Reading Room: John Quincy Adams Attends Foundry

John Quincy Adams attended Foundry at least three times while he was Congressman from Massachusetts. On one of these occasions it was not his original intention to do so. On July 26, 1840, Adams went first to the Presbyterian Church where Dr. Chapin, President of Columbia College (now George Washington University) was scheduled to preach. Dr. Chapin had not yet appeared as Adams arrived shortly after 11:00. After waiting about five minutes, he "left the church, and went to the Methodist Foundry Chapel."

"Decent, respectable, well-dressed people, men, women, and children, not one of whom I personally knew," Adams recorded in his Diary, filled the pews "as crowded as they could hold... There was not a spare seat" anywhere. He was "politely" given a chair "at the comer of the aisle, at the left hand of the pews fronting the pulpit."

Rev. Thomas C. Thornton was preaching that morning. He started his sermon by saying he had been perplexed about a text upon which to talk. He had at least five hundred sketches he had prepared for sermons, and one hundred and fifty of these he had never preached anywhere. Among all of them he could not find "one which suited him for this day." Recently he had often thought he would announce that, on the next Sabbath, he would give special attention to the young people. With no announcement in advance, he had decided to do it at this particular time.

Thornton subsequently addressed separately and in succession the old and middle-aged, as well as the young. He urged them to seek "the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is near." His "exhortations . . . were equally urgent, appropriate and pathetic." Adams concluded his report of the church service, "Mr. Thornton is not very eloquent; but he drew from me many tears."


This article is provided and used with permission from Papers of Homer Calkin, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.