University Archives


Thomas B. Adams, Youngest Son of John Adams, Writes to His Children

Two letters from Thomas Boylston Adams to his son, Thomas Boylston Adams Jr., and his daughter, Abigail. The first letter, signed "Father", is addressed to his son Thomas Jr., who was a Cadet at Norwich Academy. 1p, measuring 8.25" x 13.25", Quincy, Massachusetts, dated August 26, [no year]. The date of the letter has been clipped, as has the free frank from the address page - likely done by John Adams, as has been seen in other examples. The result is some text missing, but Adams writes to his son to enquire after his grades and his vacation plans, as well as lightly chastising him for disrespecting his Superintendent at school. The letter reads in part:

"…am happy to hear of your having passed the first week of your examination so easily and so much to the satisfaction of your Examiners. That you were satisfied with yourself in Latin & Italian, which you mention in your letter to your Mother as having been brought up in, I am glad to learn, for I know how very certain I used to be of my Preceptor's appreciation, when I had first obtained my own…You are somewhat sarcastic upon your pro tempore Superintendent Mr. Milton Partridge; but remember my son, that the art military is not learnt in a day, and under what disadvantage anyone must appear to succeed your accomplished Captain, whose life has been devoted to his favorite pursuit…Your sister and Cousin Caroline went yesterday to Haverhill to pass a fortnight with their relatives. The vacation at all literary institutions except yours is about this time - perhaps you have a short one after the examination, which I now remember you have been invited to spend at Wethersfield. Should you go with young Bartlett, be very circumspect in your manners and conversation with Mr. & Mrs. Jarvis and acquire the love of Mrs. Jarvis in particular, as I did after Mother when I was of your age. It is delightful to be a favorite of Ladies so much older than yourself that they can bestow marks of kindness and friendship upon you without fear of reproach or suspicion. Write to me from Wethersfield after you have explored the surrounding scenery, which is magnificent, and if there is no danger of snakes or reptiles venomous…" The letter has flattened mail folds, with light toning and foxing. Small separations at some folds. As mentioned, the date and free frank from the address page has been clipped off, resulting in some text loss. Small amounts of tearing and paper loss from broken wax seal. Boldly signed.

The second letter, signed "Thomas B Adams", is addressed to his daughter "Abby". 1p, measuring 7.75" x 5.25", no place, only dated "Monday 18th". Adams provides news from home, writing in part: "We sent to enquire after Isaac H - and he is much better. Tomorrow your Mother will call on her return. Your cousin Caro[line] will be here sufficient time to receive a letter from you if you should write to her. She is a lovely child, but she says the jaunt to L. almost jolted all love our of her heart. Now, dear Daughter give me credit for a gossip letter and excuse it as being the only one you will get from home by this Mail…" With flattened mail folds and slightly uneven edges. Contemporary stamp or adhesive residue at the upper right corner, staining the upper center where paper was folded. Boldly signed.

Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832) was the third and youngest son of John and Abigail Adams. He studied law at Harvard College, graduating in 1790, and joined his brother John Quincy on his trip to the Netherlands and Prussia from 1794-1798. Upon his return to the United States, Adams settled in Quincy, MA and was appointed chief justice of the Circuit Court of Common Pleas for the Southern Circuit of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, like his older brother Charles, Thomas struggled with alcoholism and died at the age of 59, deeply in debt.

Thomas B. Adams Jr. (1809-1837) was the elder Thomas Adams' third son, and became a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He served in the Second Seminole War and died at the age of 28 from fever while posted at Fort Dade, Florida. Abigail "Abby" Smith Adams Angier (1806-1845) was named after her famous grandmother. Little is known of her life other than her marriage to a John Angier in 1831.

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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