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LIFE, ADMINISTRATION, AND TIMES
BOYHOOD OF MR. ADAMS—STARTING IN LIFE.
OHN QUINCY ADAMS was born July 11, 1767,
in Braintree, now Quincy, Massachusetts, and was
the son of John and Abigail Adams, whose "lives," with some account of the Adams family, may be seen in a preceding volume of this work.
In a discourse, delivered March 11, 1848, at the interment of the remains of John Quincy Adams, in the Congregational Church at Quincy, the pastor, William P. Lunt, said :—
"John Quincy Adams, son of John and Abigail (Smith) Adams, was born in a house still standing in the near vicinity of that in -which his father had been born, within what is now Quincy, and was then Braintree, July 11, 1767; and, as was usual with our Puritan ancestors, was baptized in the meetinghouse of this church, by its pastor, the Rev. Anthony Wibird, on the day following his birth, according to the entry in the Church Records in Mr. Wibird's handwriting.
March 4, 1825, to March 4, i8tg.
"The name of John Quincy, which was given to the infant, had been borne by the maternal great-grandfather of Mr. Adams, a man of wealth and deserved consequence in the town and Colony, in honor of whom the town of Quincy, when it was separated from the old town of Braintree, and made a distinct corporation, was named, and who was dying when John Quincy Adams came into the world.
"This gentleman, whose residence was at Mount Wollaston, within the limits of the town of Quincy, died July 13, 1767, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. He was a graduate of Harvard College, where (to use the words of an obituary notice which appeared in one. of the two papers, 'Boston Post-Boy,' which alone constituted the newspaper press of that period in the town of Boston), early in life, a foundation was laid for his usefulness; it was not long after he received the honors of this Society before he appeared in public life. His first appearance was in the militia; he rose from the command of a company to that of a regiment. He was honored with divers civil commissions; those of a common justice of the peace, a special justice, a justice of the quorum, and a justice through the Province. He was early chosen to represent the town of Braintree, and was, for a great number of years, Speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives, and for many years one of His Majesty's Council; all which important trusts he discharged with fidelity, honor, and to universal acceptance, ever approving himself a true friend to the interest and prosperity of the Province; a zealous advocate for, and vigorous defender of, its liberties and privileges. J He had a high sense of his accountableness to the Supreme Governor of the world, for the trusts reposed in him, and studiously avoided an ensnaring dependency on any man, and whatever should tend to lay him under any disadvantage in the discharge of his duty. He was near forty years engaged in the service of the public. Being blessed with an ample fortune, he devoted his time, his faculties, and influence, to the service of his country. In private life, he was exemplary. He adorned the Christian profession by an holy life, a strict observance of the Lord's day, and a constant attendance upon the public ordinances of religion. In one word, he was a gentleman true to his trust, diligent and active in public business, punctual in promises and appointments, just toward all men, and devout toward God.
"Such is the character given to the Honorable John Quincy by his contemporaries. And to all who enjoyed only common opportunities of understanding the qualities that were blended in the character of the venerable patriot whose remains are before us, it must be plain, that a name and a portion of his fortune were not the only inheritance which descended to the child who was then commencing, from the ancestor who was, at the same time, closing his earthly career. How much importance Mr. Adams attached, through life, to the circumstance in which a portion of his name originated, will appear from his own words, which I am allowed to quote from a letter addressed by him, on the subject, to a friend.
"He says: 'The house at Mount Wollaston has a peculiar interest to me as the dwelling of my great-grandfather, whose name I bear. The incident which gave rise to this circumstance is not without its moral to my heart. He was dying when I was baptized; and his daughter, my grandmother, present at my birth, requested that I might receive his name. The fact, recorded by my father at the time, has connected with that portion of my name a charm of mingled sensibility and devotion. It was filial tenderness that gave the name. It was the name of one passing from earth to immortality. These have been among the strongest links of my attachment to the name of Quincy, and have been to me, through life, a perpetual admonition to do nothing unworthy of it!'"
In Edward Everett's Eulogy on Mr. Adams at Faneuil Hall, on the 15th of April, 1848, these words occur:—
"John Quincy Adams was of a stock in which some of the best qualities of the New England character existed in their happiest combination. The basis of that character lies in what, for want of a better name, we must still call 'Puritanism,' connected, as that term of reproach is, with some associations calculated to lessen our respect for one of the noblest manifestations of our nature. But, in the middle of the last century, Puritanism in New England had laid aside much of its sternness and its intolerance, and had begun to reconcile itself with the milder charities of life; retaining, however, amidst all classes of the population, as much patriarchal simplicity of manners as probably ever existed in a modern civilized community. In the family of the elder President Adams, the narrow range of ideas which, in most things, marked the first generations, had been enlarged by academic education, and by the successful pursuit of a liberal profession; and the ancient severity of manners had been still farther softened by the kindly influences exerted by a mother who, in the dutiful language of him whom we now commemorate, 'united all the virtues which adorn and dignify the female and the Christian character.'"
It hardly became the Massachusetts orator to apologize for the Puritan. The principle involved in the Puritan character did not rest upon foolish restrictions and usages. These things the world would have laughed at and forgotten. The term itself has always been offensive to the loose, "liberal," and immoral. It was the general tone, the unyielding spirit of moral rectitude in the Puritan which these would hold up to scorn. To the evil passions of men the Puritan character has always been a thorn and an embarrassment. To those who would be right for the sake of right, it has needed no apology. Puritanism, in its best sense, a kind of salt in the national character, should rather be an everlasting source of honorable pride to America.
The first ten years in the life of John Quincy Adams were mainly spent in the society of his mother and in the village school, his father's business taking him, much of the time, from home and the companionship and care of his children. But among all the women of the Revolution it would be difficult to find one more fit to be the hourly associate and guide of a brave, aspiring boy than was the mother of John Quincy Adams. She was not only familiar with the principles of his father and her father and a long line of strong, cultured, thinking men, but their principles were her own, and it was the pride and glory of her life to have the heart and strength to carry them out. No moral, mental, or physical weakness or timidness prevented her from exhibiting these principles to her children.
Not shrinking from the great responsibilities of the moment, she laid the events of the day before her young son, and imbued with a fervent love of her native land, she inspired him with her own patriotism. Close by the model prayer of Christ, the Lord, she placed the sentiments and maxims of love of country. Hand in hand with her this boy stood to hear the dreadful thunders of Bunker's Hill; and the lessons she was teaching him were strongly illustrated and deepened by the tragic events enacted around his own home. It was an age to inspire manly growth, and the quick boy was not long in grasping her feelings and sympathizing in all her hopes and fears.
Braintree was eight or ten miles from Boston, but as young as he was he made this trip often daily to gain the best possible news from the Continental Army; nor could his mother have found a safer agent or one who felt more genuinely the distresses of the times which beset her, notwithstanding his protestations of fickleness. The business of the country was war, and schools, like all things else, were thought of to little purpose, even in New England. Still, amidst all her cares and the gloom of the times Mrs. Adams did not neglect the education of her son. In this she received much assistance from some of the young men who were students of law under her husband, and especially one of them, Thaxter, a relative. But her