John Adams to John Quincy Adams
London July 20. 1787
My dear Son,
We Suppose, that you had your Degree last Wednesday, and upon that Supposition, I congratulate you upon it. it is hinted that you think of studying Law with Judge Dana till next Spring. if you can have the Honour and the Priviledge of studying under, two such great Masters as Judge Trowbridge and Judge Dana, I approve very much of the design.1 You cannot be in so good hands. but will the Gentlemen of the Bar, be willing that you should enter, under the Judge and compute your three Years from the time you begin?— You should be frugal of that Article of time.— if you like it, I will take you into my own office, next June, by which Time I expect to be at Braintree, and to undertake the Pleasing Office of Preceptor to my own Sons, and perhaps you will find upon the whole as many Advantages in this as in any other Plan.— I do not however mean, to divert you from your own Choice.— At all Events I think you ought to be entered on the Books of the Bar, as a student as early as possible.—2 My love to your Brothers.
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Mr J. Q. Adams.”
1. Edmund Trowbridge (1709–1793) of Cambridge, Harvard 1728, held a number of prominent positions including that of Massachusetts attorney general and judge of the Superior Court (DAB; description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley, Clifford K. Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright, Edward W. Hanson, and others, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873–. description ends , 8:507–520).
2. Lawyers were required to petition the bar for permission allowing a student to study with them. Law students were required to have a college education, or education that the bar deemed equivalent, and the petitioning attorney was required to ask for consent at a general meeting of the bar. The student then had to complete a three-year apprenticeship with a barrister before he could practice law independently. JQA had been admitted as a student in the Essex County bar association by 27 Sept. (Hollis R. Bailey, Attorneys and Their Admission to the Bar in Massachusetts, Boston, 1907, p. 21–22; JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981–. description ends , 2:296).