Adams Papers

John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 11 August 1777

John Adams to John Quincy Adams

Philadelphia August 11. 1777

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.

I am with much Affection your Father,

John Adams

RC (Adams Papers); docketed twice in JQA’s mature hand: “J. Adams. 11. Augt: 1777,” and “Mr: Adams. Augt: 11. 1777.”

1Among JA’s books in MB are two editions of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, with Greek and Latin texts in parallel columns, one of them published at Frankfort, 1594, bearing JQA’s signature, and the other at Amsterdam, 1731 (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 ). At the Stone Library in Quincy (MQA) there are no fewer than six other editions in various languages, including William Smith’s translation, 2 vols., London, 1781, and Thomas Hobbes’ translation, 2 vols., London, 1812. JA’s edition of The Moral and Political Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, London, 1750 (also in MB), contains Hobbes’ discourse preliminary to his translation of Thucydides, but not the translation itself.

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