A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 3

Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0086

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1778-10-02

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

This goes by Captn. McNeil, who is an Adventurous Cruiser.1 It is not safe to write much by him.
If Expressions of Tenderness, were necessary my Heart is full enough to write a great many. I send some Letters from Johnny, who intended to have written to his Brothers and indeed has written but there is not time to copy them.
I think, that the Distance of Place, and the present perfect security which I enjoy, has by no Means lessened my Anxiety. We have no News from America since the C[omte] D'Estaing left Sandy Hook. We expect News every Moment.—I have sent you by C[aptain] Tucker all the Things you desired me to send, which I wish safe. I sent you ten Guineas worth of Linnen and Woolen by Captn. Barns, who I fear is taken. I have sent you a few Pounds of Tea by Captn. Niles and a few More by Mr. Austin. But the Risque is so great that I will send no more, but by Frigates or under Convoy.—Draw upon me for an hundred Pounds. This is the safest Way of supplying your Wants.

[salute] Yours forever.

RC (Adams Papers). Enclosed “Letters from Johnny” were presumably JQA 's letters dated 27 Sept., 1 Oct., above, and 2 Oct., following.
{ 102 }
1. Daniel McNeill was captain of the privateer General Mifflin (MHS, Colls. , 77 [1927]: 148–149). He reached Boston on 8 Feb. 1779, bringing four letters from JA to AA ( AA to JA , 13 Feb. 1779, below).

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0087

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Date: 1778-10-02

John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams

[salute] Dear Brother

I have been thinking of a subject for a letter to you, & I can find none more agreable than that which is the constant employment of my thoughts, I mean the French Language, & as you will very soon begin the same study, it will be profitable to you as well as to myself, to sketch a little plan for the more easy & effectual acquisition, of so elegant & useful accomplishment, as that of reading, speaking, & writing, the French Language—There is a great number of excellent books written in this Language in all sorts of arts, Sciences, & Litterature, & there is more conversation and correspondance in this Language, than in any other throughout Europe; for which reason it is worth while for children of your age & mine, to take a great deal of pains to acquire it: Pappa laments very much his having neglected this study in his youth, in terms so pathetical, as to have made a deep impression upon my mind, & I wish to make the same upon yours, that we may both employ those hours which are often spent in frivolous amusements, in gaining a knowledge which will make us useful to our fellow men when we grow up.
I have taken so much time in writing my preface, that I must leave the book to another opportunity,1 in the mean time with the tenderest sentiments of brotherly love, I am your affectionate
[signed] John Quincy Adams
RC (Adams Papers); at foot of text: “Mr. Charles Adams”; mistakenly docketed by CFA : “ JQA to TBA .” LbC (Adams Papers); dated “Septr. the 30th. 1778”; at foot of text: “to my Brother Charles.” Text is given here in literal style.
1. See the following letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-03-02-0088

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Recipient: Adams, Charles
Recipient: Adams, Thomas Boylston
Date: 1778-10-03

John Quincy Adams to Charles Adams and Thomas Boylston Adams

[salute] My Dear Brother1

in my <last> letter to you of Septr. the 30th I promised you to sketch a plan for learning French and in a letter to Tommy I promised him a list of books such a list will fullfill my Promise to both I will therefore send a Copy of this letter to each of you.
{ 103 }
The grammers in common use in america are Boyer Chambaud & Tandam2 every one of which is imperfect and inaccurate in addition to these I have the use of a Volume intitled Principes Generaux et raisonnés de la Grammaire Francoise avec des observations sur l'orthographe les accents la ponctuation et la prononciation et un abrégé des regles de la versification Francoise dediée a Monseigneur Le duc d'orleans premier Prince du sang par Mr. restaut avocat au Parlement et aux conseilles du Roi onzieme edition3 I have also the use of another work intitled Les vrais Principes de La langue Francoise ou la Parole reduite en methode conformement aux Loix de l'usage en seize discours par Msr. l'abbe Girard de L'academie Francoise et secretaire interprete du Roi in two volumes duodecimo4 this is a most elegant and beautiful performance the style is so beautiful and the researches into the Principles of the language are so rational, ingenious and curious that the book is as entertaining as a Romance though the subject is so dry.
But there is another work which is a greater curiosity still it is the monde primitif analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne considéré dans l'histoire naturelle de la Parole ou grammaire Universelle et comparatif avec des figures en taille douce par Mr. Court de Gebelin de la Société Oeconomique de Birne et de l'academie royal de la rochelle5 this is a surprising work the effect of immense Labour & contains a collection of almost every thing which has been written in whatever Language upon the subject of philosophical grammer this Grammaire Universelle is in one Large thick volume in Quarto, but there is an abridgement of it in one volume in octavo under the title of histoire naturelle de la Parole ou Precis de l'origine du Langage et de la grammaire Universelle extrait du monde Primitif6 this work is so learned and contains so ample a collection of every thing relating to the French Language in particular as well as to Grammer in General that if one owns this it is unnecessary to have any other.7
nevertheless I have the use of many more Particularly two volumes in twelves intitled synonymes Francoises leurs diff[er]ents significations et le choix qu'il en faut faire pour parler avec justesse par Mr. L'abbe Girard Nouvelle edition considerablement augmenteé Mise dans un nouvel ordre et enrichie des notes par Mr. Beauzée de L'academie Delia Crusca des academies Royales de Rouen et de Metz des societes Litteraires d Arras et d'Auxerre professeur de grammaire a l'ecole royale militaire.8
there is another excellent book intitled Dictionaire portatif des regles de la langue Francoise contenant les Principes necessaires pour { 104 } ecrire et parler correctement le Francois en prose et en Vers; les Regles de la grammaire, de l'orthographe de la ponctuation et de la Prononciation et generalement tout ce qui concerne la logique la Rhetorique la Versification &c, Le tout appuyé sur les autorités des meilleurs auteurs9 this work is in 2 Volumes in twelve's. † vidé the 2 books described at the end of this letter.10
Dictionnaire Grammatical de la langue Francoise ou l'on trouve rangés par ordre alphabatique toutes les regles de l'orthographe de la prononciation de la prosody du regime et de la construction &c. et les memes regles appliqués à chacune des mots de plus les remarques et observations des plus habiles grammariens. ouvrage tres utile aux jeunes gens aux etrangers et aux habitans des differentes provinces du Royaume.11
Traité de l'Orthographe Francoise en forme de Dictionaire; enrichi de notes critiques et de Remarques sur l'etymologie et la prononciation des mots, le genre des noms, la conjugaison des verbes irreguliers et les variations des auteurs nouvel edition considerablement augmente Sur la revision et les corrections de monsieur Restaut avocat au Parlement et aux conseils du Roy.12
Manuel Lexique ou dictionnaire portatif des mots Francois dont la signification n'est pas familiere a tout le monde ouvrage fort utile a ceux qui ne sont pas versés dans les langues anciennes et modernes et dans toutes les Connoisances qui s'acquerent par l'etude et le travail pour donner aux mots leur sens juste et exacte dans la lecture dans la langage et le style on y a joint les noms et les propriétés de la plûpart des animaux et des plantes. nouvelle Edition considerablement augmentée.13
Dictionnaire Historique des meurs usages et coutumes des Francois contenant aussi les etablissemens fondations et poques [i.e. époques] anecdotes progres dans les sciences et dans les arts et les fetes [i.e. faits] les plus remarquables et interressant arrivé depuis l'origine de la monarchie jusqu'a nos jours.14 this work is in three volumes in twelves.15
Vocabulaire Francois ou abrégé du dictionnaire de l'academie Francois auquel on a ajouté un nomenclature geographique fort etendue ouvrage utile aux Francois aux etrangeres et aux jeunes gens de l'un et de l'autre Sexe this abridgement is in two volumes in octavo—dictionaire de l'academie Francois in two volumes in Folio.16
dictionaire Universelle Francois et Latin vulgairement appelée dictionaire de trevou contenant la signification et la definition des mots de l'une et de l'autre langue avec leurs differents usages; les { 105 } termes propres de chaque etat, et de chaque profession la description de toutes les choses naturelles et artificielles; leurs figures leur espece leur propriété: l'explication de tout ce que renferment les sciences et les arts soit liberaux soit mechaniques, &c. avec des remarques deruditions et de critique le tout tiré des plus excellens auteurs des meilleurs lexicographes etymologistes et glossaires qui ont parut jusqu'ici en differents langues.17
nouveau dictionaire Francois-Anglais et Anglais-Francois contenant la signification des mots avec leurs differents usages les constructions Idiomes faeons de parler particulieres et les proverbes usites dans l'une et l'autre langue les termes les plus ordinaires des sciences arts et metiers le tout recueilli des meilleurs auteurs anglois et Francois de Mr. Louis Chambaud corrigée et considerablement augmentée par lui et par Mr. J. B. Robinet. this work is in two volumes in Quarto.18 dictionnaire Royale Francois Anglais et anglais Francois tire des meilleurs auteurs qui ont écrit dans ces deux langues par Mr. A. Boyer avec une dissertation sur la Prosody Francois par Mr. de la S.R.19
Des tropes ou des differenes sens dans lesquels ont peut prendre un même mot dans une même langues ouvrage utile pour l'intelligence des auteurs et qui peut servir d'introduction a la Rhetorique et a la logique par Mr. Du Marsais.20
Logique et Principes de Grammaire Par Mr. Du Marsais ouvrage post humes en partie, & en partie extraits de plusieurs traités qui ont deja paru de cet auteur.21
Traité de la prosodie Francoise par Mr. l'Abbe d'olivet avec une dissertation de Mr. durand sur le meme sujet.22
Methinks I hear you ask “why does my brother trouble himself to write and [tell?] 23 me to read this long role of title pages which has so much appearence of pedantry?[”]
I answer that you may have the means in your possesion of furnishing yourself sometime or other of a compleat collection of books for learning the French tongue

[salute] I am your affectionate Brother

[signed] J Q. A.
†Les Rudiments de la langue latine a l'usage des Colleges de l'université de paris par Mr. Tricot Mtre. des [Arts] & de pension en la meme université Quatorzieme edition24—Abrégé de la Grammaire Francoise Par Mr. de Wailly septieme edition revue et augmentée.25
LbC (Adams Papers); at foot of text: “to my brother charles and Tommy.” RC 1 (Adams Papers), dated “Passy jan'y 2d 1779”; incomplete and not sent; docketed by CFA : “ JQA to TBA .” RC 2 (Adams Papers), dated “Passy February 11th 1779”; at foot of text: “Messieurs Charles & Thomas Adams”; { 106 } docketed by CFA : “ JQA to Charles and Thomas.” Text is given here, in literal style, from LbC , which is in fact a draft and from which both RC 's were copied.
The history of this remarkable bibliographical epistle by an eleven-year-old boy to his younger brothers seems to be as follows. Being out of school for an interval and having looked through his father's growing accumulation of books on French grammar, orthography, rhetoric, prosody, lexicography, and the philosophy of language, JQA in the last days of September and the first days of October determined to urge his brothers to study French and to advise them how to do so in a thoroughly scholarly way. His first letters were merely prefatory; see JQA to TBA , 1 Oct., and to CA , 2 Oct. (actually drafted in JQA 's letterbook on 30 Sept.), both above. When he settled to his task, he produced the present short treatise—the first surviving manifestation of JQA 's lifelong compulsion to prepare bibliographical and similar lists as a means of mastering learned subjects. Doubtless it is this letter, primarily, that JA alluded to when he told AA on 2 Oct. (above) that “Johnny . . . intended to have written to his Brothers and indeed has written but there is not time to copy them.”
Opportunity or inclination to copy out his treatise did not occur for several months. On 2 Jan. 1779 JQA began a fair copy ( RC 1) and filled up most of both sides of a folio sheet before breaking off; see note 7. On 11 Feb. he began over again, making a new fair copy ( RC 2), which he shortened and slightly revised as he went, finally just skipping a number of the later entries that are in the longer ( LbC ) version; see note 15. It is still not certain beyond question whether RC 2 was sent and received, for the MS bears no definite indication of receipt. If it was indeed sent, it was accompanied by a duplicate of JQA 's letter to TBA of 1 Oct., above, which JQA in February probably (but wrongly) supposed had, like his long letter on studying French, not been copied and sent when written.
1. Thus in MS . RC 1 and RC 2: “My Dear Brothers.” When JQA began composing his letter in his letterbook, he planned to write to each brother separately. The present version, as its first paragraph makes clear, was intended for CA .
2. Abel Boyer, The Compleat French Master, London, 1694, and innumerable later editions (BM, Catalogue ; BN, Catalogue ). Louis Chambaud, A Grammar of the French Tongue, London, 1750, which appeared with variant titles in numerous editions (same, bis). “Tandam” is J. E. Tandon, whose New French Grammar was also frequently reprinted during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The earliest edition that the present editors have found recorded is the third, London, 1736 (BN, Catalogue ). AA had a copy (which the editors have not located) from which she taught herself French and which JA thought well of in 1776; see vol. 1:349, 355, 359–360, above.
3. By Pierre Restaut, first published at Paris in 1730; 11th edition, Paris, 1774 (BN, Catalogue ). (Despite JQA 's barbarous orthography, no attempt is made in the editorial notes to repeat and correct his citations when their substance is full enough to enable readers to recognize the works in question.)
4. This work by the Abbé Gabriel Girard was published at Paris in 1747. It is the first book in JQA 's listing of which an Adams copy has been located. There are two copies among JA 's books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 103).
5. This is actually the second volume of Antoine Court de Gébelin's ponderous but unfinished 9-volume Monde primitif, Paris, 1773–1782, of which JA had a copy that in later years he annotated and that is now among his books in the Boston Public Library. See Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 65; Alfred Iacuzzi, John Adams, Scholar, N. Y., 1952, p. 230–232; Frank E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods, Cambridge, 1959, p. 250–258, 272–274, and pas• { 107 } sim. See, further, Edward Wigglesworth to AA , 13 Oct. 1780, below. For JA 's opinion of Court de Gébelin derived from personal encounters in Paris, see his Diary and Autobiography , 2:323, 344.
6. A copy of this abridgment or Extrait, Paris, 1776, is in the Stone Library (MQA).
7. RC 1 breaks off here and was never completed.
8. A copy of this work by the Abbé Gabriel Girard, 2 vols., Paris, 1769, is among JA 's books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 103).
9. Said to be compiled by A. Demandre. JA 's copy, Paris, 1770, acquired in 1780, is among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 72).
10. This sentence was inserted in LbC as an afterthought and does not appear in RC 2.
11. Said to be compiled by Jean François Feraud. Among JA 's books in the Boston Public Library is a copy of the first edition, Avignon, 1761, and also a copy of this “nouvelle édition,” 2 vols., Paris, 1768 ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 92).
12. The author of the Traité was Charles Le Roy; this edition, edited by Pierre Restaut, was published at Poitiers in 1775. JA 's copy is among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 143); and JQA 's copy is in the Boston Athenaeum ( Catalogue of JQA 's Books , p. 106).
13. The compiler was François Antoine Prévost d'Exiles (“Abbé Prevost”). JA 's copy of this edition, 2 vols., Paris, 1755, is among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 201).
14. By François Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye des Bois. JA 's copy of this work, published at Paris, 1767, is among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 16).
15. Text of RC 2 ends here with a brief leavetaking and a postscript: “NB I set down with an intention to discribe many more but I cannot at present because the Gentleman is just a going away & it shall be for the next opportunity.”
16. JA 's copy of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise was the fourth edition, Paris, 1762, and it is among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 127). But no Adams copy of the abridgment entitled Vocabulaire françoise, compiled by Jean Goulin, Paris, 1771 (BN, Catalogue ), has been located.
17. Of this well-known work, which went through many editions, JA owned a copy in eight folio volumes, Paris, 1771, now among his books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 74).
18. A copy of a Paris, 1776, edition is recorded in LC, Catalog , but there were other editions; see BN, Catalogue . Which one JQA consulted is not determinable.
19. First published at The Hague, 1702, according to BN, Catalogue ; numerous editions, with varying titles and published in various places, followed. It is not clear which edition JQA consulted.
20. That is, César Chesneau Du Marsais. First published at Paris in 1730; there were several later editions (BN, Catalogue ). It is not clear which edition JQA consulted.
21. Paris, 1769 (BN, Catalogue ).
22. The author was the Abbé Pierre Joseph Thorellier d'Olivet; the work was first published at Paris in 1736 (BN, Catalogue ).
23. Supplied for a word omitted in MS .
24. JQA 's copy of this edition, Paris, 1777, inscribed “John Q Adams 1778,” is among JA 's books in the Boston Public Library ( Catalogue of JA 's Library , p. 247).
25. By Noël François de Wailly. The seventh edition was published at Paris in 1778 (LC, Catalog ).