Abigail Adams Letter to John Quincy Adams (Summary)
In 1780, Abigail Adams wrote a moving letter regarding her sons refusal of attending the voyage to France alongside his father. Attempting to persuade her son by using her personal advantage of being his mother and appealing to his high success and credibility. Explaining to him through her letter the benefits of traveling she uses her ethical appeal and logical reasoning through historical allusions, Abigail Adams makes a hard persuasive statement.
Adams approaches her son with her advantage of using her ethical appeal of being his mother and how she knows what is best for him. Through that ethical appeal, she introduces a brief structural rhetorical strategy of saying “My Dear Son” which simply shows her major influence of being his mother (line 1). That being the very first statement to begin her letter simply exaggerates not only the influence she has on her son but the close relationship she posses with him, making the advice that she will be giving him will have a greater effect and will be taken into more consideration. Again, applying her ethical appeal of being his mother she also had stated that “[She] cannot fulfill the whole of [her] duty to [John Quincy Adams]” without advising him on the issue of his travels making it clear that as his mother it is her duty to come to conclusion of his decision. (Adams 31) Simply by reinforcing her opinion and duty of advising him, she simply makes it clear that she only wants the best for him which can then directed towards tone. Tone in this letter is very outstretched, her persuasive rhetorical strategies come from not only a sentimental motherly tone but the shifts to a more serious one when addressing his decision and how it’ll affect his future.
Adams not only applies her ethical appeal of being a mother in this letter but her logical reasoning as well. She utilizes her knowledge to appeal to her son’s logic by bringing up the benefit of traveling to france. Her metaphor used in her letter that “compar[es]] a judicial traveller to a river that increases its stream the father it flows from its source, or to certain springs which running through rich veins of minerals improve their qualities as they pass along”, meaning it facilitates not only improvement but growth through experience and success (Lines 16-20). Adams also points out that an individual needs to possess such hard working characteristics to achieve great success and she says that by asking her son, “Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator, if he had not been roused, kindled and inflamed by the Tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres and Mark Anthony,” (Adams 17-18). Through this example, Adams proves that hardships allow a man to reach his full potential. Adams hopes that this example will demonstrate to her son that he must put up with difficulties, like traveling to France, if he wishes to achieve greatness in his life. She attempts to convince John Quincy Adams that, although he does not wish to travel to France, he will have to put up with hardships like these to create his own path in the world. Finally, Abigail Adams also informs her son that “wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the Lessons of retirement and leisure,” (Adams 19-20). Here, Abigail Adams appeals to her son’s logic in order to convince him to participate in the journey to France. Abigail Adams attempts to inform John Quincy Adams of the benefits of the trip to France by pulling rank as his mother, using feelings of duty and expectation, and providing logical reasons to travel in hopes that he will heed her advice and understand the true value of the voyage to France, and thus work hard and fully partake in the advantageous experience.
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