John Quincy Adams

Homeschooled by his gifted mother and tutored by his distinguished father at the time of the American Revolution, this teen was already an experienced foreign diplomat at age 19!

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was the oldest of John and Abigail Adams’ five children. His middle name “Quincy” came from Abigail’s maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts is also named. John Quincy was born on July 11, 1767, in the house next to where his father had been born.

The American Revolution began when John Quincy was eight years old. While his father was gone away to Congress, he and his mother watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from a nearby field. It was she who primarily instilled in John Quincy his strong Christian ideals. “So well did his mother commit the Bible to his heart that it became for him a compass and anchor in a long life of service.”

John Quincy was a serious and studious child who “received his education principally by instruction from his distinguished father and gifted mother.” At age 11, he accompanied his father on a diplomatic mission to France. On their voyage they survived violent storms and a battle with a British ship, only to be shipwrecked off the coast of Spain. From there they rode to Paris on mules, a distance of 1,000 miles over the Pyrenees Mountains, a journey which took three months.

As secretary to his father in Europe, John Quincy gained broad knowledge from study and travel. Under the close tutelage of his father, he learned six modern languages as well as Latin and Greek. In addition to being an accomplished linguist, John Quincy was a prolific diarist who often kept multiple diaries simultaneously, filling fifty-one volumes over sixty-nine years (amounting to nearly 15,000 pages). These diaries give a unique picture of the personalities and politics of the times. When he was just 14, John Quincy was chosen as an aide to the first U.S. diplomat to Russia. At the end of the American Revolution, he went with his father to the peace treaty conference between the United States and Great Britain.

John Quincy was already an experienced traveler and diplomat, well informed about many cultures and topics of debate, by the time he arrived back home and entered Harvard College at age 19. As a scholar he was well versed in classical languages, history, and mathematics; he was also an excellent writer of both prose and poetry, and a fine speaker. Upon graduating, John Quincy began to practice law in Massachusetts and considered being a Harvard professor, although he preferred politics. John Quincy Adams was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps… Read the rest of this article at

It seems that John Quincy Adams was actually way ahead of his time, since his bite-sized diary entries look a lot like tweets! On August 5, 2009, the Massachusetts Historical Society started posting John Quincy Adams’ line-a-day diary entries on Twitter, exactly 200 years after his first trip to Russia. The historians hope to connect a new online generation with Adams by bringing his life into the 21st century. Adams’ Twitter-ready entries include mentions of his favorite reads, memorable meals, weather updates, and the daily drama of months at sea. A few examples follow:

Aug. 6, 1809: “Thick fog. Scanty Wind. On George’s Bank. Lat: 42-34. Read Massillon’s Careme Sermons 2 & 3. Ladies are Sick.”

Aug. 15, 1809: “Weather fine – wind scanty. Lat: 44-13. Long: 53-40. This afternoon I found the Caboose [ship’s galley] on fire.”

Aug. 31, 1809: “Calm and light winds. Pleasant weather. Lat: 59-23. Long: 17-15. Cimon and Lucullus. Cards.”

Follow JQA’s Twitter entries here:

Updated: May 20, 2011 — 8:49 am

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