John Quincy Adams and the Education of a “Warrior Patriot”
By Rhonda Barlow, Adams Papers
When President John Quincy Adams delivered his first annual message to Congress on December 6, 1825, he noted that “the want of a naval school of instruction, corresponding with the Military Academy at West Point, for the formation of scientific and accomplished officers, is felt with daily increasing aggravation.” But Congress was not sufficiently aggravated to establish a school. Because young naval officers could learn to handle a ship only at sea, it seemed reasonable for all their education to be conducted aboard ship.
On December 4, 1827, Adams gave his third annual message to Congress, and for the third time, recommended the establishment of a naval academy similar to West Point, which Thomas Jefferson had established twenty-five years earlier. But this time, Adams explained his view of naval education in detail.
Adams held high standards for the “enquiring minds” of “the youths who devote their lives to the service of their country upon the ocean.” In his 1827 message, he explained that the academy he envisioned needed teachers, books, equipment, and a permanent location on shore. Subjects should include not only shipbuilding, math, and astronomy, but also literature, “which can place our officers on a level of polished education with the officers of other maritime nations,” and knowledge of foreign laws. As a former diplomat, and secretary of state from 1817 to 1825, Adams recognized that naval officers were a special class of American ambassadors.
But this combined scientific, technical, and liberal education was not enough. “Above all,” Adams continued, a young naval officer needed to learn “principles of honour and Justice” and “higher obligations of morals.” For John Quincy Adams, an American naval officer was a “Warrior Patriot,” equipped with a moral education that distinguished him from a mere pirate.
An entry in Adams’ Diary, made a few days after his 1827 speech, sheds light on his understanding of the role of morality in officer education. In his Diary, Adams reflected on the court martial of Master Commander William Carter for drunkenness.
Although he was reluctant to end Carter’s naval career, he wrote that “such enormous evils from intemperance demanded a signal example.” While intoxicated, the master commander twice was guilty of giving orders that almost caused the ship to founder, endangering both the valuable warship and her crew. On another occasion, he had been rude to a British officer. On another, he had engaged in disorderly conduct on shore, observed by, among others, a British officer. Adams’ Diary reveals that moral education was about self-control and responsibility, and the reputation of America’s fledgling navy abroad, especially among the British, whose Royal Navy was the envy of the world.
Adams failed to convince Congress to establish a naval academy. But eighteen years later, Adams, then a congressman, met with George Bancroft, the new secretary of the navy. In his Diary, Adams recorded that Bancroft “professes great zeal to make something of his Department.” A few months later, on October 10, 1845, Bancroft opened the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
| Published: Monday, 18 September, 2017, 12:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
Here is the weekly round-up of events at the MHS in the week to come.
- Wednesday, 20 September, 12:00PM : Pack a lunch and stop by at noon for a Brown Bag talk with independent researcher Nina Sankovitch. "Exploring Conflict, Collaboration, and Conciliation in Colonial Families before the American Revolution" considers how the Quincy, Adams, and Hancock families - all living in Braintree, MA but of varying social classes - interacted, especially in their attitudes towards England in the late colonial era, and the roles the families played in fomenting agitation against English rule. This talk is open to the public free of charge.
- Wednesday, 20 September, 6:00PM : Join us for a public conversation with Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, Michael Dukakis of Northeastern University, and Peter Drummey of the MHS. "John McCormack and David K. Niles: How Two Reinvented Bostonians Altered American Politics and Foreign Policy" explores the lives of two Boston politicians who came from large poor families within religious minority communities and rose to the levels of Speaker of House and White House advisor, and how both became central to the shaping of modern American political parties and politics. This talk is open to the public and registration is required with a fee of $20 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). The talk begins at 6:00PM and is preceded by a reception at 5:30PM.
- Thursday, 21 September, 6:00PM : "An Extraordinary Life: An Evening with John Quincy Adams" is a fun and festive evening celebrating the life of one of America's most fascinating statesmen. Enjoy a reception, learn about moments from Adams's life—as told through his diary and correspondence—from incoming MHS President Catherine Allgor and the staff of the Adams Papers editorial project, and explore a pop-up exhibit of the artifacts and documents that tell his story and that of our nation’s history. This program is SOLD OUT.
- Friday, 22 September, 10:00AM-4:00PM : This is your last chance to view our current exhibition, The Irish Atlantic, which ends on Friday.
- Saturday, 23 September, 9:00AM : "John Quincy Adams and American Diplomacy" is a teacher workshop open to all K-12 educators. Participants will learn more about JQA's achievements as Secretary of State; analyze documents from the Adams family papers, including JQA's diary; discuss his role in westward expansion; and meet Adams papers editors and learn how they make the family's work accessible to audiences of all ages. Registration is required for this event with a fee of $25.
| Published: Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 12:00 AM
“An Amusing Journey”: John Quincy Adams Explores Silesia
By Hobson Woodward, Adams Papers
On 17 July 1800 John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa Catherine embarked on an extended tour of Silesia, now southwest Poland. John Quincy chronicled their tour in a series of letters to his brother Thomas in the United States. The letters provide a rich description of a European excursion at the dawn of the nineteenth century. They also provide a rare look at a relaxed John Quincy Adams, unfettered by the demands of his diplomatic duties in Berlin.
John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 20 July 1800, letterbook copy (Adams family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society)
John Quincy prefaced his first letter to Thomas by advising him to send his correspondence to their mother Abigail if his extended descriptions of the Silesian countryside and people proved a bore:
I cannot promise you an amusing journey, though I hope it will prove so to us; & if at the sight of this my first letter on this occasion, you think it looks too long, & appears likely to prove tiresome, seal it up, unread, & send it to Quincy, where a mother’s heart will fill it with all the interest of which it may be destitute in itself
Thomas Boylston Adams to John Quincy Adams, 15 January 1801 (Adams family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society)
Thomas found the letters anything but boring, however, and he was so entranced that he gave them to a newspaper editor friend for publication. John Quincy graciously accepted their printing for the public, even though he had not been told in advance. He was less happy when the articles were later published in an unauthorized 1801 London edition.
John Quincy’s travel accounts are indeed vivid. In a 3 August letter he described an ascent of a mountain near Schreiberhau (now Szklarska Poreba, Poland). The hike began easily enough, he reported, traversing a grade “about equal to the steepest part of Beacon hill in Boston.” The difficulty increased, however, and the party finally emerged to a dramatic sight:
Instantly a precipice nearly fifteen hundred feet deep opened its gastly jaws before us— A sort of isthmus, or tongue of land however allowed us to proceed about an hundred rods further, untill we could fix ourselves against the side of a rock, & look over into the tremendous depth— We had then the precipice on both sides of us, & it passes by the respective names of the great & the small snow-pit— They are so called because generally the snow at the bottom remains unmelted the whole round, although this has not been the case for the last two summers, & at present they contain no snow at all
Later John Quincy and Louisa visited the Zackenfall waterfall. One is almost brushed by the leafy mist when reading John Quincy’s description:
At this place you stand upon one side of the cleft & see the water dash down from the other; upon a level with yourself; between you & the stream is an abrupt precipice, which seems the more profound, for being so narrow; about an hundred yards— With the help of a ladder I descended to the bottom, & walked partly over the rocks, & partly over the billets of wood lying in the bed of the stream to the spot from which the water falls— We likewise went round by a winding foot path on the top, to the spot from which the streams launches itself
John Quincy also described a visit to a coal mine near Waldenburg (now Walbrzych, Poland). The mine was accessed by a small boat navigated over a subterranean stream.
You go down in a boat, flat bottom’d, about a yard wide, & ten feet long. The canal is not more than four wide, & equally deep, & over it is an arch about as high, hew’d in many places through the solid rock. It is nearly an english mile long, & strikes deeper & deeper under ground, untill the surface of the earth over head is more than 150 feet above you. The boat is pushed along through the canal, by two men, one standing at each end, who with a short stick in the hand press it against the sides of the arch that goes over the canal.
John Quincy further commented on churches, factories, and estates, and the peasants, craftsmen, and soldiers who occupied them. Thomas called his brother’s travel accounts a “rich feast of epistolary excellence.” The letters survive today in the Adams Papers collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In 2019 a selection of them will be annotated and published in volume 14 of Adams Family Correspondence, providing unprecedented access to a luminous portrait of an excursion through central Europe in an age gone by.
| Published: Monday, 11 September, 2017, 12:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
A chill is in the air as autumn arrives. And with the turning of the leaves comes a return to more public programs for your consumption here at the Society. This is what's coming up in the week ahead:
- Wednesday, 13 September, 6:00PM : John Kenneth Galbraith devoted his professional life to three main political goals: ending war, fighting poverty, and improving quality of life by achieving a balance between private and public goods in an affluent capitalist society. In The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith, Richard P. F. Holt selected the most important of the thousands of letters that Galbraith wrote in his long, cosmopolitan life. This talk with Mr. Holt is open to the public and registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.
- Thursday, 14 September, 6:00PM : The second author talk this week features Hidetaka Hirota of the City College of New York. Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States & the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy, is a groundbreaking work which reinterprets the origins of immigration restriction in the U.S. This work fundamentally revises the history of American immigration policy by locating the roots of immigration control in cultural and economic nativism against the Irish on the 19th-century Atlantic seaboard. This talk is open tot he public free of charge. The program begins at 6:00PM, and is preceded by a reception beginning at 5:30PM.
- Saturday, 16 September, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: The Irish Atlantic: A Story of Famine Migration and Opportunity. This exhibit ends on Friday, 22 September, so don't miss it!
| Published: Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 12:00 AM
Holding Those in the Path of Hurricane Irma in Our Thoughts
By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
As I write this post on Friday, September 8th, Hurricane Irma is working its destructive way through the Caribbean toward the southeast United States. While this blog post was scheduled to be the September 1917 diary entries of Gertrude Codman Carter it felt strange not to recognize the lives that are being turned upside down in the very islands that Lady Carter called home for much of her adult life. Carter’s diaries, chronicling her journey from Boston to Barbados in the early twentieth century, are far from the only or the earliest connections between Massachusetts and the Caribbean to be found in the MHS collections.
Today, I want to share some images from our copy of Thomas Jeffrey’s The West-India Atlas: or, A compendious description of the West-Indies: illustrated with forty correct charts and maps, taken from actual surveys. Together with an historical account of the several countries and islands which compose that part of the world (London: R. Sayer and J. Bennett, 1775). The MHS copy of this 18th century atlas was owned by Robert Haswell, whose Voyage round the world onboard the ship Columbia-Rediviva and sloop Washington, 1787-1789 also resides in our collections. A pastel portrait of Haswell by the English painter James Sharples may be viewed here.
The details in this atlas are both informational and whimsical. In addition to the flocks of birds pictured above, almost every chart includes tiny parades of detailed ships making their way safely past such landmarks as the Colorados Reef, sunken rocks, and false headlands.
The atlas also provides voyagers with information about fresh water, as in this detail of the tip of Cuba, an “old ruined castle.”
Earlier this week, Hurricane Irma devastated the islands of Barbuda and Antigua, pictured here. I encourage you, if you have the ability, to donate to a charity of your choosing that will support those who need to rebuild their lives.
Look for a return to Lady Gertrude’s diary at the end of September.
| Published: Friday, 8 September, 2017, 12:00 AM