John Quincy Adams - Early Life, Education, and Early Career

Early Life, Education, and Early Career

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767 to John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams (née Smith) in a part of Braintree, Massachusetts, that is now Quincy, Massachusetts. John Quincy Adams Birthplace is now part of Adams National Historical Park and open to the public. He was named for his mother's maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts, is named. The name Quincy has subsequently been used for at least nineteen other places in the United States. Those places were either directly or indirectly named for John Quincy Adams (for example, Quincy, Illinois was named in honor of Adams while Quincy, California was named for Quincy, Illinois). The Quincy family name was pronounced /ˈkwɪnzi/, as is the name of the city in Massachusetts where Adams was born. However, all of the other place names are locally /ˈkwɪnsi/. Though technically incorrect, this pronunciation is also commonly used for Adams' middle name. Adams first learned of the Declaration of Independence from the letters his father wrote his mother from the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In 1779, Adams began a diary that he kept until just before he died in 1848. The massive fifty volumes are one of the most extensive collections of first-hand information from the period of the early republic and are widely cited by modern historians.

Much of Adams' youth was spent accompanying his father overseas. John Adams served as an American envoy to France from 1778 until 1779 and to the Netherlands from 1780 until 1782, and the younger Adams accompanied his father on these journeys. Adams acquired an education at institutions such as Leiden University. For nearly three years, at the age of 14, he accompanied Francis Dana as a secretary on a mission to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to obtain recognition of the new United States. He spent time in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark and, in 1804, published a travel report of Silesia. During these years overseas, Adams became fluent in French and Dutch and became familiar with German and other European languages. He entered Harvard College and was graduated in 1787 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa. Adams House at Harvard College is named in honor of Adams and his father. He later earned an A.M. from Harvard in 1790. He apprenticed as an attorney with Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, Massachusetts, from 1787 to 1789. He gained admittance to the bar in 1791 and began practicing law in Boston.

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