The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

John Quincy Adams’ 1794 London Interlude

Lucia AmaliaSchueg

When John Quincy Adams arrived in London on October 15, 1794, on his way to The Hague to become minister resident to the Netherlands, he was a 27-year-old beginning his new life as an American statesman. We know much about his two week stay in London because he recounted his visit in his diary, transcriptions of which will eventually be available through The John Quincy Adams Diary Digital Project website.

John Quincy purposefully stopped in London to deliver important government documents; however, he almost lost these papers. “Just before we got to the London Bridge we heard a rattling before us and immediately after a sound as of a trunk falling from the Carriage. I instantly looked forward and saw that both our trunks were gone. One of them contained all the public dispatches which I brought for the American Ministers here … For a moment I felt sensations of the severest distress.” Luckily his brother, Thomas Boylston Adams, who accompanied him as his secretary, jumped out of the carriage and located the trunks. John Quincy noted how detrimental their loss would have been to American diplomacy and his career: “Entrusted with dispatches of the highest importance … particularly committed to my care, because they were highly confidential,” he questioned how he could have ever “presented myself” to the men for whom they were intended, only to inform them “that I had lost” their documents. He believed the trunks had been purposefully cut loose and considered their quick recovery “as one of the most fortunate circumstances that ever occurred to me in the course of my life.”

It was during this visit that John Quincy participated in one of his first diplomatic activities. He, Chief Justice John Jay, and U.S. minister to Great Britain Thomas Pinckney discussed the document that would become known as the Jay Treaty, which sought to settle outstanding issues between America and Great Britain left unresolved after the Revolutionary War. That Jay and Pinckney included Adams in these deliberations demonstrated the young man’s status among the American diplomatic corps. The three men held lengthy conversations during which the draft treaty was “considered Article by Article.” Adams commented on the treaty in his diary: “it is much below the standard which I think would be advantageous to the Country, but … it is in the opinion of the two plenipotentiaries, preferable to a War: and when Mr Jay asked me my opinion I answered that I could only acquiesce in that idea.” John Quincy’s inclusion in these discussions proved prescient, for in 1795 he received instructions to return to London to exchange ratifications of the Jay Treaty.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 August, 2018, 12:00 AM

Revisiting the Nathaniel T. Allen Photograph Collection

Three weeks ago, I told you about the Nathaniel T. Allen papers and photographs, two collections available for research here at the MHS library. Allen founded the West Newton English and Classical School (or “Allen School”) in West Newton, Mass. As I processed the photograph collection, I stumbled across a lot of interesting stories and trivia about students of the Allen School and the Misses Allen School, as well as friends and relatives. I’d like to share a few of them in this post.




comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 3 August, 2018, 5:03 PM

Summer Education Programs at the MHS

Friday, June 20th marked the end of our three-day teacher workshop, “Loyalism in the Era of the American Revolution”. The program played host to 40 K-12 teachers and heritage educators from the Boston area to as far as Seattle, providing them with an in-depth perspective on both the motivations and struggles of American loyalists in the late 18th century.

Participants arrived early Wednesday morning to begin the workshop. MHS Adams Papers’ Christopher Minty kicked off the program by introducing participants to the roots of Loyalist ideology and motivations.  Teachers then explored Loyalist primary source materials from the MHS collections, including the broadside denouncing Loyalist shop owner William Jackson and his later letter to the Continental Congress protesting his imprisonment and the seizure of his property. Teachers also explored political cartoons and propaganda from the period.  After lunch, Christina Carrick from the MHS Robert Treat Paine papers discussed violence and “civil war” during the Revolution, and we ended the day with MHS intern Lindsay Woolcock presenting on primary sources from the Revolutionary period in South Carolina and comparing the occupations of Boston and Charlestown.

On Thursday, participants received a guided tour at the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford from Education Coordinator Amy Peters Clark, where they learned about how the Revolution impacted two familes: the Royall family, who owned the home, and the Sutton family, who were enslaved there.  Afterwards, we headed to the Medford Public Library to hear a talk on Black Loyalists and Loyalist slavery in the Canadian Maritimes from Professor Harvey Amani Whitfield of the University of Vermont.

Upon returning to the MHS on Friday, participants were treated to several other sessions on loyalism by scholars Patrick O’Brien (USC) and Christina Carrick on Loyalist exile and return, ultimately finishing their workshop with a session on technological tips and tricks from local educator Edward Davies. Throughout the course of the workshop, participants received guidance on accessing primary source materials through the MHS website and other digital resources.

Thank you to all of our speakers and staff for helping to make this seminar so successful, and to our wonderful community of educators!

Looking forward, the MHS will be hosting an October workshop titled “Fashioning History” to partner with our upcoming MHS exhibit on “Fashioning the New England Family.”  In December, we will host the “Remembering Abigail” workshop celebrating the life and legacy of Abigail Adams.  To learn more, visit our Teacher Workshops page at the Center for the Teaching of History website.






comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 1 August, 2018, 1:00 AM

Join Us for Lunch!

If you’ve been by the Massachusetts Historical Society on a Wednesday, or if you follow us on Twitter, you’ve probably come across an invitation to attend a brown bag lunch talk. “Join us for Kate McIntyre’s brown bag lunch, and learn about the intersections of #race and #ecology!” the tweet might read. Or you’ve passed the sign in the lobby that says: “Madeline Kearin’s Brown Bag lunch talk at 12 pm—all are welcome.” But what exactly is a brown bag lunch talk?

Good question! A brown bag lunch talk offers our MHS researchers and research fellows a chance to present on the work they’re doing here at the Society. The presenter speaks for about twenty minutes on their research. They talk about the dissertation or book project that they’re working on, and about why they’ve come to the MHS. Then they focus in on a specific chapter or section of their project. They discuss the sources they’ve found—or haven’t found yet!—and perhaps some of the challenges this chapter has offered. Then the floor is opened to questions and suggestions, and for the next forty minutes we have a discussion about the presenter’s project.

Our most recent brown bag lunch talk was with Ian Saxine, whose second book project has brought him back to the Massachusetts Historical Society on a short-term W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship. (For a list of this year’s research fellows, go here.) He discussed the fourth Anglo-Wabanaki War, 1722-1725, the many names for the war, and how the war’s unexpected outcomes influenced colonial policy in Maine for next several decades. The discussion was lively, involving such questions as: “How do you define a war?”; “How are you looking at the memory of the war?”; and “What was the role of religion in the war?”

Upcoming brown bag talks will focus on a wide array of topics, from tomorrow's talk on partisanship and the origins of the American Revolution to New England hospitals for the insane to the United Fruit Company and 20th-century revolutions.

Interested in attending? Brown bag talks are free and open to all. Bring a lunch or show up and enjoy a coffee or soda while you listen to the talk. The talks are always at noon. For our upcoming talks, keep an eye on the calendar, pack a lunch, and join us for the chance to learn about what our researchers are doing at MHS, and for a lively discussion about their work. We look forward to seeing you there!


[Photo from Alexandra Montgomery’s (University of Pennsylvania) brown bag lunch, June 6, 2018.]


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

- Monday, 30 July, 12:00PM : Diego Pirillo of University of California, Berkeley, closes out the month with a Brown Bag talk. "The Heterdox Atlantic: Italian Heretics in Early America" presents the initial findings of a new project on religious radicalism in early America, which aims at recovering the transatlantic legacy of Italian Protestantism. Focusing on 17th- and 18th-century New England, the talk examines discussions on religious migration and liberty of conscience.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Wednesday, 1 August, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk of the week features Christopher Minty of the Adams Papers Editorial Project here at the MHS. Minty's talk is titled "'The Sons of Britain': Partisanship & the Origins of the American Revolution in New York City." In 1775, New York City merchant Frederick Rhinelander told a friend, “if this province ever fights, it will be for the King.” Yet Rhinelander’s reasons were not based on New Yorkers’ blind loyalty to George III or Great Britain. Instead, for him and many of his friends, loyalism was a tool to challenge political opponents.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 4 August, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS 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

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

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