A letter from 9 year old John Quincy Adams
by Charlie Leck
On Sunday mornings I try to lightened up and post something more refreshing, or entertaining, or humorous than I post on other days. A couple of months ago, I reread JFK’s celebrated book from 1956, Profiles in Courage. In the chapter about John Qunicy Adams (JQA), the 6th President of the United States, who also served in the Senate and the House, Kennedy included the text of a letter that JQA wrote and sent to his father when he was only 9 years old.
Oh, my! Nine years old and writing a letter like this.
I love to receive letters very well; much better than I love to write them. I make but a poor figure at composition. My head is much too fickle. My thoughts are running after bird’s eggs, play and trifles, til I get vexed with myself. Mamma has a troublesome task to keep me a studying. I own I am ashamed of myself. I have but just entered the third volume of Rollin’s History, but designed to have got half through it by this time. I am determined this week to be more diligent. I have set myself a stint to read the third volume half out. If I can but keep my resolution, I may again at the end of the week give a better account of myself. I wish, sir, you would give me in writing some instructions with regard to the use of my time, and advise me how to proportion my studies and play, and I will keep them by me, and endeavor to follow them.
With the present determination of growing better, I am, dear sir, your son, John Quincy Adams
Let’s see, at 9 I was in fourth grade, or so. I don’t believe I had ever written a full letter to anyone. My first letter writing experience was in that year, when I sent off some love letters to an attractive and lovely female classmate who was wintering in Georgia. To my great embarrassment, those letters, I am told, are still in existence. Believe me, I would never allow them to be reprinted so they could be compared to the 9 year old JQA.
That is I, circled in this phototograph from my 4th grade class.
I cannot find in this picture the pretty and precious classmate upon
whom I had such a mad crush. She was probably away on her winter
leave in Georgia. I do see so many extraordinary and wonderful
friends, however, who I loved then and remember so fondly now.
I've written about many of these classmates a number of times.
Teddy, sitting to my left, was a bully and I had to fight him once or
twice in order to retain face and honor. Liz Metzger is sitting behind
me. She was one of the finest athletes I ever knew. Judy O'Brien, a
scholar and kind, kind person is sitting behind Teddy. Harry Smith,
a very nice kid and someone with whom I regret not spending more
time, is the skinny kid in the striped t-shirt in the near center of the
photo. Bobby Apgar, with whom I did spend a great deal of time, is
in the foreground and behind him is a good friend and playmate,
the late Arlene Barnhart.
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