John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

2
Life and Career: A Survey

Existence itself, and duration, are incomprehensible things. . . . Matter undergoes perpetual mutation, but is never destroyed; why not the same of mind?

-- MEMOIRS, March 2, 1828

The perspective necessary to an understanding of Adams's system of ideas can be developed only through an understanding and knowledge of the major events of his life and career. He was born in the North Parish of Braintree, Massachusetts, on the 11th of July, 1767, the son of John and Abigail Adams.1 Among his earliest memories was the sight of warfare and revolutionary struggle. With his mother he watched the British attack upon Bunker Hill. Those experiences of the terrors and rigors of war, as well as others, accounted for his prejudice against Britain, his pride in the accomplishments of the Revolution, and his satisfaction in the glories of the American Republic.

In February, 1778, at the age of eleven, he accompanied his father on a brief diplomatic mission to France. In June, 1779 they left on a second mission to Europe, John Adams having been commissioned to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain. It was on this latter voyage that the young John Quincy began his diary, which he maintained with minor intermissions until a few years before his death. In the Memoirs he revealed his early application to matters of a more serious concern than those with which a young man, even in his day, would usually be occupied.

In Europe he resumed his study of the ancient and modern lan-

____________________
1
Josiah Quincy, Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams ( Boston: Crosby, Nichols, Lee and Company, 1860), p. 1.

-7-

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