Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 20 August 1821

From John Adams

Montezillo August 20 1821

Dear Sir

There are on the Journals of Congress Some early resolutions for establishing a Nursery for the education of young men in military Science discipline and tactics: but paper money was So Scarce that they never could afford to carry them into execution. When the idea was revived I do not remember;1 but it has been cherished under Jefferson Madison and Monroe and is now brought to a considerable degree of perfection. The late Visits of the Cadets to Several States Seem to have made the institution popular.

Would not a Similar establishment2 for the education of naval officers be equally Usefull. The public opinion of the nation Seems now to be favourable to a Navy as the cheapest and Safest Arm for our national defence. Is not this a favourable moment for proposing a naval Accademy?

Floyd is gone! You and Jay and Carrol are all who remain. We shall all be asterised3 very soon. Sic transit Gloriola (Is there Such a latin Word?) mundi.

John Adams

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Sept. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

On 1 Oct. 1776 the Continental congress named Adams to a five-member committee tasked with planning a military academy. Eight days later that duty was referred to the Board of War (Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [1904–37], 5:838, 6:860). The idea of establishing an American educational institution to teach military science was revived during TJ’s administration and passed into law on 16 Mar. 1802 by “An Act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States,” which provided for the creation of the United States Military Academy at West Point (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:137). The academy’s cadets left West Point on 20 July 1821 and visited Albany; Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and New London and New Haven, Connecticut, returning to the school in September (John Crane and James F. Kieley, West Point: “The Key to America” [1947], 116). Adams delivered them “an address of several minutes” in Quincy on 14 Aug. 1821 (MS in NWM; Boston Columbian Centinel, 15 Aug. 1821).

By asterised Adams presumably meant something like “made into stars” or “raised to the heavens.” He modified the conventional expression, sic transit gloria mundi (“so passes away the glory of the world”), with gloriola (“the little glory”).

1RC: “rememember.” FC: “remember.”

2FC: “institution.”

3Blank space left in place of this word in FC.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and naval school search
  • Adams, John; and surviving signers of Declaration of Independence search
  • Adams, John; and U.S. Military Academy search
  • Adams, John; as member of Continental Congress search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on death and dying search
  • An Act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States (1802) search
  • Carroll, Charles (of Carrollton); signer of Declaration of Independence search
  • Continental Congress, Second; and military education search
  • Declaration of Independence; signers of search
  • Floyd, William; death of search
  • Jay, John; and Continental Congress search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; in Continental Congress search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; proposed school for search
  • schools and colleges; naval search
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.); founding of search
  • United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.); tour by cadets search