I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
I just read this quotation for the first time. I like how it works in terms of nation building, the first generation fights for national identity, the second builds the economy and infrastructure in that newly independent nation, the third enjoys the stability that has been established and pursues more decorative interests.
The book in which I saw the quotation also put the evolution in the context of immigrants, at least the second two steps. One generation comes to America to get the practical job, to make the money, to fund the children’s education. Freed from the struggle to rise up from humble roots, the next generation can concentrate on passions that are less immediately remunerative.
Then there is the reading in terms of socioeconomic status. The first generation might pursue political means to get rights, especially higher wages. The second generation, funded by those higher wages goes to school to get a white collar job that provides a higher standard of living. Then the third generation takes advantage of the climb from which they benefit. I like that Adams uses the word “right” to describe the third generation’s pursuits, so that they are not merely options or chances, but something more fundamental.
The one negative side to the quotation is that it does make the third generation seem frivolous. To study porcelain after the prior two generations studied more weighty issues strikes the reader as perhaps a waste. Then again the exercuse of this right is also a sign of freedom.