John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

4
The Adams Mind: Man and the Universe

I suggested to him the establishment of an astronomical observatory, with a salary for an astronomer and assistant, for nightly observations and periodical publication; then annual courses of lectures upon the natural, moral, and political sciences; and, above all, no jobbing -- no sinecures -- no monkish stalls for lazy idlers.

-- MEMOIIRS, June 24, 1838

The outer layer having been viewed, it is possible to go deeper to inspect the mind and its qualities. To enter more deeply into the mind of Adams, as revealed in his writings, his public pronouncements, and his actions, it is necessary to keep many cautions in view. It is necessary to weigh perhaps contradictory judgments to determine what the long-range judgment was or what emerged as the common denominator. It is necessary to view his thinking from the standpoint of the chronology of his life. And it is necessary to consider to what degree Adams was influenced by the audience to which he spoke. The task of analyzing the quality of a man's mind is an infinitely difficult undertaking, especially since, no matter how articulate he was, there always remains the irreducible unknown in the human personality, the true quality of which may never be communicated to others. With these inescapable limitations fully in view we may proceed.

Although being fully and almost determinedly American, Adams was a cosmopolitan in education. He had moved easily in European society from Childhood and had acquired tastes strange to his father

-65-

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