John Adams "Virtue and Happiness...neither can exist without the other." Signed Instructions to Live By, Dedicated to His Granddaughter.
A 1p letter signed by former 2nd U.S. President John Adams (1735-1826) as "John Adams" near the center recto. N.d., n.p. but ca. 1822. [Quincy, Massachusetts.] Secretarially inscribed above Adams's signature, consisting of didactic instructions addressed to Adams's teenaged granddaughter Elizabeth Coombs Adams (1809-1903). The reverse of the page is entitled "Miss Elizabeth C. Adams. Quincy. Presented by the generosity of her Grand Father,, 1822" at top above an anonymous 16-line poem about advice offered "with kind device & loving love." Expected wear commensurate with age including even toning, wrinkles, isolated edge darkening, and slightly chipped edges. Several areas of paper loss (not affecting the John Adams-related text recto, and just touching the periphery of the text verso) have been discretely professionally repaired. The page was previously removed from a friendship album made for Elizabeth Coombs Adams, ca. 1822-1823. 8.125" x 9.875." Provenance: Property of a New York Collector; Sotheby's New York, June 21, 2007.
*This letter signed by John Adams was once contained in a friendship album signed by other Adams and Quincy relatives, which is Lot 5 of our current sale.
87-year-old former president John Adams offered the following advice to his granddaughter Elizabeth Coombs Adams, the second child of Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832), Adams's fifth of six children and youngest son. The elderly Adams's recommendations for how to live a good and prosperous life is anchored in Christian Humanism.
Adams singled out Virtue and Happiness as the two principal ingredients of a fulfilling life, and by so doing alludes to Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics," which states that the ultimate objective of human experience is eudaimonia, or happiness; and that this state can best be achieved through living a virtuous life. Aristotle advises us: "He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue…" (Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics," 1101a10). These Classical ideas were not incompatible with Christianity; on the contrary, they reinforced the same message, differently packaged. Adams thus invoked his granddaughter to live by the "Decalogue," that is, the Ten Commandments, and to closely follow Christ's early teachings as pronounced on the Sermon on the Mount and described in chapters 5-7 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Living in accordance with these Classical and Christian ideals guaranteed happiness in life and in the afterlife, Adams believed.
"To My Grand daughter E C Adams
Virtue and Happiness are so intimately connected and so mutually dependant [sic], that neither can exist without the other. Study therefore and practice the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount, and you can never be unhappy in this world or the other.
From your affectionate Grandfather
[signed] John Adams."
Elizabeth Coombs Adams may have relied on this wisdom during the illness and drug addiction of her father, Thomas Boylston Adams. A Harvard graduate, and capable scholar, secretary, lawyer, and chief justice of Massachusetts, Thomas became an alcoholic and prone to depressive episodes in later life. Happily, Elizabeth Coombs Adams had a more stable influence in her life: her paternal uncle, John Quincy Adams (1867-1848). Elizabeth has been described as living the life of a Washington, D.C. belle during her uncle's presidency, though she never married. She was the oldest living resident of Quincy, Massachusetts when she died at the age of 95 in 1903.
This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.
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