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Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to James Bridge

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00958.01 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Newburyport, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 17 November 1787 Pagination: 6 p. ; 23 x 19 cm.

Summary of Content: Adams covers several topics in this long letter to his Harvard classmate shortly after their graduation. He attended the ordination of Henry Ware, his first roomate at Harvard. While there, he has saw a number of their fellow classmates and learned of their plans. He tells a story of how several classmates helped to pay the bills of two of their peers, allowing them to graduate. Adams discusses studying law in Theophilus Parson's office, and invites Bridge to join him in a few months when places become available (which Bridge did). He also briefly discusses law texts he is studying. Adams concludes with a discussion of orations at Harvard, probably through the A.B. Club or Phi Beta Kappa. Originally number 6 in scrapbook.

Background Information:

Full Transcript: Newbury-Port Novr: 17th 1787

Dear Bridge
Your favour of Septr: 28th came to hand about four weeks ago, and I should long ere now have written in reply had I not ...been prevented by a journey, which I went a day or two after the receipt of your Letter, and from which I have but lately return'd. The purpose of my journey was, chiefly to attend Mr. Ware's ordination at Hingham. (don't you think it was a pretty object to go 70 miles for) However I had several secondary reasons, which would justify me more, than such a scheme for a frolic. The ordination was very agreeable; there was an uncommon collection of good company and we had two royal dances, two evenings running. In the course of my journey I saw of our clas'mates, Cranch, Freeman, Forbes, Foster, Learned, Packard, White, and Williams, Sever and Vose; besides Hunnewell whom I scarcely look upon as a class mate, these were all well, and Lovell, Rand and Morton, whom I forgot to mention with the rest. I name them all because I know you feel interested in the welfare of every one with whom you were so long and so intimately connected; and upon the same principle, I will give you an account of what their present situation is as far as I am able; it may be interesting to you, as some have essentially alter'd their intentions since commencement. Cranch, [2] I suppose you know, is studying with Dawes in Boston. Freeman has given Divinity the slip, notwithstanding his admiration for her, and has become a disciple of Papinian, under the direction of Sullivan. Forbes is going to run the same race at Lancaster, with the creeper Sprague. Foster, is going into a store in Boston. Lloyd has been with Mr. Russell ever since commencement: Morton & Rand, are dressing [Sore's?] in Boston. Packard is keeping school at Cambridge and Harris at Worcester, and Learned, (with his frying pan buttons) at Menotomy. White, is in his father's store, Lovell, Vose, and Sever, are gentelemen at large. Mason is gone to Carolina, after quarreling, with both his father and uncle; and getting again restored to favour. Kendall goes to the Ohio, Lever and Williams to Sea. Tom and Gardiner Chandler, both studying law at Worcester, and Cushman preaching!!! What a difference from the situation of all those lads six months ago. Little is studying physic[s] in this town with Dr. Swett, & is no small addition to my happiness. By the bye, you recollect the subscription, for our necessitous class mates: - there were about 30 dollars collected; and even this small sum, saved two of the class from losing their degrees: Packard must inevitably have failed for the want of about £6 that sum we presented to him. Burge had been the week before commencement to Cambridge, and had told the president, he could not possibly [3] pay his bills, and that he should not be at Cambridge commencement day. On Monday in the afternoon, Mr. Pearson met Little and me in the street and desired us to go with him to his house. [H]e there enquired of us whether we knew where Burge was. [W]e could give him no information, but he finally told us that if we could produce Burge by wednesday morning, he would lend him money to pay his bills. - We enquired all round, but no body knew where Burge was. [W]e finally concluded to send to Hollis, his native place, thinking he should most probably be found there. George Blake (now a junior) generously offered to go; we furnished him with an [sic] horse and money for the expenses of the journey, and at 9 o'clock in the evening of Monday, he went off. Hollis was 45 miles from Cambridge, yet in less than 24 hours Blake return'd and brought Burge with him. We had collected just money enough to pay the expenses of this journey, besides what we gave to Packard and I am persuaded that if we could have collected the whole sum, we might have saved all the others. It is with uncommon pleasure, that I give you this account, because, from my acquaintance with your disposition, I know how you will enjoy the satisfaction of having contributed to the happiness of two worthy class mates.
For six or seven weeks after commencement, I was very much of a gentleman at large. I did nothing but ride about, and see my friends. In the beginning [4] of September I came here and entered Parsons's office. I am exceedingly pleased with him as an instructor. He is in himself a law library. Nor is his knowledge confined to this one science, he is an universal scholar, and has an elegant taste for every species of Literature. But his greatest excellence is, that none of his pupils can possibly be more fond of acquiring knowledge than he is of communicating it. There are now four of us in the office; but Amory and Townsend, will quit in the spring. Putnam applied for admission, but the bar determined that they would grant no more indulgences, and that no gentleman should have more than three clerks in his office at a time. Upon which Putnam entered Mr. Bradbury's office, where he now studies. If you can possibly bring it about, do endeavour to come before next commencement, otherwise I fear the office will be again full. After next March there will be only Thompson, and I in the office, and if you can come and make the Third, I shall be completely happy. I board here for 15 [?] per week pretty well, and if you can make it convenient, I have no doubt but you might board in the house upon the same terms. The town is not by any means so dissipated, nor are there are [sic] any thing like so many needless expenses, by extravagance made necessary, as we were told. The situation of the town is very agreeable, the people friendly & hospitable, and in short, was I, independent even of selfish considerations, to recommend [text missing] a place to spend three years in, I know of none that mere friendship [text missing] [5] induce me to name sooner than this. You enquire what was the first book, which I undertook upon entering the office. It was the first volume of Robertson's Charles V after which I perused Vattel's law of nature and of Nations, and then began upon Blackstone, with whom I am still engaged, and have but just begun upon the third volume. Parsons usually recommends to his students to read Burlamague, Vattel, and Montesquieu, & sometimes Hume's & Robertson's Histories before Blackstone. As I had read them all except Vattel, I did not go over them again. Of Burlamague in particular Parsons has a very high opinion. I have not examined the authorities to which Blackstone refers, but I propose going over this book once or twice more before I leave the office. I have made considerable extracts, a method which Parsons recommends likewise very strongly. This is probably as particular an account as you would wish to have of what I have hitherto done, but if you should have any further questions, I shall answer them with equal alacrity and satisfaction.
Mr. Gardiner informed you truly; I had the pleasure of dining in company with him in Boston. As I knew he lived near you, the first question I asked him was whether he was lately from the eastward, which being answered in the affirmative, the second was whether he had lately seen a young gentleman there by the name of Bridge? Yes he had seen him a short time before he then told me, and mentioned it several times in the course of conversation, that you had [6] requested him to direct you in your studies, but he said nothing which should lead me to conclude either that he should or should not charge you any thing for instruction.
You mention the ???. I attended the anniversary this year Lowell gave us one very good Oration and Freeman another. Mr. Paine resigned his office, & Mr. Ware was chosen in his stead. Harris, the butler vice President. We were more numerous at dinner this year than last. Kendall, the original president was there, and performed his part at dinner as well as any of us. The present Senior class were so much divided that except the members, there was only one (Dodge) that attended to hear the orations. But from the under classes the attendance was very general. But the dissensions in the senior class did not stop there. The class is so equally divided, that they have not been able to fix upon a valedictory orator and theses collectors - A party spirit appeared at Dartmouth even previous to the establishment of the society for a number of the students petitioned to the president, requesting him to prevent the institution, and exhibited a number of false charges, and insinuations against it. The President thereupon demanded the charter & Laws of the society, which upon examination, he declared in public to be an institution, adapted to very good purposes, and that it would be highly useful to individuals, and to the college in general. It seems as if the Society was destined to severe trials, and to get through them in triumph.
Adieu, ever yours J.Q. Adams
See More

People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
Ware, Henry, fl. 1796-1800
Bridge, James, 1765-1834

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentEducationReligionFinanceCharity and PhilanthropyLawFraternal Organization

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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