Diary of John Quincy Adams, volume 1

Saturday the 30th.

Sunday June the 10th 1781.

Saturday June the 9th 1781.<a xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" href="#DQA01d155n1" class="note" id="DQA01d155n1a">1</a> JQA


Saturday June the 9th 1781. Adams, John Quincy
Saturday June the 9th 1781.1

Got up in the morning at about 6 o'clock, and set myself to work; breakfasted at half past seven on tea. At about 1 o'clock Pappa came from the Hague; and ask'd me if I wou'd go to Amsterdam with him; I told him I would, with all my heart. He then told me, that I must put up some clothes and get ready before dinner, and come to dine with him at the Sign of the Golden Lion, all which I did. After dinner the horses were put into the carriage and we set away at about three o'clock. We went along down the broad Street and went down a small lane and out of the Haerlem-Poort; and down along by the Canal. We rode about 3 hours and arrived at about 6 o'clock at a house near Haerlem; we drank tea, and had our horses refresh'd at this house; and set away from it at about seven o'clock; we pass'd thro' Haerlem, a small city where the Dutch say that the art of printing was invented by Laurence Janzoon Koster or Coster, Sexton of the Church; I have seen the first book which (they say) he printed; but there is a great dispute with this city and that of Stratsburg Strasbourg about this; these last say that one John Guttemberg invented it, and that Koster had only printed upon wood, as the Chinese had done for a long time before. The people of Haerlem say that Koster did print upon wood at first but that he tried it afterwards upon lead and finding he did it successfully he made it public; and that John Guttemberg was an apprentice of Koster's; and that he stole his masters tools and ran away to Stratsburg and there sat himself up as the inventor of printing.

I do not pretend to ascertain which of the two was the true inventor of it; for I believe that it would be a hard matter to prove.

We passed along by the side of a Canal the whole way from Haerlem to Amsterdam. Arrived here at about 8 1/2 o'clock. Went into the Haerlem Port and after several twistings and turnings we arriv'd at Pappa's house, which is upon the Keizers Gragt;2 in English the Emperors Canal. We found Mr. Dana here; brother Charles was gone out, but came home soon after. I shall copy in general every day some piece of Poetry or prose; 75and shall begin with that fine Soliloque of Hamlet, from Shakespeare.3


This is the first entry in D/JQA/4, which covers the brief period from 9 June to 27 Aug. 1781, consisting of JQA's remaining days in Holland and his journey with Francis Dana to St. Petersburg. This unbound Diary, with pages measuring 7⅝ ″ × 4¾″, is composed of eleven twelve- or sixteen-leaved sections, consecutively numbered by JQA to page 162, with the last ten leaves left blank. A number of the leaves are missing and have been noted later at the appropriate places in the Diary.

Much of what is known about JQA's activities between Oct. 1780 and June 1781, for which no Diary exists and none was probably written, comes from letters, especially to and from JA, all of which are printed in volume 4 of Adams Family Correspondence . After the unsettling school experience of his sons in Amsterdam, JA wrote to Benjamin Waterhouse for some advice on how the boys might pursue their studies at Leyden. Waterhouse, later to become the first professor of physic at Harvard, had pursued medical studies at Edinburgh, London, and Leyden, taking his degree at the last-named in 1780 and afterward attending additional lectures there. He recommended Leyden to JA enthusiastically. Not only could JA's sons live more cheaply there than in Amsterdam, Waterhouse wrote, but also they could advance their knowledge of Greek and Latin through private instruction, and they might attend lectures at the university. Within a week after the receipt of Waterhouse's letter, JA sent the boys there with John Thaxter. While Waterhouse found accommodations, Thaxter hired a Latin and Greek master named Wensing (or Wenshing), who came twice daily to lecture for an hour. Between sessions the boys spent their time translating Homer and the Greek testament and working on grammar and lessons from the master. Under Thaxter's counseling, JQA also attended lectures at the university ranging from medicine to law, the latter given by the celebrated professor Frederik Willem Pestel. In early Jan. 1781 Thaxter and JQA were matriculated, and CA, at first regarded as too young for consideration, eventually was admitted later that month . Aside from requests for ice skates and riding lessons, JQA's full attention in Leyden was on his studies, adhering to them, wrote Waterhouse in the spring, “with a consistency rarely seen at that age.”

At least two of JQA's schoolwork manuscripts for this period have survived among the Adams Papers. One is a 100-page French translation of the fables of Phaedrus, copied between February and May 1781 evidently from Wensing's translation; the other is a 104-page Greek treatise, compiled in Jan. 1781. Another French translation of the fables, of 76 pages, as well as a partial, 56-page rendition in French of Cornelius Nepos' Vitae Excellentium lmperatorum, a school text for elementary Latin, may also date from this period (M/JQA/23, 22, 43, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 218, 217, 238). Near the time that JQA resumed his Diary, in June of 1781, his father was advising him by letter to turn to Demosthenes and Cicero, and also not to neglect authors in his own language, especially the English poets. This may help to explain why D/JQA/4 resembles not only a Diary but also a commonplace book with samplings of several English poets, dramatists, and essayists.

When JQA resumed his Diary on 9 June, he was still at Leyden. He left for Amsterdam that day and returned on 27 June, sometime after the decision was made for him to accompany Dana to Russia.


For a description and view of JA's residence in Amsterdam, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:ix, facing p. 322.


Here follows, on one and one-half pages in the Diary, Hamlet's “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. JQA's citation of the scene number and other internal variations show that he was using William Warburton's edition of Pope's The Works of Shakespear in Eight Volumes . . ., London, 1747, 8:182–183. This passage is titled “Chap. 1.” by JQA. For each subsequent piece copied in this Diary he has assigned a chapter number.