John Adams to John Quincy Adams
Amsterdam Decr. 15. 1781
My dear Child
This day Mr. Sayre arrived,1 with your Letter of the 12/23 of October. Yours of August I answered, Yesterday.
You have not informed me whether the Houses are built of Brick, Stone or Wood. Whether they are seven stories high or only one. How they are glazed, whether they have chimneys as in Spain. What publick Buildings, what Maison de Ville or state house. What Churches? What Palaces? What Statuary, what Paintings, Musick, Spectacles, &c. You have said nothing of the Religion of the Country, whether it is Catholick or Protestant. What is the national Church. Whether there are many Sectaries. Whether there is a Toleration of various Religions &c.
I think the Price for a Master is intolerable. If there is no Academy, nor School, nor a Master to be had, I really dont know what to say to your staying in Russia. You had better be at Leyden where you might be in a regular course of Education. You might come in the Spring in a Russian, Sweedish or Prussian Vessell, to Embden perhaps or Hamborough, and from thence here, in a neutral Bottom still. I am afraid of your being too troublesome to Mr. D[ana].
However, I rely upon it that you follow your Studies with your wonted Assiduity. It is strange if no Dictionary can be found in French nor English.
I dont perceive that you take Pains enough with your Hand Writing. Believe me, from Experience, if you now in your Youth resolutely conquer your impatience, and resolve never to write the most familiar Letter or trifling Card, with2 Attention and care, it will save you a vast deal of Time and Trouble too, every day of your whole Life. When the habit is got, it is easier to write well than ill, but this Habit is only to be acquired, in early life.
God bless my dear Son, and preserve his Health and his Manners, from the numberless dangers, that surround Us, wherever We go in this World. So prays your affectionate Father,
RC (Adams Papers). Early Tr (Adams Papers), in JQA’s hand.
1. Stephen Sayre (1736–1818), Princeton 1757, was an international adventurer and free-lance diplomat who had spent more than a year in St. Petersburg intriguing to promote U.S.—Russian trade and his own fortune. The most recent biographical account of Sayre is in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends (he held a Harvard M.A.), 14:204–215. Still valuable is Julian P. Boyd, “The Remarkable Adventures of Stephen Sayre,” Princeton Univ. Libr. Chronicle, 2:51–64 (Feb. 1941). The article by David W. Griffiths, “American Commercial Diplomacy in Russia, 1780–1783,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 27:379–410 (April 1970), is informative on Sayre’s Russian mission; see esp. p. 384–389.
2. Thus in RC, and so copied by JQA in Tr. In printing this letter in an appendix to AA’s Letters description begins Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams. With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1840. description ends , 1848, p. 424, CFA silently corrected “with” to “without.”