Adams Papers
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John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 February 1790

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

New York Feb. 19. 1790

My dear son

There is a sett of Scotch Writers that I think deserve your Attention in a very high Degree. There are Speculations in Morals Politicks and Law that are more luminous, than any other I have read. The Elements of Criticism and other of Lord Kaims’s Writings—Historical Law Tracts—sir James Steuart—Adam Smith &c both his Theory of Moral Sentiments and his Wealth of Nations—1 There are several others whose Names and Titles I dont at present recollect.

Your Project of going to Boston, I think of, every day.— You may divide your time between Braintree and Boston to great Advantage, or reside constantly at Boston if your Business should require it. But my Son, You must expect an Interval of Leisure, and Ennui.

Whether those who ought to be my Friends will be yours or not, I cant say.— Whether they are mine or not is at least problematical in some Instances— Yet I think you will find Friends in Boston.

Write me as often as you can. I hope the contracted ignorant Prejudice against your Profession will not be pushed so far as to render you uncomfortable.—

Preserve my Son, at every Risque;—at every Loss;—even to extreme Poverty and obscurity; Your Honour and Integrity Your Generosity and Benevolence, your enlarged Views and liberal Philanthropy. Candour and Honour, are of more importance in your Profession even than Eloquence Learning or Genius. You will be miserable without them whatever might be your Success. The Family is well— Yours affectionatly

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “J. Q. Adams.” Tr (Adams Papers).

1Several of these works, including Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, London, 1778; and Henry Home, Lord Kames’ Elements of Criticism, Edinburgh, 1788, and Historical Law Tracts, Edinburgh, 1761, are in JA’s library at MB (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 ). JA also recommended the writings of Sir James Stewart, which include Dirleton’s Doubts and Questions in the Law of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1715. JQA apparently took his father’s advice; his personal library at the Stone Library, MQA, includes a 1791 edition of Wealth of Nations, a 1792 edition of Theory of Moral Sentiments, and a 1788 edition of Elements of Criticism.

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