The Dutch Republic and American Independence

By Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt; Herbert H. Rowen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Two Students at Leiden

You are now at an University where many of the greatest Men have received their Education.

JOHN ADAMS
to his son John Quincy

IN all probability it will do more for your education to go back to France with your father than to prepare for college at Andover." This is what John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, remembered that his mother had told him almost fifty years earlier when he was twelve years old. He had made the great journey to France with his father in the winter of 1778-79, and they had returned safely during the summer, rejoining his mother, his two sisters, and his younger brother Charles. His father had hardly recovered from the adventure of that journey when he received a second mission to cross the Atlantic, and again he faced the question which of his children he would take with him. It was Charles's turn to make the journey, which was strenuous, even dangerous, but very educational. Johnny did not want to go again; he was a studious child and wanted to go to school, first to Andover and then to Harvard. But his parents wondered whether the crowded school of life would not do him more good than learning from books at home. One Sunday afternoon after church his mother took him aside, had a serious talk with him, and convinced him of the unique opportunity that lay ahead for him.

The whole awareness of the significance of what they, the American rebels, were doing echoes in the words that she wrote him in farewell: "These are times in which a Genious would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. . . . Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman." The child must eventually become a statesman, a hero--this was from the start the ideal of his demanding

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