Josiah Quincy Junior and His Commonplace Book


In memory of Eliza Susan Quincy (1798–1884) who told the story first


I stumbled upon Josiah Quincy Junior’s Political Commonplace book while working on something else at the Massachusetts Historical Society library in the summer of 1991. Society Director Louis L. Tucker encouraged me to “go to it” when I expressed an interest in editing the commonplace book for publication. Conrad E. Wright, the Society’s Editor of Publications, also encouraged me to press on and offered excellent suggestions once I started putting ideas on paper. Virginia H. Smith was very helpful during my first visits to the MHS library. On a more recent trip there Nicholas Graham proved—as if proof were needed—that no catalog, whether on card or online, can replace a skilled reference librarian.

I found most of the commonplace book sources—in the same editions that Quincy perused—at the British Library, and am grateful for the Brigham Young University History Department funding that made my trip to London possible. I was able to read some other commonplace book sources because of trusting lenders at libraries on both coasts (most notably at Stanford and Princeton) and at a half-dozen others in between. Librarians at Yale and the Henry E. Huntington Library were good enough to copy and send portions of two books that I would not have been able to see otherwise, and the New York Public Library kindly sent me a photocopy of a Samuel Adams letter.

I owe much to Richard D. Brown of the University of Connecticut, who read what follows and suggested that I approach the Colonial Society of Massachusetts about publishing it. John Tyler, Editor of Publications for the Society, took the project in hand and shared both his expertise and his enthusiasm. Jane Ward proved to be the copy editor par excellence, catching my transcription errors in both the commonplace book and Quincy’s London journal. H. Hobart Holly of the Quincy Historical Society assisted me when I visited Quincy and added considerably to what I already knew about the Quincy family. Friend and colleague Paul Kerry offered much appreciated insights as I neared the end. The Stinehour Press turned my cluttered manuscript into an elegant book. Though Dan Coquillette and I live some two thousand miles apart, our mutual admiration for Quincy brought us together. At the same time that I worked largely alone on this volume, Dan and a team of devoted research assistants undertook the far more arduous task of preparing a new edition of Quincy’s Law Commonplace, Southern Journal and Law Reports. Jonathan Fairbanks kindly arranged for me to see Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Quincy, which, sadly, is stored in the basement of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, away from public view. My wife, Carole Mikita York, was a wonderful partner throughout this enterprise, her conviction reinforcing mine that Josiah Quincy Junior has something to tell us all.