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Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive

John Adams diary 31, 7 January - 5 February, 27 July - 6 August 1780

I have not seen a Chimney in Spain, except one of the french Consul at Corunna. One or two half Imitations of Chimneys in the Kitchens are all that I have seen. The Weather is very cold, the frosts hard, and no fire when We stop, but a few Coals or a flash of Brush in the Kitchen, full of Smoke and dirt, and covered with a dozen Pots and Kettles, and surrounded by 20 People looking like Chimney Sweepers.

No 31.
[The preceding text was added in the handwriting of Charles Francis Adams]

No 31.
[The preceding text was added in the handwriting of Charles Francis Adams]

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Rode from San Juan Segun, to Paredese de Nava. We have passed thro a Village every League. The Villages are all built of Mud and Straw. They have no Timber nor Wood nor Stone. The Villages all appear going to decay. Every Village has Churches and Convents enough in it, to ruin it, and the whole Country round about it, even if they had nothing to pay to the King or the Landlord. But all three together, Church, State and Nobility, exhaust the People to such a degree, I have no Idea of the Possibility of deaper Wretchedness. There are in this little Village, four Parish Churches and two Convents one of Monks and one of Nuns, both of the order of St. Francis.
The Parish Churches, and their Curates are supported here by the Tythes paid by the People. They pay every tenth Pound of Wool, every Tenth Part of

Wine, Grain, Honey, in short of every Thing. The good Curates sometimes alieviate the Severity of this by Compositions or Modus's.
The Archbishop has Power to do every Thing for the good of the People, that is to make new Parishes or alter old ones at his Pleasure. There are but four Archbishops in Spain. The Archbishop of Saint Iago, has one hundred and Eighty thousand Ducats of Rent a Year.
This War is popular in Spain, the Clergy, the Religious Houses and other Communities have offered to grant large Sums to the King for the Support of it. The English had become terrible to them.
From Astorga to this Place, the face of the Country is altered. It is a plain. But there is little Appearance of Improvement, Industry, or Cultivation. No Trees, of any Kind scarcely. No forrest or Timber or fruit trees. Scarcely any fences except a few mud Walls for Sheep folds.

Arrived at Burgos. We came from Sellada el Camino, 4 Leagues. We had Fog, and Rain and Snow, all the Way, very chilly, and raw. When We arrived at the Tavern, (which is the best in the City, as I am informed, and my Servant went to examine the others.) We found no Chimney. A Pan of Coals in a Chamber without a Chimney was all the Heat We could get. We went to view the Cathedral, which is ancient and very large. The whole Building is supported upon four grant Pillars, the largest I ever saw. Round the great Altar are represented our Saviour from the Scene of his Agony, on the Mount, when an Angel presents him the Cup, to his Crucifixion, bet. 2 thieves, his Descent from the Cross and his Ascention into Heaven. The Chapells round the great Altar are the largest I have seen.
Round the Altar, the several Stages are represented. 1. The Agony in the Garden. 2. Carrying the Cross. 3d. Crucifixion between 2 Thieves. 3. Descent. 4. Ascention.

There is no Archbishop, at Burgos. There was one, which made five, but the K. abolished it, and now there are but 4, in the whole Kingdom. There is a Chapell of Saint Iago.
Went into three Booksellers Shops, to search for a Chart or Map of Spain, but could find none, except a very small and erroneous one in a Compendio of History of Spain.
It is five and Twenty Years that I have been, almost constantly, journeying and voyaging, and I have often undergone severe Tryals, great Hardships, cold, wet, heat, fatigue, bad rest, want of sleep, bad nourishment, &c. &c. &c. But I never experienced any Thing like this journey. -- Every Individual Person in Company has a great Cold. We go along barking, and sneezing and coughing, as if We were fitter for an Hospital than for Travellers, on the Road.
My Servant and all the other Servants in Company, behave worse than ever they do I knew servants behave. They are dull, inactive, unskillfull. The Children are sick, and in short my Patience was never so near being exhausted as at Present.

Mr. Thaxter is as shiftless as a Child. He understands no Language, neither French nor Spanish, and he dont seem to think himself obliged to do any Thing, but get along, and write his journal. -- In short, I am in a deplorable situation, indeed. -- I know not what to do. -- I know not where to go.
From this Place We go to Monasterio, which is four Leagues, from thence to Berebiesca [Briviesca], which is four more, from thence to Santa Maria del Courbo, which is two more, from thence to Courbo, which is one, thence to Pancourbo which is two, where the Road parts, to Vitoria and to Bilbao.
Monasterio 4
Berebiesca 4
S.M. del Courbo 2
Courbo 1
Pancourbo 2
13. Leagues to the Parting of the Roads.

I have taken a Walk about the Town a little. A River runs directly through the Town, and there are several Bridges over it. There is a great Number of Monasteries in it. There is an old ruined Castle on a Hill. But I have not had time to see much. There is a little Appearance of Business, here. Some Trades.
Upon my Inquiry after the Religious Houses in Burgos, our Guide went out and procured me the following Information.
Combentos de Fraires
Franciscos 1.
La Trinidad 1.
Benitos 1.
Augustinos 2
Dominicos 1.
Mercenarios 1.
Carmelitos 1
Parroquias 15
Cathedral y St. Iago de la Capilla 2
St. Nicolas 1
Sn. Roman 1
La Blanca 1
Bejarua 1
Sn. Martin 1
Sn. Pedro 1
Sn. Cosmes 1
Sn. Lesmes 1
Sn. Esteban 1
Sn. Gil 1

Combentos de Monjas
Sta. Dorotea Agustinas 1
Sta. Franciscas 2
Carmelitas 1
Agustinas 1
Trinitarias 1
Bernardas 2
Benitas 1
Calatrabas 1
Sn. il de fonso 1
De Monjas 10
Frailes 8
Parroquias 15
We passed through several Villages, this day and rode along a River, and arrived at Bribiesca. The Country a little more hilly than for some time past. But it has a naked and poor Appearance.

Arrived at Bribiesca, where there [are] two Convents, one of Men, the other of Women, both Franciscans, and two Parish Churches.
The Tavern We are in is a large House and there are twelve good Beds in it, for Lodgers. Yet no Chimneys, and the same Indelicacy as in all the others. -- Smoke and dirt, yet they give us clean Sheets.
A Spanish Kitchen is one of the greatest Curiosities in the World, and they are all very much alike.

Rode from Bribiesca to Pancourbo where we dined. We passed thro Courbo, which is a little Village with half a dozen other small Villages in Sight. In every one of them is a Church. Pancourbo is at the Beginning of the Rocks. There is the Appearance of an ancient Carriage Way, up the steepest Part of the Rocks. We passed between two Rows of Mountains consisting wholly of Rocks, the most lofty, and craggy Precipices that I ever saw. These rocky Mountains made the Boundary between the ancient Castile and Biscay. Pancourbo is the last Village in old Castile. At Puente de la Rada, We were stopped by a No. of Officers, and asked if We had a Passeport. I produced my Passport of the Governor of Galicia, they read it, with much Respect and let Us Pass. We came 4 good Leagues this afternoon, and are now at Ezpexo.

We are now at the best public House that I have seen. Yet the Kitchen is a Spanish Kitchen, like all the others, and there is no Chimney in the House.
There is not a Tavern We have been in, but is filled with religious Prints and Images. The Chamber where I now write has two Beds, at the Head of each is a Delph Vessell, for holy Water Agua Santa, or Agua benita. At the Head of each also is a neat Cross about 9 Inches long, with an Image of J.C. in some Metal, Tin, Belmetal, [or] Pewter, upon it. Upon the Wall is a Picture of Vierge de Montcarmel, or Virgo Maria de Monte Carmelo -- a great Number of others that I have not Patience to transcribe.

From Ezpexo where We now are, We go to Ordu a, which is 4 Leagues, and to Bilbao, which is six.
Rode from Ezpex Ezpexo to Ordu a, four Leagues. The Road is made all the Way, at a great Expence, but the Descent of the Mountains of Orduna is a great Curiosity. These Mountains are chiefly Rocks, of a vast hight: But a Road has been blown out of the Rocks, from the Hight of the Mountains, quite down into the Valey. After winding round and round a great Way, and observing the Marks of the Drills remaining in the Rocks, the Road at last came to a Steep where the only Method of making a Road for a Carriage up and down is by Serpentining it thus.

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There is a fertile Valley, and well cultivated at the feet of these Mountains, in the Center of which is the Village of Ordu a. In this narrow Space they have crowded two Convents, one of Frailes the other of Monjas. I saw the lazy Drones of Franciscans at the Windows of their Cells, as We passed. At the Bottom of the Mountains We had a small Toll to pay, for the Support of the Road. The Administrator sent to search our Trunks, but We sent him our Passport which produced a polite Message by his Clerk, that he had seen my Name in the Gazette, that he was very glad I was arrived, wished me Success and Prosperity, and desired to know if I wanted any Thing, or if he could be any Way usefull to me. I returned the Message that I was obliged &c. but wanted nothing.
In the Afternoon, We followed the Road, which pursues the Course of a little River, which originates in the Mountains of Ordu a, and rode

down between two Rows of Mountains to Lugiando where We put up for the night, four Leagues from Bilbao. It is as dirty and uncomfortable a House as almost any We have seen.
We have met, to day and Yesterday, great Numbers of Mules loaded with Merchandizes from Bilbao. The Mules and their Drivers look very well, in comparison of those We have seen before. Their Burdens are Salted Fish, Sardines, Cod, and a Sort of Fish that We see here very plenty called Besugo. They carry also Horse shoes, ready made in Bilboa, to sell in various Parts of the Kingdom.
The Mountains of Biscay, of Bilboa, of Orduna, and Pancourbo, for by these Names they are called, are the most remarkable that I have seen. Phillip 5. made the first Carriage Road through those of Pancourbo. The present King has done most to those of Ordu a.

It was a vexatious Thing to see the beautifull Valley of Orduna, devoured by so many Hives of Drones. It is a beautifull, a fertile and a well cultivated Spot, almost the only one, We have yet seen in Biscay, capable of Cultivation.
Followed the Road by the Side of the River, between two Rows of Mountains, untill We opened upon Bilboa. We saw the Sugar Loaf some time before. This is a Mountain, in the shape of a Piramid, which is called the Sugar Loaf. The Town is surrounded with Mountains. -- The Tavern where We are is tolerable, situated between a Church and a Monastry. We have been entertained with the Musick of the Convent since our Arrival.
Soon after our Arrival Captain Babson and Capt. Lovat made Us a Visit. Lovat is bound for America, the first Wind, and Babson very soon, both in Letters of Mark.

Took a Walk, down the River, which is pleasant enough.
While We were absent our Walk, Mr. Gardoqui and Son came to visit me.
Reposed and wrote.
Dined, with the two Messrs. Gardoquis and a Nephew of theirs. After Dinner the Gentlemen accompanied Us, to the Parish Church over the Way, then to the old Parish Church of St. Iago, which was certainly standing in the Year 1300. The high Altar appears very ancient, wrought in Wooden figures, the Work very neat. The Choir, and the Sacristie &c. as in all others. -- We then went to the Chambers of the Board of Trade.
This is a curious Institution. On a certain Day annually in the Beginning of January all the Merchants of Bilbao meet

write their Names on a Ball or Ballot which is put into a Box, from whence four are drawn by Lott. These four name a certain Number of Councillors or Senators. -- But this must be further enquired.
This Board of Trade, first endeavours to make all disputing Merchants agree. If they cant succeed, Application must be made to the Board by Petition in Writing. It is then heard and determined, subject to an Appeal, somewhere. -- There is no Consul here from France, England, or Holland -- Nor any other Nation. The Board of Trade oppose it. -- The Chamber is hung round with Pictures of the present King and Queen, the late King and Queen, &c., with Pictures of the royal Exchange London, the Exchange of Amsterdam, of Atwerp &c.

Captains Babson, Lovatt and Wickes dined with Us. I spoke to Mr. Gardoqui in behalf of fifteen American Prisoners escaped from Portugal, and he consented to furnish them Cloaths to the Amount of six dollars a Man. I told him I had no Authority, and that I could not assure him Repayment, but I believed Congress would do all in their Power to repay him.
There is an Accademy at Bergara, for the Youth of Biscay, Guipuscoa, and Alava.
Yesterday, a Mr. Maroni an Irish Gentleman came to visit me.
The Lands in Biscay are chiefly in the Hands of the People -- few Lordships. The Duke of Berwick and the Duke of Medina C li have some Estates here, but not considerable. In the Spring Freshes, the Water is deep enough upon Change and in the Streets for Vessells of 100 Tons to float.

Spent the Day in Walking about the Town. Walked round the Wharf upon the River, through the Market. Saw a plentiful Markett of Fruit and Vegetables, Cabages, Turnips, Carrots, Beets, Onions &c. Apples, Pairs &c. Raisens, Figs, nuts &c. -- Went as far as the Gate, where We entered the Town -- then turned up the Mountain by the Stone Stairs, and saw fine Gardens, Verdure and Vegetation. Returned, and viewed a Booksellers Stall. Then walked in succession thro every Street in the Town. Afterwards met Messrs. Gardoquis who went with Us to shew Us a No. of Shops. Glass Shops, China Shops, Trinket Shops, Toy Shops and Cutlary Shops. I did not find any Thing very great. There are several Stores and Shops, however, pretty large and pretty full.

Went down the River, on a Visit to the Rambler a Letter of Mark, of 18 Guns, belonging to Mr. Andrew Cabot of Beverly, Captain Lovatt Commander, and the Phoenix a Brig of 14 Guns belonging to Messrs. Traceys at N. Port, Captain Babson Comr.
We were honoured, with two Salutes of 13 Guns each, by Babson and with one by Lovat. We dined at the Tavern on shore and had an agreable day. Went to see a new Packett of the Kings on the Stocks, and his new Rope walks, which are two hundred and ten fathoms long.

On the 20th We left Bilbao, arrived at Bayonne the 23d Staid one day, there. Sat off for BayonneBourdeaux the 25th. Arrived at Bourdeaux Saturday 29th. Dined Yesterday at the Hotel D'Angleterre at the Invitation of Mr. Bondfield with Sir Robert Finlay and Mr. Le Texier and Mr. Vernon.
Went to the Comedy, saw Amphitrion and Cartouche. Mr. A. L. [Arthur Lee] at Paris. Mr. I [Izard] at Amsterdam. Mr. W. L [William Lee] at Brussells.
Dined Yesterday, at the Hotel D'Angleterre, with Mr. Maccartey, Mr. Delap, Mr. Vernon, Mr. Bondfield, and my Company, at the Invitation of Sir Robert Finlay. Towards Evening Mr. Cabarras came in with the News of [a] Blow struck by Rodney upon the Spaniards, off Gibraltar.

On Wednesday, the second of Feb. We took Post for Paris, and on Fryday the 4 arrived at Cou, where We lodged, but in the night it rained and froze at the same time untill the Roads were a glare [of] Ice, so that the Postillions informed Us, it was impossible for their Horses which in this Country are never frosted to go.
We passed by Angouleme Yesterday Morning and encircled almost the whole Town. It stands upon an high Hill and is walled all round -- a fine, Airy, healthy Situation with several Streams of Water below it and fine Interval Lands. The River Charente runs by it. The Lands are chiefly cultivated with Wines from Bordeaux to this Place, which afford but a poor Prospect in the Winter. In some Places Wheat is sown and Vines planted alternately in Ridges.
Great Numbers of the Vineyards are in a Soil that has the greatest Appearance of Poverty

It is a red Loom, intermixed with so many Pebbles or small Stones of a reddish Colour, that it looks like an heap of Stones, or a dry gravell. One would think there was not Earth enough for the Vines to take root.
Other Vineyards are in a black Sand intermixed with a few small stones. Others in fine, black, fat, mellow mould.
The numerous Groves, Parks and Forrests in this Country form a striking Contrast with Spain where the whole Country looks like a Mans face that is newly shaved, Every Tree, bush and shrub being pared away.

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Setting off on a journey, with my two Sons to Amsterdam. -- Lodged at Compiegne. Fryday night, lodged at Valenciennes. Saturday arrived at Brussells. -- his Road is through the finest Country, I have any where seen. The Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Peas, Beans and several other Grains, the Hemp, Flax, Grass, Clover, Lucerne, St. Foin, &c., the Pavements and Roads are good. The Rows of Trees, on each side the Road, and around many Squares of Land. -- The Vines, the Cattle, the Sheep, in short every Thing upon this Road is beautiful and plentiful. Such immense fields and heavy Crops of Wheat I never saw any where. The Soil is stronger and richer, than in other Parts.
I lodged in Brussells at L'hotel de L'Imperatrice. The Cathedral Church, the Park, the Ramparts and Canals of this Town, are very well worth seeing.

Went to the Cathedral Church. A great Feast. An infinite [Crowd]. The Church more splendidly ornamented than any that I had seen. Hung with Tapestrie. The Church Music here is in the Italian style.
A Picture in Tapestry was hung up, of a No. of Jews stabbing the Wafer, the bon Dieu, and blood gushing in streams, from the [Bread?].
This insufferable Piece of pious Villany, shocked me beyond measure. -- But thousands were before it, on their Knees adoring. I could not help cursing the Knavery of the Priesthood and the brutal Ignorance of the People, -- yet perhaps, I was rash and unreasonable, and that it is as much Virtue and Wisdom in them to adore, as in me to detest and despise. -- Spent the Afternoon, and drank Tea, with Mr. W. Lee, Mr. Jennings, and his Nephew, Mrs. Izard, her two Daughters and Son, and Miss [Steed,] Mrs. Lee and her Children &c. An agreable Circle of Americans.
In the Evening Mr. Lee, Mr. Jennings and his Nephew, My two Sons, &c. took a Walk to see the Canals

Vessells of some Burthen come up here, in the Canal which reaches to the Sea. We afterwards walked upon the Ramparts.
In this Town is a great Plenty of stone, which I think is the same with our Braintree North Common stone. It is equally hard, equally fine grain -- capable of a fine Polish. I think the Colour is a little darker, than the Braintree stone. There is a new Building here, before which is the Statue of the late Prince Charles, in Front of which are six Pillars, wholly of this stone. Indeed the Steps, and the whole Front is of the same stone.
This Town is the Capital of Brabant, in the Austrian Netherlands. The late Prince Charles was a Brother of the Empress Queen, L'Imperatrice Reine, Unkle of the Emperor and the Queen of France. He was extreamly beloved, by the People, and has left an excellent Character. The Emperor did not like him, it is said. In the late War, the Emperor called upon this Prince for Money. The Prince wrote to dissuade him from it. The Emperor sent again. The Prince wrote back, that he saw

They were determined, and they must appoint another Governor of this Province, for he could not execute their orders. Upon this the Imperial Court desisted.
We lodged one night at Antwerp, viewed the Cathedral and the Exchange &c. and went by Moerdyck to Rotterdam, where We arrived, the 4th. August.
Lodged at the Mareschall De Turenne. Dined with Mr. Dubblemets. Went to see the Statue of Erasmus, the Exchange, the Churches &c. Mr. Dubblemets sent his Coach in the Evening and one of his Clerks. We rode, round the Environs of the Town, then to his Country Seat, where We supped. -- The Meadows are very fine, the Horses and Cattle large. The Intermixture of Houses, Trees, Ships, and Canals throughout this Town is very striking. The Neatness here is remarkable.

Went to the English Presbyterian Church, and heard a sensible sermon, the mode of Worship differs in nothing from ours but in the organ, whose Musick joins in the Singing.

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Mr. John de Neufville, et Fils.
Le Chr. de Luxembourg.
Le Chr. de Launay.
Cs. Van der Oudermeulen
M. Grand.
M. Fizeaux.
G. H. Matthes.
Henry du Bois.
Mr. Jean Luzac, Avocat, Leide.
Nicholas and Jacob Van Staphorst.
Mr. Vinman.
Mr. John Gabriel Tegelaer, by the new Market.
Mr. Daniel Crommelin and Sons.

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Cite web page as: John Adams diary 31, 7 January - 5 February, 27 July - 6 August 1780 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams diary 31, 7 January - 5 February, 27 July - 6 August 1780. Folded sheets without cover (72 pages). Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.