The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

"Three Generations Have Advanced in a Century" : From John Adams to Charles Francis Adams II

            On October 31, 1835, John Adams’ grandson Charles Francis Adams, along with his wife, Abigail Brooks Adams, had their second son, Charles Francis Adams 2d, baptized at their home in the presence of John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams and other close family members. Born in May, the day for the christening had been specially chosen—the centennial of John Adams’ birth. While John Adams’ birthday is recognized as October 30 in the new style Gregorian calendar, John Quincy Adams erroneously believed that the date should be recognized on the 31st and convinced Charles Francis to hold the baptism on that date.

            Charles Francis Adams, who often reflected on his place within his illustrious family, noted the occasion in his diary:

“It was a little singular that a child of mine should be christened just one hundred years from the birth of his great grandfather. Three generations have advanced in a century. May the last who is carrying the name of the family into the next be as honest, as determined and as a conscientious as the first. I trust in a power above us which has for reasons unknown thought fit to make among us instruments for advancing the power, the honor and the prosperity of this Nation, and whose decrees are always just and always wise. My feelings always overpower me when I reflect how unworthy I am. Prosperity has been showered upon me. May I learn to deserve it!”

            John Quincy Adams also linked the events in his diary: “This day is the centurial anniversary of my fathers birth. . . . He was born of Parents in humble life, and has left an illustrious name, for his descendants to sustain by virtues like his own. May it please the disposer of all Events that his great grandson this day devoted to the service of God and man may enjoy as long, as useful and as prosperous a life.”

            The prayers of the father and grandfather were indeed answered in Charles Francis Adams 2d (1835–1915), who was a distinguished Union Army officer, railroad executive, historian, and biographer. Along with these many achievements, Charles Francis served as president of the Massachusetts Historical Society and selected the spot on the Fens Park where the MHS now resides. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Adams Manuscript Trust and the deposit of the Adams Family Papers at the Society, thereby assuring the preservation and propagation of his great grandfather’s legacy and that of the entire family.

            For more on the collection, preservation, and dissemination of the family’s manuscripts and the origins of the Adams Papers Editorial Project, see the introduction to the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams.



permalink | Published: Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 2:16 PM