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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 7 of 53, 1758 - 1761

Countenance at the Bar, he said Mr. Putnam had mentioned me to him, and asked whether I had seen Mr. Gridley and Mr. Pratt. There were so many Lawyers in Boston he said that it was not worth my while to call upon more than three or four of them. I listened too willingly to this opinion: for I afterwards found there were several others well entitled to this respect from me: and some little offence was taken. Mr. Pratt was made Chief Justice of New York a few years after this: but with him, Mr. Gridley, Mr. Otis and Mr. Thatcher, I lived in entire Friendship till their deaths.
When the last Fryday of October arrived, I was in Boston very early and at Court before it was opened. Mr. Pratt presented my Friend Mr. Samuel Quincy and Mr. Gridley presented me. Some Gentleman asked, whether any one knew enough of me to satisfy the Court. Mr. Gridley said he had known me some Years, but that he had lately spent half a day in examining me, and he could say that I had made a very considerable nay "I must say to your honours" a great Proficiency in the Principles of the Law. This was a higher Character than I expected from so great a Man as Mr. Gridley: but I heard it with no small Comfort, as I had been very dubious, whether his examination of me, had not lessened me in his Esteem. Mr. Pratt,Mr. Otis and Mr. Thatcher said I had served a regular Clerkship with Mr. Putnam at Worcester, who had recommended me to them. The Court ordered the Oath to be administered to Mr. Quincy and Mr. Adams, which was done accordingly, and at night I returned to Braintree in good Spirits.
At this Time October 1758 the Study of the Law was a dreary Ramble, in comparison of what it is at this day. The Name of Blackstone had not been heard, whose Commentaries together with Sullivans Lectures and Reeves's History of the Law, have smoothed the

the path of the Student, while the long Career of Lord Mansfield, his many investigations and Decisions, the great Number [of] modern Reporters in his time and a great Number of Writers on particular Branches of the Science have greatly facilitated the Acquisition of it. I know not whether a sett of the Statutes at large was or of the State Tryals was in the Country. I was desirous of seeking the Law as well as I could in its fountains and I obtained as much Knowledge as I could of Bracton, Britton, Fleta and Glanville, but I suffered very much for Want of Books, which determined me to furnish myself, at any Sacrifice, with a proper Library: and Accordingly by degrees I procured the best [illegible Library of Law in the State.
Looking about me in the Country, I found the practice of Law was grasped into the hands of Deputy Sheriffs, Pettyfoggers and even Constables, who filled all the Writts upon Bonds, promissory notes and Accounts, received the Fees established for Lawyers and stirred up many unnecessary Suits. I mentioned these Things to some of the Gentlemen in Boston, who disapproved and even resented them very highly. I asked them whether some measures might not be agreed upon at the Bar and sanctioned by the Court, which might remedy the Evil? They thought it not only practicable but highly expedient and proposed Meetings of the Bar to deliberate upon it. A Meeting was called and a great Number of regulations proposed not only for confining the practice of Law to those who were educated to it and sworn to fidelity in it, but to introduce more regularity, Urbanity, Candour and Politeness as well as honor, Equity and Humanity, among the regular Professors. Many of these Meetings were the most delightfull Entertainments, I ever enjoyed. The Spirit that reigned was that of Solid Sense, Generosity, Honor and Integrity: and the Consequences were most happy, for the Courts and the Bar instead of Scenes of Wrangling, Chicanery, Quibbling and ill manners, were soon converted to order, Decency, Truth and Candor. Mr. Pratt was so delighted

with these Meetings and their Effects, that when We all waited on him to Dedham in his Way to New York to take his Seat as Chief justice of that State, when We took leave of him after Dinner, the last Words he said to Us, were,"Brethren above all things forsake not the Assembling of yourselves together."
The next Year after I was sworn, was the memorable Year 1759 when the Conquest of Canada was compleated by the surrender of Montreal to General Amherst. This Event, which was so joyfull to Us and so important to England if she had seen her true Interest, inspired her with a jealousy, which ultimately lost her thirteen Colonies and made many of Us at the time regret that Canada had ever been conquered. The King sent Instructionsto his Custom house officers to carry the Acts of Trade and Navigation into strict Execution. An inferiour Officer of the Customs in Salem whose Name was Cockle petitioned the justices of the Superiour Court, at their Session in November for the County of Essex, to grant him Writs of Assistants, according to some provisions in one of the Acts of Trade, which had not been executed, to authorize him to break open Ships, Shops, Cellars, Houses &c. to search for prohibited, and Goods, and merchandizes on which Duties had not been paid. Some Objection was made to this Motion, and Mr. Stephen Sewall, who was then Chief Justice of that Court, and a zealous Friend of Liberty, expressed some doubts of the Legality and Constitutionality of the Writ, and of the Power of the Court to grant it. The Court ordered the question to be argued at Boston, in February term 1761. In the mean time Mr. Sewall died and Mr. Hutchinson then Lt. Governor, a Councillor, and Judge of Probate for the County of Suffolk &c. was appointed in his Stead, Chief Justice. The first Vacancy on that Bench, had been promised, in two former Administrations, to Colonel James Otis of Barnstable. This Event produced a Dissention between Hutchinson and Otis which had Consequences of great moment. In February Mr. James OtisJunr. a Lawyer of Boston, and a Son of Colonel Otis of Barnstable, appeared at the

request of the Merchants in Boston, in Opposition to the Writ. This Gentlemans reputation as a Schollar, a Lawyer, a Reasoner, and a Man of Spirit was then very high. Mr. Putnam while I was with him had often said to me, that Otis was by far the most able, manly and commanding Character of his Age at the Bar, and this appeared to me in Boston to be the universal opinion of judges, Lawyers and the public. Mr. Oxenbridge Thatcher whose amiable manners and pure principles, united to a very easy and musical Eloquence, made him very popular, was united with Otis, and Mr. Gridley alone appeared for Cockle the Petitioner, in Support of his Writ. The Argument continued several days in the Council Chamber, and the question was analized with great Acuteness and all the learning, which could be connected with the Subject. I took a few minutes, in a very careless manner, which by some means fell into the hands of Mr. Minot, who has inserted them in his history. I was much more attentive to the Information and the Eloquence of the Speakers, than to my minutes, and too much allarmed at the prospect that was opened before me, to care much about writing a report of the Controversy. The Views of the English Government towards the Collonies and the Views of the Collonies towards the English Government, from the first of our History to that time, appeared to me to have been directly in Opposition to each other, and were now by the imprudence of Administration, brought todash a Collision. England proud of its power and holding Us in Contempt would never give up its pretentions. The Americans devoutly attached to their Liberties, would never submit, at least without an entire devastation of the Country and a general destruction of their Lives. A Contest appeared to me to be opened, to which I could foresee no End, and which would render my Life a Burden and Property, Industry and every Thing insecure. There was no Alternative left, but to take the Side, which appeared to be just, to march intrepidly forward in the right path, to trust in providence for the Protection of Truth and right, and to die with a good Conscience and a decent grace, if that Tryal should become indispensible.

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 7 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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