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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 3 of 53, 1751 - 1755

There Child, said he is a dictionary, and there a Gramar, and [there Paper, Pen] and Ink, and you may take your own time. This was joyfull news to me and I then thought my Admission safe. The Latin was soon made, and I was declared Admitted and a Theme given me, to write on in the Vacation. I was as light when I came home as I had been heavy when I went: my Master was well pleased and my Parents very happy. I spent the Vacation not very profitably chiefly in reading Magazines and a British Apollo. I went to Colledge at the End of it and took the Chamber assigned me and my place in the Class under Mr. Mayhew. I found some better Schollars than myself, particularly Lock, Hemmenway and Tisdale. The last left Colledge before the End of the first Year, and what became of him I know not. Hemmenway still lives a great divine, and Lock has been President of Harvard Colledge a Station for which no Man was better qualified. With these I ever lived in friendship, without jealousy or Envy. I soon became intimate with them, and began to feel a desire to equal them in Science and Literature. In the Sciences especially Mathematicks, I soon surpassed them, mainly because, intending to go into the Pulpit, they thought Divinity and the Classicks of more Importance to them. In Litterature I never overtook them.
Here it may be proper to recollect something which makes an Article of great importance in the Life of every Man. I was of an amorous disposition and very early from ten or eleven Years of Age, was very fond of the Society of females. I had my favorites among the young Women and spent many of my Evenings in their Company and this disposition although controlled for seven Years after my Entrance into College returned and engaged me too much till I was married.

[I shall draw] no Characters nor give any enumeration of my youthfull flames. It would be considered as no compliment to the dead or the living: This I will say they were all modest and virtuous Girls and always maintained this Character through Life. No Wife or VirVirgin or Matron ever had cause to blush at the sight of me, or to regret her Acquaintance with me. No Father, Brother, Son or Friend ever had cause of Grief or Resentment for any Intercourse between me and any Daughter, Sister, Mother, or any other Relation of the female Sex. My Children may be assured that no illegitimate Brother or Sister exists or ever existed. These Reflections, to me consolatory beyond all expression, I am able to make with truth and sincerity and I presume I am indebted for this blessing to my Education. My Parents held every Species of Libertinage in such Contempt and horror, and held up constantly to view such pictures of disgrace, of baseness and of Ruin, that my natural temperament was always overawed by my Principles and Sense of decorum. This Blessing has been rendered the more prescious to me, as I have seen enough of the Effects of a different practice. Corroding Reflections through Life are the never failing consequence of illicit amours, in old Countries as well as in new Countries. The Happiness of Life depends more upon Innocence in this respect, than upon all the Philosophy of Epicurus, or of Zeno without it. I could write Romances, or Histories as wonderfull as Romances of what I have known or heard in France, Holland and England, and all would serve to confirm what I learned in my Youth in America, that Happiness is lost forever if Innocence is lost, at least untill a Repentance is undergone [illegible so severe as to be an overballance to all the gratifications of Licentiousness. Repentance itself cannot restore the Happiness of Innocence, at least in this Life.

Continued .
In my own class at Collidge, there were several others, for whom I had a strong affection Wentworth, Brown, Livingston, Sewall and Dalton all of whom have been eminent in Life, excepting Livingston an amiable and ingenious Youth who died within a Year or two of afterhis first degree. In the Class before me I had several Friends,Treadwell the greatest Schollar, of my time, whose  [illegible early death in the Professorship of Mathematicks and natural Phylosophy at New York American Science has still reason to deplore,West the eminent Divine of New Bedford, and Samuel Quincy, the easy, social and benevolent Companion, and not without Genius, Elegance and Taste.
I soon perceived a growing Curiosity, a Love of Books and a fondness for Study, which dissipated all my Inclination for Sports, and even for the Society of the Ladies. I read forever, but without much method, and with very little Choice. I got my Lessons regularly and performed my recitations without Censure. Mathematicks and natural Phylosophy attracted the most of my Attention, which I have since regretted, because I was destined to a Course of Life, in which these Sciences have been of little Use, and the Classicks would have been of great Importance. I owe to this however perhaps some degree of Patience of Investigation, which I might not otherwise have obtained. Another Advantage ought not to be omitted. It is too near my heart. My Smattering of Mathematicks enabled me afterwards at Auteuil in France to go, with my eldest Son, through a Course of Geometry, Algebra and several Branches of the Sciences, with a degree of pleasure that amply rewarded me for all my time and pains.
Between the Years 1751 when I entered, and 1754 [i.e. 1755] when I left Colledge a Controversy was carried on between Mr. Bryant the Minister of our Parish and some of his People, partly on Account of his Principles which were called Arminian and partly on Account of his Conduct, which was too gay and light if not immoral. Ecclesiastical Councils were called and sat at my Fathers House. Parties and their Accrimonies arose in the Church and

[Congregation], and Controversies from the Press between Mr. Bryant, Mr. Niles, Mr. Porter, Mr. Bass, concerning the five Points. I read all these Pamphlets and many other Writings on the same Subject and found myself involved in difficulties beyond my Powers of decision. At the same time, I saw such a Spirit of Dogmatism and Bigotry in Clergy and Laity, that if I should be a Priest I must take my side, and pronounce as positively as any of them, or never get a Parish, or getting it must soon leave it. Very strong doubts arose in my mind, whether I was made for a Pulpit in such times, and I began to think of other Professions. I perceived very clearly, as I thought, that by the Study of Theology and the pursuit of it as a Profession would involve me in endless Altercations and make my Life miserable, without any prospect of doing any good to my fellow Men.
The two last years of my Residence at Colledge, produced a Clubb of Students, I never knew the History of the first rise of it, who invited me to become one of them. Their plan was to spend their Evenings together, in reading any new publications, or any Poetry or Dramatic Compositions, that might fall in their Way. I was as often requested to read as any other, especially Tragedies, and it was whispered to me and circulated among others that I had some faculty for public Speaking and that I should make a better Lawyer than Divine. This last Idea was easily understood and embraced by me. My Inclination was soon fixed upon the Law: But my judgment was not so easily determined. There were many difficulties in the Way. Although my Fathers general Expectation was that I should be a Divine, I knew him to be a Man of so thoughtful and considerate a turn of mind, to be possessed of so much Candor and moderation, that it would not be difficult to remove any objections he might make to my pursuit of Physick or Law or any other reasonable Course. My Motheralthough a pious Woman I knew had no partiality for the Life of a Clergyman. But I had Uncles and other relations, full of the most illiberal Prejudices against the Law. I had indeed a proper Affection and veneration for them, but as I was under no Obligation of Gratitude to them, which could give them any colour of Authority to prescribe a course of Life to me, I thought little of their Opinions. Other Obstacles more serious than these presented themselves. A Lawyer must have a Fee, for taking me into his Office. I must be

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 3 of 53 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.
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