[dateline] Philadelphia August 11. 1777
[salute] My dear Son
As the War in which your Country is engaged will probably hereafter attract your Attention,
more than it does at this Time, and as the future Circumstances of your Country, may
require other Wars, as well as Councils and Negotiations, similar to those which are
now in Agitation, I wish to turn your Thoughts early to such Studies, as will afford
you the most solid Instruction and Improvement for the Part which may be allotted
you to act on the Stage of Life.
There is no History, perhaps, better adapted to this usefull Purpose than that of
Thucidides, an Author, of whom I hope you will make yourself perfect Master, in original
Language, which is Greek, the most perfect of all human Languages. In order to understand
him fully in his own Tongue, you must however take Advantage, of every Help you can
procure and particularly of Translations of him into your own Mother Tongue.
You will find in your Fathers Library, the Works of Mr. Hobbes, in which among a great
deal of mischievous Philosophy, you will find a learned and exact Translation of Thucidides,
which will be usefull to you.
But there is another Translation of him, much more elegant, intituled “The History
of the Peloponnesian War, translated from the Greek of Thucidides in two Volumes Quarto,
by William Smith A.M. Rector of the Parish of the holy Trinity in Chester, and Chaplain
to the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby.”
If you preserve this Letter, it may hereafter remind you, to procure the Book.
You will find it full of Instruction to the Orator, the Statesman, the General, as
well as to the Historian and the Philosopher.1
You may find Something of the Peloponnesian War, in Rollin.
[salute] I am with much Affection your Father,
[signed] John Adams