Descriptive List of Illustrations
John Quincy Adams' Admittatur to Harvard, 17 March 1786 4
In the late eighteenth century no one was admitted to Harvard unless he could “translate the Greek and Latin Authors in common use, such as Tully, Virgil, The New-Testament, Xenophone &c,” understood grammar, wrote correct Latin, and had “a good moral Character.” After an oral and written examination, successful candidates were expected to pay three pounds to the college steward “towards defraying their College Charges,” and to give bond of two hundred ounces of silver for their quarterly college costs (“College Laws of 1655, 1692, and 1767 and College Customs 1734/5,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns.
, 31 : 347). Sections from the college laws relating to admission policy are printed on the third page of the four-page document illustrated here. On the second page, otherwise blank, the college steward, Caleb Gannett, attested that the candidate, Adams, had completed the admission procedure. The admittatur was then taken to President Joseph Willard for his signature. Adams seems to have been spared the additional task, assigned candidates of the previous generation, of copying out all the college laws by hand, its completion also certified by the college president in writing.
James Winthrop, Harvard College Librarian 7
James Winthrop, son of Professor John Winthrop of John Adams' student days, served as college librarian from 1772 until 1787, when he was eased out of the position. His eccentricities, contentiousness, and overbearing manner rendered him intolerable to colleagues and students (see entry of 7 July 1787
, below). John Quincy Adams was, however, quick to perceive the range of Winthrop's intellectual interests, seeing him as the only college official “who for genius and learning, would make a figure in any part of Europe.” On the other hand, he criticized the “old bachelor” for being “without one particle of softness, or of anything that can make a man amiable,” particularly for his alleged severe remarks “upon the ladies.” Once married, Adams added, “He will be more esteemed and beloved than he is now, he cannot be less.” Winthrop's outside activities in politics and the law provided college authorities with the opportunity to rid themselves of the brilliant but troublesome and intemperate man. A
succession of judicial posts culminated in the chief justiceship of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas, but his major concerns remained with learning. He was an original member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Winthrop willed his library of over three thousand volumes to the fledgling Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania. The portrait used here is one Allegheny's president Timothy Alden repeatedly requested of Winthrop's brother and finally received “to accompany the books” (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates
, 17:317–329; JQA to JA, 21 May–14 June 1786
, Adams Papers
; JQA to AA2, 18 May–17 June 1786
, AA2, Jour. and Corr.
, : 116–117; Lawrence Shaw Mayo, The Winthrop Family in America
, Boston, 1948, p. 251–252).
Courtesy of Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Henry Ware 8
Henry Ware, Harvard 1785, was John Quincy Adams' first Harvard roommate and a fellow member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation Ware taught school in Cambridge while pursuing theological studies, probably under the direction of Timothy Hilliard, Cambridge minister. In August 1787 he declined a tutorship at Harvard to accept a call to Hingham, as successor to the liberal minister Ebenezer Gay. Ware is best known for the controversy generated by his nomination and subsequent election to the Hollis Professorship of Divinity at Harvard in 1805, which precipitated the strife between Unitarians and Trinitarian Congregationalists in New England. His portrait, which now hangs in the Andover-Harvard Divinity School, is a copy by George Fuller of a portrait attributed to a Frothingham, presumably James, the Massachusetts-born artist (Sprague, Annals Amer. Pulpit, 8:199–202; Conrad Wright, “The Election of Henry Ware: Two Contemporary Accounts,” Harvard Library Bulletin, 17:245–261 [July 1969]; George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564–1860, New Haven, 1957).
Courtesy of the Harvard University Portrait Collection. Given to Harvard University in 1879 by Dr. Charles E. Ware.
Scientific Instruments at Harvard: The Small Martin Orrery and the Set of Weights and Pulleys 26
Named after Charles Boyle, fourth Earl of Orrery and patron of science, this orrery, or planetarium, was used to show planetary motion in classroom demonstrations given by Samuel Williams, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Adams attended Williams' classes during his junior and senior years at Harvard. The cylindrical case, mounted on a stand and containing a gear-driven mechanism, has on its top a calendar and the signs of the zodiac. The larger ivory balls, representing the planets, are fastened to rods which are connected to the drive shaft. When the crank is turned the planets revolve around the sun, a centrally
placed brass ball. Tiny ivory moons are placed around the Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. The college purchased this orrery from Benjamin Martin, London scientific-instrument-maker, in 1766, two years after the disastrous fire at Harvard Hall had destroyed the library and scientific instruments in the philosophical chamber.
The set of weights and pulleys, suspended on strings and hooks from a rectangular mahogany frame, was acquired from Martin a year earlier. Until the early part of the present century it was in constant use at Harvard to demonstrate the mechanical properties of pulleys (David P. Wheatland, The Apparatus of Science at Harvard, 1765–1800, Cambridge, 1968, p. 48–51, 86–87).
Courtesy of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University.
Professor Eliphalet Pearson, by Samuel F. B. Morse, 1817 40
Eliphalet Pearson, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages from 1786, came to Harvard after serving as the first principal of Phillips Academy in Andover. Besides Eastern languages, he taught a course in English grammar to beginning Harvard students. One student found Pearson's “severe criticism” of his work “beyond its legitimate boundaries,” but conceded that he was “indulgent to the faults of those who manifested strength of thought, or taste in expressing it, or signs of self-culture.” Believing that the man was unduly maligned by student opinion, John Quincy Adams wrote in his Diary that he knew of no official at Harvard who was “so polite to Scholars, or show[ed]
so few Airs.” Called by students “the Elephant,” as much a play on words as a comment on his bulk, Pearson was a dominant force in college politics. Serving briefly as president in 1804, he was forced out in the quarrel attendant upon the election of Henry Ware to the Hollis Professorship of Divinity. After resigning from Harvard, Pearson returned to Andover and established the theological seminary there (Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns.,
5 [1897–1898]:205–206; Sidney Willard, Memories of Youth and Manhood
, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1855, 1:268–269, 271; JQA, Diary, 17 Sept. 1786
, below; Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard,
Courtesy of Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.
Professor Samuel Williams 41
“Mr. Williams is more generally esteemed by the students,” John Quincy Adams wrote to his sister shortly after entering Harvard, “than any other member of this government. He is more affable and familiar with the students, and does not affect that ridiculous pomp which is so generally prevalent here.” Adams had come to Harvard several weeks earlier than he had expected, because Williams, the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural and Experimental Philosophy, was to begin his series of twenty-four lectures. Adams
became so engrossed with the subject, which he had never before studied, that he wrote copious notes on the lectures during and after their presentation. On balance, Adams liked the professor, but was more restrained in his praise of Williams the intellectual, who he thought was “too fond of his ease, and unwilling to make any great efforts for acquiring a perfect knowledge of the branch which he professes.” By his senior year, when he again attended Williams' class, Adams noted that his “lectures which were highly entertaining last year, afford me little amusement or instruction at present” because they were repetitious and unvaried. Despite some important scientific work at Harvard and his rapport with students, financial difficulties and the scandal which ensued led Williams to resign a year after Adams graduated. He spent the rest of his life in Rutland, Vt., where he followed various pursuits—legal copyist, historian, and newspaper editor (JQA to AA2, 18 May–17 June
1786, AA2, Jour. and Corr.,
: 118; JQA to JA, 21 May 1786, JQA, Writings,
1:22; JQA, Diary, 5 April 1787
, below; Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates,
The engraving of Williams reproduced here was made from a miniature, now lost, and appeared in New England Magazine, 12:498 (June 1895).
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
A Westerly View of Harvard College, Circa 1783–1784 140
This sketch of the college and nearby buildings, drawn by Samuel Griffin shows, from left to right: Apthorp house; the First Church; Wadsworth and Wigglesworth houses, both nearly obscured by the church; the Sewall house; the parsonage; Christ Church; Massachusetts, Harvard, and Hollis halls; and several houses which faced what was later called Holmes Place. Apthorp house, dubbed the “Bishop's Palace,” was constructed in 1761 for the Reverend East Apthorp, who was in charge of the Anglican mission in Cambridge. Although unclear in this perspective, the houses in front of the First Church faced Braintree Street (now Massachusetts Avenue). Wadsworth house, at this time the residence of Joseph Willard, served from 1728 as the home of Harvard presidents for well over a hundred years. Wigglesworth house, owned successively by the professors Wigglesworth, became the temporary home of John Quincy Adams and James Bridge during the long, enforced vacation of 1786–1787. Professor Stephen Sewall owned the third house; Thomas Boylston Adams lived there during his freshman year at Harvard (1786–1787). Also along Braintree Street was the parsonage, home of the Reverend Timothy Hilliard during John Quincy Adams' student days at Harvard. The First Church, its thin spire shown in this view, was built in 1756; here students and faculty gathered for the services that were compulsory until the beginning of the following century. Christ Church (Episcopal), shown to the right of the parsonage, was actually across the Common and some distance away from the college buildings. The small structure de•
picted in front of Harvard and Hollis halls was the college brewhouse (and perhaps a barn), which was later put to other uses and eventually torn down in the early nineteenth century. Of the three houses on the right-hand side, one was owned by Caleb Gannett, Harvard steward from 1779 to 1818, and another belonged to Professor Eliphalet Pearson.
Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720 and used as a dormitory, contained thirty-two rooms, each with two smaller studies. Harvard Hall, constructed after the fire of 1764, served many purposes. Within it were the chapel and library, a philosophical chamber with lecture room and scientific apparatus, and the kitchen, buttery, and dining hall. Built in 1763, Hollis Hall, in which John Quincy Adams lived, contained thirty-two rooms, each with two small studies or a study and a sleeping closet. During his junior year, Adams shared with Henry Ware a corner room on the third floor on the southeastern side, from which he commanded “a fine Prospect of Charlestown and Boston and the extensive Fields between.” He was less fortunate the following year. Because he lived with his brother Charles, a sophomore, he was assigned a room much inferior. The room was in such disarray and disrepair that the brothers spent their first two days repapering their studies (Hamilton Vaughan Bail, Views of Harvard: A Pictorial Record to 1860
, Cambridge, 1949, p. 61–62, 64–72, 77–80, 32, 54–55, 57; Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns.,
20 : illustration between 146 and 147; Richard Cranch to AA, 5–6 July 1786
, Adams Papers
; JQA, Diary, 26 July
, 17, and
Aug. 1787, below).
Courtesy of the Harvard University Archives.
John Quincy Adams' Handwritten Musical Score for Flute, 1787 187
These two pages (recto and verso) of John Quincy Adams' hand-copied flute music give evidence of his college pastime. Evidently he copied new tunes on various sheets of paper of different sizes, keeping them in order with page number and a number system for the tunes. Evidence that has come to the attention of the Adams editors suggests that Elizabeth C. Adams, daughter of Thomas Boylston Adams, John Quincy's brother, may have distributed sheets of flute music to friends desiring mementos, just as she did with other manuscript pieces from the family collection. Few pages have come to light, and none have survived among the Adams Papers
John Quincy Adams began playing the flute shortly after his cousin Billy Cranch bought one for him in Boston in early April 1786. Within weeks he was taking lessons and thought he had “begun to learn.” Although he felt accomplished enough within a few months to perform for relatives and young ladies, his main interest was performing with the Musical Society, one of the many extracurricular clubs he joined at Harvard. Still, he complained that the flutes and violins were usually so difficult to tune “that we can seldom play more than three or four times at a meeting” (JQA to
AA2, 15 April–16 May 1786, in AA2, Jour. and Corr.,
: 106; Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 14–26 July 1786
, Adams Papers
; JQA, Diary, 17 July 1786
, 28 March 1787
When his sister sought to dissuade him from playing because it was “certainly very prejudicial to Health,” he reassured her that those whom he had consulted felt no harm would come from “moderate use” of the instrument. Insisting that flute-playing was his “greatest amusement, and the chief relaxation after study,” he felt he could not give it up (AA2 to Elizabeth Cranch, 18 July 1786
: Cranch Papers; AA2 to JQA, 22–23 July 1786
; JQA to AA2, 14 Jan.–9 Feb. 1787
, Adams Papers
Courtesy of the Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts.
Harvard Theses, 1787: The Theses Sheet 256
Harvard Theses, 1787: Detail from John Quincy Adams' Mathematical Theses 257
The broadside, measuring approximately 25 by 16 1/2 inches, was a compilation of questions based on subjects studied by members of the class of 1787. All Harvard graduating seniors were assumed to be able to answer these propositions in Latin if an inquiring alumnus posed them. The propositions were compiled by four theses collectors chosen by members of the class at the beginning of the senior year. The four areas assigned were technology, grammar, and rhetoric; logic, metaphysics, ethics, theology, and politics; mathematics; and physics. To his surprise, John Quincy Adams was selected as mathematics collector. He proudly wrote to his father: “Little did I think, when you gave me those Lessons at Auteuil, which you call our suppers, that they would have been productive of this effect. It is a laborious task, and will confine my studies for the ensuing year, much more to the mathematics, than, I should have done if I had been left at my own disposal.” John Adams approvingly told his son that “the Same part fell to my Share in the Year 1755” (JQA, Diary, 26 Aug. 1786
, below; JQA to JA, 30 Aug. 1786
; JA to JQA, 10 Jan. 1787
, Adams Papers
Adams worked on the theses off and on throughout the winter and early spring, occasionally mentioning in his Diary his troubles with “fluxions” (differential calculus). Eventually he passed them on for approval and was later in charge of the publication of the sheet. In later years, Charles Francis Adams or Charles Francis Adams 2d donated a number of these 1787 theses sheets to Harvard. The one reproduced here shows insertions in Adams' more mature hand denoting the names or initials of the theses collectors. Two of the theses (in metaphysics and ethics), printed in bold type, were used as topics for “syllogistic disputations” in the commencement program.
Courtesy of the Harvard University Archives.
Theophilus Parsons 322
Theophilus Parsons, Newburyport lawyer and later chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, was John Quincy Adams' first choice, after his father, for a legal preceptor. As early as August 1786 John Quincy had determined to spend the next three years studying law in a place like Newburyport, “where there might be Society sufficient for relaxation at Times, but not enough to encourage dissipation.” As the possibility of his father's return to America before the summer of 1787 became more remote, Dr. Cotton Tufts made arrangements for John Quincy to apprentice with Parsons.
Over the course of years Parsons established a reputation as an outstanding law teacher. He was so popular that the Suffolk Bar voted to limit the number of student apprentices to three for each office because of the disproportionate number that flocked to him. Parsons impressed John Quincy as a human “law-library... proficient in every useful branch of science.” The Newburyport lawyer's far-flung practice and his interest in politics often kept him away from the office, but when he was there, Adams received the intellectual stimulus denied to so many of his contemporaries: “No student can be more fond of proposing questions than [Parsons] is of solving them. He is never at a loss, and always gives a full and ample account, not only of the subject proposed, but of all matters which have any intimate connection with it.”
Parsons' portrait is from a stipple engraving by S. A. Schoff of the unfinished sketch by Gilbert Stuart, which appears as the frontispiece in Theophilus Parsons Jr.'s memoir of his father. According to the son, the sketch was painted from memory almost immediately after the Chief Justice's death (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates,
17:190–207; JQA to JA, 30 Aug. 1786
; Cotton Tufts to JA, 30 June 1787, both Adams Papers
; JQA to James Bridge, 17 Nov. 1787, owned in 1961 by Richard Hamlen of New York; JQA, Diary, 27 Nov. 1787
, below; Theophilus Parsons [Jr.], Memoir of Theophilus Parsons
..., Boston, 1859, p. 35).
A View of Boston Taken on the Road to Dorchester, 1776 423
This view of Boston from Dorchester was a familiar sight to John Quincy Adams in traveling between Braintree and Boston, Haverhill, or Cambridge. Drawn by landscape and townscape painter William Pierrie (or Pierie), ca. 1776, it appeared among the numerous coastal charts in Joseph F. W. Des Barres' The Atlantic Neptune, London, 1777. Both Des Barres, a Swiss-born naturalized English subject, and Pierrie had served as British officers in America before the Revolution.
In the foreground to the right, the brook flowing into the South Bay then formed the boundary line between Dorchester and Roxbury. Shirley Palace, the large building on the left, now standing as
the Shirley-Eustis house, was an elegant country home in the Dutch Palladian style, built in the 1740s by Governor William Shirley and occupied by Governor William Eustis from 1814 to 1825. Beyond the estate, across the Charles River estuary, is Cambridge.
From Shirley Palace the road to Boston turned toward the Shawmut peninsula, which was connected to the Roxbury mainland by a narrow neck of land, soggy at high tide and spray-blown in rough weather. Beyond the neck was the town of Boston, built at the base of three distinct peaks—Mount Vernon, Beacon, and Pemberton hills. From its founding and throughout the eighteenth century, settlement in Boston was concentrated along the road to the neck (now Washington Street), on King Street (now State Street), around Dock Square, and along a number of streets in the North End where merchants and shipbuilders had their dwellings, warehouses, wharfs, and yards in close proximity (George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564–1860, New Haven, 1957; Edith Roelker Curtis, “The Palace That Will Shirley Built,” New-England Galaxy, 4:21–34 [Spring 1963]; Walter Muir Whitehill, Boston: A Topographical History, Cambridge, 1959, p. 1–46 passim).
Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.