John Adams: Advice to Johnny

Sprinkled throughout David McCullough’s biography of John Adams is the father’s advice and guidance to his young son, John Quincy. Since father and son were often separated, John Adams wrote his son letters full of fatherly counsel, recommendations for his education, and general wisdom. Here are a few quotes from John Adams’ letters to his son, John Quincy Adams:

As a branch of knowledge, geography was “absolutely necessary to every person of public character,” and to every child, Adams declared. “Really there ought not to be a state, a city, a promontory, a river, a harbor, an inlet or a mountain in all America, but what should be intimately known to every youth who has any pretensions to liberal education.”
(Of course, “America” was much smaller in John Adams’ day.)

“A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man.”

“I advise you, my son, in whatever you read, and most of all in reading the Bible, to remember that it is for the purpose of making you wiser and more virtuous. I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind, which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue.”

“But above all Things, my son, take Care of your Behaviour and preserve the Character you have acquired, for Prudence and Solidity. Remember your tender Years and treat all the World with Modesty, Decency and Respect. . . .”

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