Child and Student: 1735-1758

October 3, 1749

The biggest news is that my 14th birthday is coming up this month (I was born on October 30, 1735). Speaking of my birthday, it’s only natural to mention my wonderful parents, John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boyleston Adams. My mother is very important to me, of course, but I truly idolize and revere my father. Is it any wonder that I’m so proud to inherit his name?

I am also proud of my ancestors, who courageously traveled from Great Britain to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their Puritan faith has been passed through the generations to my family – in fact, my father is a deacon in our Puritan church. Although I’ve heard that early-American Puritans were quite radical, I respect that my ancestors were bold in their faith and that they had the courage to stand up for their beliefs in the new world. Because of them (and others like them), these colonies are firmly grounded in religion and faith. Their example inspires me to live my life with the energy and passion necessary to achieve my dreams.

While many of my friends live with sixteen or seventeen siblings, I live with my parents and two younger brothers. Believe me, my house seems peaceful and calm in comparison! Fortunately, I am also *ahem* quite popular with the ladies. In fact, I must admit that I am “of an amorous disposition and very early from ten or eleven Years of Age, was very fond of the Society of Females.”

Here is a picture of my childhood home.

To complete this entry, I’ll leave you with a story about my childhood ambitions. This makes my parents laugh every time they think of it. (I think they tell this story just because they enjoy embarrassing me in front of their friends.)

When I was a very small boy, I preferred hunting to history, running to reading. My father wanted me to study more diligently, but I  dreamed of being a farmer. Hoping to turn me from working on the land to speaking in the pulpit, my father decided to show me the filthy, difficult realities of farming. After a grimy work day, “at home he said Well John are you satisfied with being a Farmer. Though the Labour had been very hard and very muddy I answered I like it very well Sir.” My father’s plan backfired – he tried to lessen my enthusiasm, and instead my passion for farming grew. However, this clever answer did not suit my father, who commanded, “You shall go to School to day.”

September 3, 1756

Here are a few of my thoughts about religion. These entries are from a separate journal, but I wanted to save a copy of these notes in this journal as well.

February 22, 1756

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged, in conscience, to temperance and frugality and industry; to justice and kindness and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love and reverence towards Almighty God…What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this region be.

March 7, 1756

Honesty, sincerity, and openness I esteem essential marks of a good mind. I am, therefore, of opinion that men ought…to avow their opinions and defend them with boldness.

May 1, 1756

The Creator looked into the remotest futurity, and saw his great designs accomplished by this inextricable, this mysterious complication of causes…it is highly probable every particle of matter influences and is influenced by every other particle in the whole collected universe.

January 17, 1758

Ah, I was just re-reading my first entry in this journal. What a foolish young boy I was! At the age of 13, I finally began to take my studies seriously. After a year and half of intensive study, I was sufficiently prepared to take the Harvard entrance examination.

I vividly remember the morning of my examination – it was a dreary, bleak, gray day. The desire to stay in my warm bed almost overwhelmed me, but I went to Harvard to complete my examination. It seems that a year and half of focused study had prepared me well for Harvard, because I was admitted to the class.

Here is a picture of Harvard College. It looks just like I remember…

Harvard was difficult, I must admit. We spent much time in intense study, and there was hardly any time to enjoy ourselves. After all, according to the Harvard rule book, “no student shall be absent from his studies or stated exercises for any reason, (unless it is first made known to the President or tutor, and by them approved) with the exception of the half-hour allowed for lunch, and half-hour for dinner and also for supper, until nine o’clock” (I).

In spite of the challenging education, I truly enjoyed my studies. During this time at Harvard, my love of reading grew immensely and I learned to appreciate the treasure hidden between the covers of an excellent book. My favorite area of study, though, is math and science. With the help of John Winthrop (my favorite professor), I learn more and more every day. I wish I would have appreciated education as a child! How I regret the time I wasted in useless play!

I graduated from Harvard with my A.B. degree in 1755. Oh, I was so proud to hold that degree in my hand! However, I didn’t yet know what to do with my degree. Should I join the ministry, as my father always hoped? Should I become a farmer, fulfilling a childhood dream? Or should I do something else altogether? These questions haunted my dreams.

Finally, I decided to join the legal profession. I just passed the bar exam this year and finally became a real lawyer. My childhood is over, and I have embarked on the journey of my adult life.

Works Cited


Photo Credits

Picture of John Adams’ birthplace:

Picture of Harvard College in the 1700s:


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