The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author - Vol. 1

By John Adams; Charles Francis Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I. .
EDUCATION OF MR. ADAMS -- SCHOOL AT WORCESTER -- CHOICE OF A PROFESSION

IN tracing the short and simple annals of the paternal ancestors of John Adams, from their establishment here with the first settlers of the country, we have found them all in that humble, but respectable condition of life, which is favorable to the exercise of virtue, but in which they could attract little of the attention of their contemporaries, and could leave no memorial of their existence to posterity. Three long successive generations and more than a century of time passed away, during which Gray's Elegy in the country churchyard relates the whole substance of their history. They led laborious, useful, and honest lives; never elevated above the necessity of supporting themselves by the sweat of their brow, never depressed to a state of dependence or want. To that condition, John Adams himself was born; and when the first of British lyric poets wrote, --

"Some village- Hampden, that, with dauntless breast,
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood,"

he little imagined that there was then living, in a remote and obscure appendage of the British dominions, a boy, at the threshold of Harvard College, whose life was destined to prove the prophetic inspiration of his verse.

It is in the order of the dispensations of Providence to adapt the characters of men to the times in which they live. The grandfather of John Adams had given to the eldest of his twelve children a college education for his only inheritance. And a precious inheritance it was; it made him for nearly seventy years an instructor of religion and virtue. And such was the anticipation and the design of the father of John Adams, who,

-13-

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