The circumstances of education in 18th and 19th century America

The following letter, which John Quincy wrote at age 10 to his father while he was on state business in England.

Dear Sir,

I love to receive letters very well, much better than I love to write them. I make but a poor figure at composition; my head is much too fickle. My thoughts are running after birds' eggs, play, and trifles, till I get vexed with myself. I have but just entered the third volume of Smollett, though I had designed to have got half through it by this time. I have determined this week to be more diligent, as Mr. Thaxter will be absent at court and I cannot pursue my other studies. I have set myself a stint, and determine to read the third volume half out. If I can but keep my resolution I will write again at the end of the week, and give a better account of myself. I wish, sir, you would give me some instructions with regard to my time, and advise me how to proportion my studies and my play, in writing, and I will keep them by me and endeavor to follow them. I am, dear sir, with a present determination of growing better,

Yours,

John Quincy Adams

P.S. Sir, if you will be so good as to favor me with a blank book, I will transcribe the most remarkable occurrences I meet with in my reading, which will serve to fix them upon my mind.

Credits

Borrowed from "The Works of John Adams, 1854, Vol. IX, p. 532."