extra-illustrated copy of [John Adams,] Correspondence of the Late President Adams. Originally Published in the Boston Patriot. In a Series of Letters
, Boston, 1809[–1810], owned by Henry Adams, facing p. 251.
The engraver was identified by Henry Bromley [i.e. Anthony Wilson] in his Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, London, 1793, as Benjamin Beale Evans (Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler). To explain the initials, other suggestions with considerably less authority have been advanced, including the amusing one derived from the promise on the titlepage that the engravings were “by the Most Eminent Artists in London,” that the initials might have stood only for “Best British Engravers” (Antiques, 24:18 [July 1933]).
Du Simitière, who probably executed a similar portrait of John Adams (not now to be found; see Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John and Abigail Adams
, Cambridge, 1968, p. 217 and figs. 105–105A), was a Swiss who had settled in Philadelphia and attracted John Adams' attention as “a very curious Man,” artist, and antiquary, in 1776, when designs for a medal to commemorate the evacuation of Boston and for a seal for the United States were under discussion. See Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 August 1776
, vol. 2:96–97, above; also Diary and Autobiography of John Adams
, Cambridge, 1961, 3:xii, facing p. 257, 376; and, for a general account, Hans Huth, “Pierre Eugène Du Simitière and the Beginnings of the American Historical Museum,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
, 69:315–325 (October 1945).
The personal and political relations between John Adams and Henry Laurens were close and complex. They began when Laurens came to Congress as a South Carolina delegate in July 1777, and Adams, after Laurens' election as president in November of that year, pronounced him “a thoro' Republican” (The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles
, ed. Franklin B. Dexter, New York, 1901, 2:237). Adams' chief official correspondent during his first mission to Europe, 1778–1779, was President Laurens, who sided unreservedly with the Adamses and the Lees in the dispute which rent Congress over the conduct of Silas Deane, and in fact resigned his office early in 1779 because he did not think Deane had been treated with sufficient severity. In the contest over who should represent the United States abroad, Laurens in September 1779 nominated Adams as minister to negotiate peace with Great Britain, a nomination which prevailed and sent Adams abroad a second time. In the following month Laurens was himself named commissioner to seek loans and a treaty in the Netherlands. This office he never filled, for when he at length sailed in the summer of 1780—just as Adams left Paris on his “fishing expedition” to Amsterdam—Laurens was captured and taken to England. Among the papers he carried that
were recovered from the sea was a copy of the draft commercial “treaty” William Lee had worked out with sundry Dutch merchants and officials in 1778. Laurens was sent to the Tower on charges of treason, and the British government used the so-called treaty as justification for breaking off relations with the Dutch Republic. All this eventually converted Adams' informal mission to the Netherlands into an official one and led to his diplomatic and financial triumphs in 1782.
Laurens was released from the Tower at the end of 1781 and shortly afterward exchanged for Lord Cornwallis. He had been named to the joint peace commission with Adams, Jay, Franklin, and Jefferson in June 1781, but on account of poor health and for other reasons never made very clear he was reluctant to serve, though he lingered on in Europe. He finally did serve during the very last days of the negotiations in Paris, and is credited with having made a material contribution.
Laurens' later years were saddened by, among other things, a bitter quarrel with Adams' friend Edmund Jenings. This quarrel produced a series of pamphlets that could not help involving Adams in some degree, and very unhappily so far as he was concerned. The merits and even the issues of this protracted affair are not likely to be clarified until there is full publication of both Laurens' and Adams' papers during the 1780's.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Chart of the Harbor and Bay of La Coruña, 1764 ||following ||
The “Plan de la Baye et Port de la Corogne” is reproduced from plate No. 53 in the fourth volume (l'Europe) of J. N. Bellin's La petit atlas maritime, 5 vols., Paris, 1764.
La Coruña, one of the two harbors, the other being El Ferrol, between Cape Finisterre and Cape Ortegal at the extreme northwest tip of the Spanish peninsula, was the provincial capital of Galicia. There, John Adams on his second mission to Europe, accompanied by his sons John Quincy and Charles and by John Thaxter Jr. and Francis Dana, arrived by boat and muleback on 15 December 1779 for replanning after the leaking frigate, La Sensible
, bound for France, had had to put into the nearer El Ferrol (Thaxter to Abigail Adams, 15 December
; John Adams to same, 16 December 1779
, below). In La Coruña from the 15th to the 26th they were outfitted for the long trip ahead and secured the means of travel across northern Spain. Their stay is described by John Adams in considerable detail in the
Diary and Autobiography
, including visits to a number of points of interest in the town and vicinity that are identifiable on the Bellin chart. These include the fortifications, the “magasins à poudre,” and the ancient “tour de fer.”
La Coruña was again to be an unexpected haven for an Adams in September 1781, when the frigate South Carolina
, Commodore Gillon, bearing Charles Adams on his return voyage home in the charge of Major William Jackson, had to put into the harbor for
want of water and supplies. At La Coruña, Major Jackson and his charge, along with John Trumbull and James Searle, unable to endure longer the capricious behavior and doubtful seamanship of Gillon, found another ship to take them to Bilbao and ultimately to America. The misadventures and near escapes from the departure from the Texel to the arrival five months later at Beverly are recounted in volume 4 in the letters to John Adams from William Jackson, 26 September
, 26 October
and note 2
there; from Benjamin Waterhouse, 30 September 1781
; and from Isaac Smith Sr.,
23 January 1782
and note 1
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.
John Quincy Adams' Latin Grammar ||following ||
John Adams' Spanish-French Dictionary ||following ||
John Clarke's Introduction à la syntaxe latine.
John Quincy Adams' signature and the date, 1778, inscribed with flourish on the page facing the titlepage of this French translation of a Latin grammar originally in English, make it likely that this, along with Tricot's Les rudiments de la langue latine
(see under No. 12 in the present Descriptive List), was among the books acquired to forward John Quincy's early study of the Latin tongue in M. Le Coeur's private boarding school in Passy where John Adams had enrolled him on 14 April 1778, shortly after their arrival in Paris (John Adams to Abigail Adams, 19 April
; John Quincy Adams to the same, 20 April
1778, below; and
Diary and Autobiography
). Since his master felt that the boy's approach to Latin was impeded by his limited knowledge of French, the book was probably not put to use until after July (Le Coeur to John Adams, 31 July 1778
On John Clarke, 1687–1734, master of the public grammar school in Hull and author of numerous texts, see The Dictionary of National Biography. His An Introduction to the Making of Latin; Comprising, after an Easy Compendious Method, the Substance of the Latin Syntax, had been a standard grammar in the schools for more than half a century. By the date the present edition was published, 1773, it had gone through twenty-one editions in English; the French translation had first appeared in a Geneva edition in 1745. The work would maintain its currency in Europe and America well into the 19th century. The copy illustrated, which also bears John Quincy Adams' later bookplate adapted from the Treaty Seal, remains among his books now at the Boston Athenaeum.
In the same collection is a second copy of this Latin grammar with an inscription also in John Quincy Adams' hand, dated 1779. The date and the pasted-in business label of “L. C. R. Baudoin, à l'Orient,” indicate that when Adams father and son were in Lorient from 8–11 April 1779 awaiting the sailing of the Alliance for America, the duplicate was acquired, perhaps because the copy John Quincy had been using was not at hand and the lack of it was not to be allowed to interrupt his pursuit of the Latin language.
Francisco Sobrino's Diccionario nuevo de las lenguas española y
The titlepage, with John Adams' signature, is reproduced from the copy of the first volume of the sixth edition (Brussels, 1760) of Sobrino's Spanish-French dictionary, the only volume of the multivolume work that remains among John Adams' books at the Boston Public Library. There were three of the handsome volumes when Adams procured the title at El Ferrol within three days of his unplanned landing in Spain on 8 December 1779: “Finding that I must reside some Weeks in Spain, either waiting for a Frigate or traveling through the Kingdom, I determined to acquire the Language, to which Purpose, I went to a Bookseller and purchased Sobrino's Dictionary in three Volumes in Quarto.” To the same end, in the few days he was at El Ferrol, he also obtained by purchase or gift a Spanish grammar in French by Sobrino and Spanish and Latin grammars in Spanish (John Adams to Abigail Adams, 11 December
, below, and
Diary and Autobiography
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum and of the Boston Public Library.
“Bunkers Hill or America's Head Dress,” A London Satirical Print, 1776 ||following ||
Mary Dorothy George in the fifth volume of her Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires . . . in the British Museum, London, 1935, lists (under No. 5370) and describes numerous engravings issued in London during 1776–1777 directed against the current fashion for enormous inverted pyramids of hair, richly ornamented. Often, the satire upon exaggerated coiffures had a second purpose or direction as well.
Two at least of those described in the Catalogue
(Nos. 5330 and 5335) used the exaggerated hairdress to satirize the British war effort in New England and would, presumably, have been the ones to receive currency in America: “Bunkers Hill or America's Head Dress,” published in March 1776, and “Noddle-Island – or How – Are We Decieved,” published by Matthew Darly in the Strand in May. One of these or a similar one would likely be the “representation” which John Thaxter assumed Abigail Adams had seen at Brigadier Palmer's (to Abigail Adams, 6 July 1778
In the satire upon the British effort at Bunker's Hill, that reproduced in the present volume, upon the vast “field” of the headdress, all the soldiers represented as in the redoubts firing point-blank at each other, as well as those marching or drawing artillery pieces, are British. The three outsized flags which fly over the redoubts and artillery position bear respectively the images of an ape, a goose, and two women holding darts of lightning. In the second, “Noddle-Island,” which satirizes Howe's evacuation of Boston, both in the pun upon his name in the title and in representing redcoats in boats rowing toward two ships in full sail, the flags which fly over the British are decorated respectively with an ass and with a fool's cap and bells.
Darly's satirical prints were used contemporaneously in a London
newspaper to evoke the scene presented at a masked ball attended by about a thousand persons: “there were a great many fine women, fine jewels, fine dresses, with some good character masks. The best of the latter were . . . a lady with her head dressed agreeable to Darly's caricature of a head, so enormous actually to contain both a plan or model of Boston, and of the Provincial army on Bunkers Hill” (General Evening Post
, 7–9 May 1776, quoted in R. T. H. Halsey, “English Sympathy with Boston during the American Revolution,” Old-Time New England
, 46:93 [Spring 1956]).
Two years later, when exaggeratedly high hairdresses had in turn become fashionable enough in America to be satirized, Thaxter, in the letter already noted, adverted to the earlier London caricatures in describing a concluding feature of the 4th of July celebration in Philadelphia in 1778: “Some time after dinner, was escorted through the Streets a noted and infamous doxy with one of the high head dresses lately worn by some of the Ladies in this City. It was elegantly finished, but it was borne (it is a fabrick indeed on the head) by a Trull, which gave great offence to the Jewels who have lately prop'd such awful superstructures. It was designed to ridicule them. The end was answered.”
Courtesy of the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum.
Invoice of Goods Shipped to Abigail Adams from Bilbao by Gardoqui & Sons in 1780 ||facing ||
John Adams first encountered the Gardoquis, a mercantile firm at Bilbao in Spain that had strong connections with the Cabots, Tracys, and other merchant shippers of the North Shore ports of Massachusetts Bay, in January 1780, after his rugged overland journey from La Coruña. Upon hearing of his arrival, the Gardoquis called on Adams, and next day, 16 January, he recorded: “Dined, with the two Messrs. Gardoquis and a Nephew of theirs,” who thereafter showed the traveling Americans such sights as the city offered (Diary and Autobiography of John Adams
). From Paris, Adams wrote his wife that he had been “treated by them with the Magnificence of a Prince,” and that they would “be very glad to be Usefull to you in any Thing they can do” (letter of 16 February 1780
Since there were several American ships in the harbor at the time, Adams had an opportunity to send a substantial present home. The invoice reproduced is a record of what he ordered sent. The original was enclosed in Gardoqui & Sons to John Adams, 19 February 1780
), which stated that the goods were to be shipped in the Phoenix
, Captain Babson. Babson reached Beverly before the end of March.
The contents of the “Case” and “Barrell,” namely glassware, china, tea, cutlery, linens, and handkerchiefs, were typical enough of the kinds of goods furnished to Mrs. Adams not only by the Gardoquis but by French and Dutch merchants during the last years of the war, when finished goods from Europe were exceedingly scarce in America, and hard cash, for which they could be sold,
was even scarcer. See letters and other invoices from (among others) the Gardoquis and the Neufvilles in the present volumes and the brief discussion of Abigail Adams' activity as an importer in the Introduction.
From the original in the Adams Papers.
John Quincy Adams' Dutch-English Dictionary ||facing ||
Titlepage and flyleaf inscription by John Quincy Adams in Willem Sewel's Dutch-English Woordenboek
, purchased at four florins and eight stivers by John Adams for John Quincy in Amsterdam two weeks after the family's arrival there. At the same time, for the same price, Adams bought and gave his elder son a copy of Sewel's complementary New Dictionary English and Dutch
, Amsterdam, 1691 (A Catalogue of the Books of John Quincy Adams Deposited in the Boston Athenaeum
. . ., Boston, 1938, p. 124). This was done in preparation for John Quincy and his brother Charles' entering, a few days after the purchases were made, the Latin School on the Singel to continue their classical studies broken off when they left Pechigny's school in Passy. This step proved disastrous, for even provided with these bilingual aids, John Quincy's Dutch was not adequate for the school, and both boys were abruptly withdrawn after a complaint by the head of the school in November. See the Introduction and the letters between John Adams and Rector Verheyk in October
The compiler of the dictionaries was an Amsterdammer of English extraction, Willem (or William) Sewel (1654–1720), best known for his History . . . of the Christian People Called Quakers, first published in Dutch, Amsterdam, 1717, and in English in 1722, with many later editions. According to The Dictionary of National Biography, the work has never been wholly superseded.
It is not clear that John Quincy Adams mastered Dutch during his several sojourns in the Netherlands. Writing his father from Leyden in the following spring, he remarked that he took “the Delft Dutch paper to learn to read the language” and sent an item of news from a recent issue (letter of 17 May 1781
, below). Among his books are a few literary classics translated into Dutch from other languages, and also some Dutch plays, a literary form he was fond of. These were probably acquired at about the same time that he read the Delft newspaper and for the same purpose. Thus he seems to have had a minimal reading knowledge of Dutch. But in 18th- century Amsterdam and The Hague, French was an acceptable language for business and the normal language of diplomacy, while Latin lingered in the universities and the learned professions. John Quincy was solidly grounded in both and probably found little need to speak Dutch.
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.
Card to John Adams Announcing the Birth of George Washington Lafayette, Paris, 1779 ||facing ||
Brief and formal as it may be, this document signalizes a relationship between the Adams and Lafayette families that was sustained over two full generations and for more than sixty years.
“Acceptez mon compliment, Monsieur le Marquis,” Mme. de Lafayette wrote from Passy to her husband in Paris on 24 December 1779, announcing the birth of her first and only son. “Il est très sincère, il est très vif. L'Amérique va illuminer et je soutiens que Paris devrait le faire aussi. Le nombre de ceux qui vous ressemblent est si petit qu'un accroissement de ce nombre est un bienfait public” (André Maurois, Adrienne ou la vie de Mme. de La Fayette, Paris, 1960, p. 107). This was her proud way of saying that, after bearing him two daughters (one of whom had died in infancy), she had now provided him with a son and heir.
The “Card” (announcement) must have been sent to Adams at his former quarters at the Hôtel de Valentinois in Passy to await his arrival. (Adams and his sons were still in La Coruña, about to set out for Paris.) The amanuensis who wrote it evidently had trouble with Adams' given name, possibly because of the current notoriety of Captain John Paul Jones; at any rate the new peace minister appears on the superscription as “Monsieur Jones Adams.” When he heard the news, John Adams wrote Abigail: “The Marquis has a son since his Arrival in Europe, whom he has named George, not from the King of G[reat]
but his friend Washington” (letter of 28 February 1780
, below; see a brief note there on the younger Lafayette's career).
It was accordingly appropriate that Mme. de Lafayette sent George to America and placed him under President Washington's care during the imprisonment of the Marquis de Lafayette. This created a problem for the President because of the delicate diplomatic relations the United States had with the France of the Directoire, but he handled it with extreme tact and equal generosity, writing the boy's father at the end of the year and a half that George spent in his household that his conduct had “been exemplary in every point of view” and developing—as his letters to George consistently show—a genuine affection for him (Washington to Lafayette, 8 October 1797, The Writings of George Washington . . . 1745–1799, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, Washington, 1931–1944, 36:40–41; see numerous other letters and references in same, vols. 34–37).
George Washington Lafayette attended his father on his triumphal tour of the United States in 1824–1825, renewing his acquaintance with members of the Adams family both in Quincy and in Washington, where President John Quincy Adams entertained the Nation's guest and his entourage at the White House just before their return to France. Later still, George Washington Lafayette, upon request, furnished materials for J. Q. Adams' impressive and widely reprinted Oration on the Life and Character of Gilbert Motier de Lafayette
. . ., Washington, 1835, delivered
before a joint session of Congress on the last day of 1834. See J. Q. Adams to G. W. Lafayette, 3 July 1834, and reply, 21 October 1834; both in Adams Papers
. Correspondence on this and related subjects continued for some years thereafter.
John Quincy Adams Lists His Studies and Seeks His Father's Advice ||following ||
John Quincy Adams Consults His Father About His Brother Charles' Studies ||following ||
The two letters here reproduced represent one side of an exchange of four letters between John Quincy Adams and his father during the period when both John Quincy and his brother Charles were enrolled in M. Pechigny's school at Passy, variously called (as the covers show) an “Ecole de Mathematiques” and a “Pension de Mathematiques.” The texts indicate, however, that the school offered a regular classical curriculum. The books and other topics mentioned in the letters have been annotated under the letters themselves (16
March 1780, below; see also John Adams' prompt and decisive replies of 17
March respectively, and No.
Book Purchases by John Adams for Himself and His Sons in Paris and Amsterdam facing 21312
in the present Descriptive List).
But apart from their substance and the striking contrast between the two letters in respect to John Quincy's handwriting (following his father's injunction of 17 March), the letters have a special interest because of their postal markings. These illustrate with remarkable detail and clarity the workings of the highly efficient “petite poste de Paris,” inaugurated in 1760 for the carriage of mail within the city and suburbs. There were nine collections a day throughout the entire area, which was divided into a network of postal districts and routes between them. Both the day of the month (“16” and “21”) and the particular collection (4th and 8th “Levées”) were stamped on the cover at the sorting stage. The next mark affixed was that which appears within the circle on the cover, in both these cases “K/EI.” This was the coded mark of the “facteur” (postman or postal supervisor) in the principal place in the suburbs where letters were delivered from the surrounding localities. K stands for the bureau or office handling all mail from the suburbs, E and I for a particular district and subdistrict respectively (in this case Passy). The “BANL[IEU]
” stamp was also added at this point on the letter of the 16th, signifying that it was a letter from the suburbs; its absence on the letter of the 21st, according to a modern authority on French postal history, “n'est pas étonnant . . . car on ne l'apposait que de façon très irregulière.” The final stamp, “E/P.D,” represents the post office within the city where the letter was to be delivered: E being the code name for the postal district centered on the Rue Saint-Honoré, embracing the Rue de Richelieu, and P.D being the “port dû” or postage due at that point, to be paid by the recipient (in this case, as hand-supplied on the letter of the 16th, three sols or sous, the normal rate from the
suburbs). The amount of postage due is apparently omitted from the letter of the 21st. What looks like a “2” cannot be right for the postage and may be a squiggle by John Quincy, perhaps part of an “A” preceding the word “Monsieur.”
The above account is based in part on the excellent contemporary discussion in Hurtaut and Magny, Dictionnaire historique de la ville de Paris et de ses environs . . ., Paris, 1779, 4:132–133; it also owes much to an explanation of the postmarked covers of J. Q. Adams' letters kindly furnished to the editors by M. Rémi Mathieu, of the Archives of France, in a letter of 12 June 1967.
From the originals in the Adams Papers.
Book Purchases by John Adams for Himself and His Sons in Paris and Amsterdam ||facing ||
Laurent Tricot's Les rudiments de la langue latine.
This work appears, somewhat irrelevantly, in the remarkable bibliographic letter and list that John Quincy Adams compiled and sent to his brothers Charles and Thomas Boylston, mainly of books that would contribute to their efforts to master French. Since, in writing of the book, he used the full and almost exact text of the titlepage: “a l'usage des Colleges de l'université de paris par Mr. Tricot Mtre. des [Arts]
& de pension en la meme université Quatorzieme edition” (3 October 1778
, below), we can assume that he wrote with the volume open before him. Moreover, from his citation of the present edition (the 14th, Paris, 1777) and from the date, 1778, that accompanies his signature on the reverse of the titlepage, it is probable that this copy, now among John Adams' books at the Boston Public Library, is one of those acquired earlier in that year as John Quincy took up the study of Latin in M. Le Coeur's pension
at Passy. See No. 4 in the present Descriptive List.
Demarville's Les verbes françois.
When John Quincy Adams on 21 March 1780 reported from Passy to his father in Paris a conversation that he had initiated with M. Pechigny, master of the school attended by himself and his brother Charles, on Charles' readiness to undertake Latin, in which Pechigny had held that, subject to John Adams' approval, Charles should spend another month conjugating French verbs (the letter is reproduced in the present volume; see No. 11 in the present Descriptive List), the father reacted decisively. On that same day John Adams had purchased from the bookseller Pissot, “Les Verbes François, ou nouvelle Grammaire en form de Dictionaire Par Mr. Demarville.” Next day, he purchased another copy so that he might make Charles “a Present” of one copy for his use. He accompanied it with a reply to John Quincy in which he agreed fully with M. Pechigny's opinion, quoted the extracts from the English reviews of Demarville that were printed as advertisements in the edition purchased (the 2d, London, 1773), described the book's contents, and prescribed a method for Charles to follow (to John Quincy Adams, 22 March 1780
, below, and
Diary and Autobiography
). The work is in French and
English, printed on opposite pages or in parallel columns. The copy remaining among John Adams' books at the Boston Public Library, on the French titlepage of which he has inscribed his name, the date acquired, and the cost (“Liv. 3:0:0”), is probably the copy he retained for himself.
Sir William Temple's Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands
. The inscription, “C. Adams & J. Q. Adams's from their father. September 9th 1780,” in the copy of the Observations
among John Quincy Adams' books deposited at the Boston Athenaeum, identifies it as having been acquired by John Adams so that the two sons he had brought with him to Amsterdam in early August (p. 390
, below) could without delay become familiar with the new country in which they found themselves. John Adams had known Temple's account for some years, having described it in a letter
to his wife in 1777 as “elegant and entertaining, but very brief and general” (vol. 2:286). Abigail Adams must then or later have followed that recommendation, for in a letter to John Thaxter, 5 February 1781
, below, she recalls having read it and no other on the history of the Netherlands. Thaxter, in reply, 27 May 1781
, below, recommended additional titles for her to read on the Low Countries, allowing loftily that Temple's book was “perhaps calculated for the Meridian of the Times in which he lived. He is not without his Errors . . . and whatever Credit he may have obtained in England and among Foreigners, this Country allows him but a small share of Merit.”
Temple's of course was a work then more than a century old, having been written not long after Sir William's triumphal return from his celebrated five-day negotiation in the Netherlands of the triple alliance in 1668 (The Dictionary of National Biography). The Observations was first published in 1672, the copy John Adams gave his sons being of the 8th edition (Edinburgh, 1747).
During and after John Adams' long efforts to win recognition at The Hague for America in 1780–1782, the figure of Sir William Temple (1628–1699) as an earlier exemplar had even more interest for John and Abigail Adams than did Temple's book. On 25 May 1781
Abigail wrote her husband wishing him the same success in his mission that had crowned Temple's efforts in the same place, noting that “there is no small similarity in the character of my Friend, and the Gentleman.” When, a year later, John Adams had attained all his diplomatic objectives, he returned, in a letter to Abigail, 16 June 1782
, to the parallel between his own negotiations and Temple's, finding the only difference between them in his own regrettable want of a masterly pen to celebrate his triumph: “Your Friend will never have Leisure, he will never have the Patience to describe the Dangers, the Mortifications, the Distresses he has undergone in Accomplishing this great Work” (both letters in vol. 4).
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library and of the Boston Athenaeum.