J.Q. ADAMS OFFERS AN INVITATION TO WEST POINT
ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY. (1767-1848). Sixth President of the United States (1825-9). Autograph Letter Signed, “J.Q. Adams”. One page, quarto. Washington, D.C., May 15, 1840. Very fine condition. To “Samuel A. Turner, Esq., Scituate, Mass.” Adams writes:
“Dear Sir, I enclose herewith a letter from the Secretary of War, inviting you to attend as one of the visitors next month at the Military Academy at West Point. Your memorial for an appropriation for the improvement of the North river, is with your marked map before the Committee of Commerce; but they have the Counter Memorials from Marshfield and Hanover, praying for another survey also before them, and by the law of counterbalancing forces, I fear their action will be neutralized and no report made this session. I am, with great respect, dear sir, your obedient servant, J.Q. Adams.”
During the first fifteen years of the United State Military Academy, internal conflicts and inadequate staff plagued the institution. With the appointment of Sylvanus Thayer (Class of 1808) as superintendent in 1817, the Academy’s prospects brightened dramatically. Following the example of famous French artillery and engineering schools, Thayer dramatically revamped the school, combining officer training with a highly technical undergraduate education. Under his watch, West Point quickly became America’s national engineering school, and engineering became the army’s most elite branch of service. More than just an officers’ training school, West Point served as the nation’s major source of civil engineers and engineering educators. In the first half of the 19th century, West Pointers led many of the expeditions westward; they surveyed and mapped the land, identified potentially valuable resources, collected specimens, and established military posts that often became the nucleus of towns and cities. Whether as officers or civilians, West Point graduates built America’s roads, canals, and bridges and laid the groundwork for America’s economic development, intellectual growth, and territorial expansion.
Adams, serving as a Massachusetts’ Representative from 1831 until his death in 1848, was a strong supporter of American expansion and made the funding of large-scale public improvements one of his primary goals. Aware of the importance of establishing a strong national economic base to support the westward march, Adams saw that the proposed improvement of the North River (the construction of a canal from the river to Scituate) would provide a boost to commercial trading in the area. The economic benefits of such a project were not lost on Adams’ constituency. Soon counter-proposals were forwarded to Washington by residents of the nearby towns of Marshfield and Hanover. Adams pressed for the swift passage of the Scituate bill, but, as he feared, it languished in the House. With more and more settlers embarking on the long journey from Independence Missouri on the Oregon Trail, the nation’s attention turned westward. Because of the economic requirements of America’s westward expansion, funding and experienced engineers were stretched thin, and the improvement of settled lands was often tabled in order to prepare the western expanses of America for settlement.