Skip to comments.John Quincy Adams translated a page per day
Posted on 04/20/2013 6:59:25 AM PDT by ProgressingAmerica
John Quincy Adams was an amazing person. Certainly a testament to the upstanding nature of his parents. One of the lesser known thing about him(perhaps) was his tendency to translate things across different languages. In "Memoirs of John Quincy Adams", the following is written: (page 176)
The reading of the month has carried me through Luzac's Richesse de la Hollande, and the Traite General de Commerce; the latter as mentioned on the day when I finished it; the Life of Dumouriez, Garat's Memoirs, and Pratt's Gleanings. Of all these books I have made mention, and some slight observations at the time of finishing, and also of Pitt's translation of the AEneid, Rowe's Lucan, which I have gone through, and Garth's Compilation of the Metamorphoses, which I have not yet finished. To improve in the Dutch Language I have usually translated a page every day; and after going thus through the Constitution of the National Assembly, which is now in session, I took the Introduction to Rendorp's Memoirs. I shall give the preference to all interesting state papers; because I send the translations to the Secretary of State, and thus answer two good purposes at once. My progress in Italian is slow, and I can only translate two or three stanzas of Tasso at a time. The language itself is enchanting, but, with no opportunity to speak or hear it spoken, my advances are very small, and, with my other occupations, I may perhaps grow tired of that. To keep alive my Latin, I have begun to translate a page of Tacitus every day, and am going through ithe life of Agricola, which in the year 1784, at this place, I translated into French. I find this author still new, and a special application to his writings will, I hope, be useful to me on several accounts. His language, his wisdom, his style, his method, all afford subject for meditation and improvement. This is not the part of my time the worst employed. My other writing is principally confined to writing and answering letters, or to this journal. The time for original composition has not yet come; I know not whether it-ever will. I shall probably never have a time so favorable for it as the present. But I have no subject, and am far from being yet satisfied with my style.
One such item that he is rather well known for translating is a book first written by Friedrich von Gentz, "Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution". Considering that initially he did so anonymously, he might not have even been paid for the work. From the Russell Kirk Center:
Thus Adams was of one mind with Gentz, and saw in Gentzs essay the most succinct and forceful contrast between the moderate polity of the American colonies, founded upon a respect for prescriptive rights and custom, and the levelling theories of French radicalism. Only the word Republic was common to the two new dominations, Adams perceived; and the French Republic already had ceased to contain any element of true representative government. Adams translation of Gentz was published anonymously at Philadelphia in the same year, and was not reprinted until 1955. This little book has Adams style strongly imprinted upon it in translation; but in thought and structure Gentzs writing bears the mark of Burkes Reflections and Schillers Thirty Years Warbooks which, by a curious coincidence, incalculably influenced both Gentz and the present editor in their early years.
Indeed, in what appears to be an original 1800's-era copy of the book, Adams' name is not present at the beginning nor end of the book expressing ownership.
Civilization in this country has been woefully degraded since its founding. Look at our political class now.
JQA was a very troubled individual and not a happy man. He was made so, it seems, by the strict upbringing provided by his parents. That said, he was very interesting. His pen pal from Britain once visited him on the floor of the house. (he became a Representative after he was President) His pen pal was one Charles Dickens.
He single-handedly protected the endowment made by Smithson which resulted in the Smithsonian institute. They attempted to muzzle him with laws making it illegal to discuss the abolition of slavery...he would have none of it. He eventually collapsed on the floor of the house and died shortly thereafter.
Even during his lifetime JQA was increasingly criticized by average people for his aristocratic bearing and upbringing so that isn’t exactly a recent phenomenon...
John Quincy Adams, whose unique understanding of the persons and events surrounding America's founding, was invited by the New York Historical Society to deliver "The Jubilee of the Constitution," Address on the 30th or April, 1839, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States.
John Quincy served as Minister to the Netherlands under President Washington, as Minister to Prussia and to Russia, as Secretary of State, as U. S. Senator, as the Sixth President of the U. S., and, from 1830 until his death in 1848, as Congressman. From his childhood, he had absorbed the ideas and principles underlying the Declaration of Independence.
In that "Jubilee" Discourse, Adams reviewed those principles and the nation's first 50 years under its Constitution.
Although a full reading of his history of the first 50 years is recommended, excerpted below are is his closing summation and admonitions:
"It has been my purpose, Fellow-Citizens, in this discourse to show:-
1. That this Union was formed by a spontaneous movement of the people of thirteen English Colonies; all subjects of the King of Great Britain - bound to him in allegiance, and to the British empire as their country. That the first object of this Union,was united resistance against oppression, and to obtain from the government of their country redress of their wrongs.
2. That failing in this object, their petitions having been spurned, and the oppressions of which they complained, aggravated beyond endurance, their Delegates in Congress, in their name and by their authority, issued the Declaration of Independence - proclaiming them to the world as one people, absolving them from their ties and oaths of allegiance to their king and country - renouncing that country; declared the UNITED Colonies, Independent States, and announcing that this ONE PEOPLE of thirteen united independent states, by that act, assumed among the powers of the earth, that separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitled them.
3. That in justification of themselves for this act of transcendent power, they proclaimed the principles upon which they held all lawful government upon earth to be founded - which principles were, the natural, unalienable, imprescriptible rights of man, specifying among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that the institution of government is to secure to men in society the possession of those rights: that the institution, dissolution, and reinstitution of government, belong exclusively to THE PEOPLE under a moral responsibility to the Supreme Ruler of the universe; and that all the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed.
4. That under this proclamation of principles, the dissolution of allegiance to the British king, and the compatriot connection with the people of the British empire, were accomplished; and the one people of the United States of America, became one separate sovereign independent power, assuming an equal station among the nations of the earth.
5. That this one people did not immediately institute a government for themselves. But instead of it, their delegates in Congress, by authority from their separate state legislatures, without voice or consultation of the people, instituted a mere confederacy.
6. That this confederacy totally departed from the principles of the Declaration of independence, and substituted instead of the constituent power of the people, an assumed sovereignty of each separate state, as the source of all its authority.
7. That as a primitive source of power, this separate state sovereignty,was not only a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, but directly contrary to, and utterly incompatible with them.
8. That the tree was made known by its fruits. That after five years wasted in its preparation, the confederation dragged out a miserable existence of eight years more, and expired like a candle in the socket, having brought the union itself to the verge of dissolution.
9. That the Constitution of the United States was a return to the principles of the Declaration of independence, and the exclusive constituent power of the people. That it was the work of the ONE PEOPLE of the United States; and that those United States, though doubled in numbers, still constitute as a nation, but ONE PEOPLE.
10. That this Constitution, making due allowance for the imperfections and errors incident to all human affairs, has under all the vicissitudes and changes of war and peace, been administered upon those same principles, during a career of fifty years.
11. That its fruits have been, still making allowance for human imperfection, a more perfect union, established justice, domestic tranquility, provision for the common defence, promotion of the general welfare, and the enjoyment of the blessings of liberty by the constituent people, and their posterity to the present day.
And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide.
When the children of Israel, after forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, were about to enter upon the promised land, their leader, Moses, who was not permitted to cross the Jordan with them, just before his removal from among them, commanded that when the Lord their God should have brought them into the land, they should put the curse upon Mount Ebal, and the blessing upon Mount Gerizim. This injunction was faithfully fulfilled by his successor Joshua. Immediately after they had taken possession of the land, Joshua built an altar to the Lord, of whole stones, upon Mount Ebal. And there he wrote upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written in the presence of the children of Israel: and all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on the two sides of the ark of the covenant, home by the priests and Levites, six tribes over against Mount Gerizim, and six over against Mount Ebal. And he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that was written in the book of the law.
Fellow-citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of independence. Your Mount Ebal, is the confederacy of separate state sovereignties, and your Mount Gerizim is the Constitution of the United States. In that scene of tremendous and awful solemnity, narrated in the Holy Scriptures, there is not a curse pronounced against the people, upon Mount Ebal, not a blessing promised them upon Mount Gerizim, which your posterity may not suffer or enjoy, from your and their adherence to, or departure from, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, practically interwoven in the Constitution of the United States. Lay up these principles, then, in your hearts, and in your souls - bind them for signs upon your hands, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes - teach them to your children, speaking of them when sitting in your houses, when walking by the way, when lying down and when rising up - write them upon the doorplates of your houses, and upon your gates - cling to them as to the issues of life - adhere to them as to the cords of your eternal salvation. So may your children's children at the next return of this day of jubilee, after a full century of experience under your national Constitution, celebrate it again in the full enjoyment of all the blessings recognized by you in the commemoration of this day, and of all the blessings promised to the children of Israel upon Mount Gerizim, as the reward of obedience to the law of God."
Of the other half of Founders most had went to college but for some reason did not graduate.
My point being, all of our Founding documents could have been written and debated in Latin.
I checked Havard University's curriculum to see if there was any comparable program similar to what our Founders took and I found one.
It was the PhD program in Philosophy. The heavy duty stuff where Latin and Greek is still required.
Our Founders were extremely well-educated. Even the ones who had to drop out of college.
Heck! The political class of today can’t even translate English into something that is sane and understandable.
There’a also the story of a young 11-year old JQ Adams, traveling from France to America, on board with the commissioners from Louis XVI. John Adams wrote:
“[The ambassadors} are in rapture with my son. They get him to teach them the language. I found this morning the Ambassador seated on the cushion in our state-room, M.Marbois in his cot, at his left hand, and my son stretched out in his, at his right. The Ambassador reading out loud, in Blackstone's Discourse [on Common Law], and my son correcting the pronunciation of every word and syllable and letter. The Ambassador said he was astonished at my son’s knowledge; M. Marbois said, Your son teaches us more than you; he has point de grace, point d’eloges. He shows us no mercy, and makes us no compliments. We must have Mr. John.”
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