John Adams to John Quincy Adams
Paris May 19. 1783
My dear son
I am glad to learn, by your Favour of the 12th, that you have begun to translate Suetonius. This is a very proper book to teach you to love your Country and her Laws. Do you translate it into French or English?
You Should always have a Book of Amusement, to read, along with your Severe Studies and laborious Exercises. I should not advise you to take these Books always from the shelf of Plays and Romances, nor yet from that of History. I Should recommend to you Books of Morals, as the most constant Companions, of your Hours of Relaxation, through the whole Course of your Life. There is in Barbeyrac’s Writings, an History of the Rise and Progress of the science of Morality which I would have you read with Care, early in Life. It is printed with his Puffendorf I think in English.1
The Writings of Clark, Cudworth, Hutchinson, Butler, Woolaston,2 and many Sermons, upon Morals subjects will be worth your Attention, as well as Cicero Seneca &c.
I cannot enlarge, because the Post is on the Point of departing.
Your affectionate Father
RC (Adams Papers); marked in JA’s hand at the bottom of the second page: “Mr Dumas.” The notation may have indicated this brief letter’s enclosure in JA to Dumas, 19 May LbC, (Adams Papers).
1. Jean Barbeyrac, An Historical and Critical Account of the Science of Morality . . ., transl. by “Mr. Carew of Lincoln’s Inn,” appeared as a preface to Samuel Pufendorf ’s Of the Law of Nature and Nations, London, 1729, which Barbeyrac annotated (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ).
2. All of these writers based morality on reasoning, whether psychological or philosophical. Samuel Clarke, Francis Hutcheson, and Joseph Butler are extracted or cited in JA’s Literary Commonplace Book of 1755–1756 (JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor, Gregg L. Lint (from vol. 6), and others, Cambridge, 1977-. description ends , 1:9, 10). Ralph Cudworth, a seventeenth-century professor of Hebrew and one of the Cambridge Platonists, is best known for his The True Intellectual System of the Universe: wherein All the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism Is Confuted, and Its Impossibility Demonstrated (1678). William Wollaston became famous for his Religion and Nature Delineated (1724), which sold ten thousand copies soon after its publication. Wollaston offered an intellectual basis for morality by deducing it “from logical necessity.” All of these writers appear in DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1900; 63 vols. plus supplements. description ends , and all except Wollaston are represented in JA’s library, although the edition of Clarke is of a later date than this letter (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ).