64.9 F
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Home History Presidental Angst Discovered by Rye Historial Society

Presidental Angst Discovered by Rye Historial Society

Sheri Jordan of the Rye Historical Society has told MyRye.com about a "Presidential" find – the uncovering of an envelope sent from John Quincy Adams to his son at Harvard. Jordan tells us the story:

  JQAdams Envelope

"We came across an envelope addressed to "John Adams Junior, student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts". It was signed across the top, "J. Q. Adams" and postmarked Sep. 26, 1822.

Obviously we wanted to know if this was authentic. I sent an email to the Massachusetts Historical Society, who are the keepers of the Adams Family Papers, and sent an email to the head of Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's. Sotheby's sent me the name of their contact at the Adams Family papers and I sent an email that evening.

In the meantime, I was able to verify that John Quincy Adams did have a son, John Adams, Junior, who did attend Harvard University. However, the son was expelled before graduation in 1823. So here is a letter dated Sep. 26, 1822- hmm, I wonder what John Quincy was saying to his son. Furthermore, this letter would have been written while John Quincy Adams was Secretary of State for James Monroe, and probably written while John Quincy was drafting the Monroe Doctrine (released in 1823). Now John Quincy Adams was a prolific diarist and all his diaries are available online at the Massachusetts Historical Society website. I scanned them on the relevant dates but nothing about writing a wayward son at Harvard.

The next morning, I received an email from one of the Assistant Editors of the Adams Family Papers who asked for a scan of the envelope, but who also sent us a scan of the letter which would have been enclosed in the envelope. I sent them a scan immediately and the editor told me it was indeed authentic as John Adams, Junior annotated all of his correspondence and you could see his handwriting on the outside of the envelope.

In the meantime, I read the letter and discovered that all parents worry about their college-age children. The letter is full of exhortations from John Quincy Adams to his son that if he would "just apply himself and work harder" he would see his marks improve. Sadly, it was no more effective for a future President of the United States than most parents today. John Adams Junior was expelled from Harvard for poor marks by the end of the year."

Christine Moore, a volunteer who has been helping Richard Hourahan, our archivist, came across it while cataloguing the last few miscellaneous boxes of Parsons Papers. The John E. Parsons Family was an important family here in Rye and in New York- the last descendent was Fanny Wicks Parsons who donated her house on the Boston Pst Road (called Lounsberry) to the City.  Then a side descendent, David Parsons, bought the house from the City and has been restoring it slowly. The house is next to the Jay House and part of the Boston Post Road Historic District.

  1. Thank you! – Very interesting. I was wondering if the “John E. Parsons Family . . .an important family here in Rye and in New York” is related to Lynn Hudson Parsons who wrote the excellent 1998 biography of John Quincy Adams?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here