Diary of John Adams, volume 1

31 28 [i.e. 29] Saturday. JA 28 [i.e. 29] Saturday. Adams, John
28 i.e. 29 Saturday.

Drank Tea at Mr. Putnams.—What is the proper Business of Mankind in this Life? We come into the World naked and destitute of all the Conveniences and necessaries of Life. And if we were not provided for, and nourished by our Parents or others should inevitably perish as soon as born. We increase in strength of Body and mind by slow and insensible Degrees. 1/3 of our Time is consumed in sleep, and 3/4 of the remainder, is spent in procuring a mere animal sustenance. And if we live to the Age of three score and Ten and then set down to make an estimate in our minds of the Happiness we have enjoyed and the Misery we have suffered, We shall find I am apt to think, that the overballance of Happiness is quite inconsiderable. We shall find that we have been through the greatest Part of our Lives pursuing Shadows, and empty but glittering Phantoms rather than substances. We shall find that we have applied our whole Vigour, all our Faculties, in the Pursuit of Honour, or Wealth, or Learning or some other such delusive Trifle, instead of the real and everlasting Excellences of Piety and Virtue. Habits of Contemplating the Deity and his transcendent Excellences, and correspondent Habits of complacency in and Dependence upon him, Habits of Reverence and Gratitude, to God, and Habits of Love and Compassion to our fellow men and Habits of Temperance, Recollection and self Government will afford us a real and substantial Pleasure. We may then exult in a Conciousness of the Favour of God, and the Prospect of everlasting Felicity.

29 [i.e. 30] Sunday. JA 29 [i.e. 30] Sunday. Adams, John
29 i.e. 30 Sunday.

Heard Mr. Maccarty. “You who are sinners, are in continual Danger of being swallowed up quick and born away by the mighty Torrent of Gods wrath and Justice. It is now as it were restrained and banked up by his Goodness. But he will by and by, unless Repentance prevent, let it out in full Fury upon you.” This week I have wrote the 8th Sermon of Bentleys Boilean Lectures. Read part of the 1st Volume of Voltairs Age of Lewis 14th.1—I make poor Weeks Works.


Lengthy extracts from Voltaire’s Age of Louis XIV, first published in 1751, appear in JA’s commonplace book kept in Worcester (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 187).

30 [i.e. 31] Monday. JA 30 [i.e. 31] Monday. Adams, John
30 i.e. 31 Monday.

When we see or feel any Body, we discern nothing but Bulk and Extention. We can change this Extention into a great Variety of Shapes and Figures, and by applying our senses to it can get Ideas of those 32different Figures, But can do nothing more than change the Figure. If we pulverize Glass or Salt, the original constituent matter remains the same, only we have altered the Contexture of its Parts. Large loads and heaps of matter as mountains and Rocks lie obstinate, inactive and motionless, and eternally will remain so unless moved by some Force extrinsick to themselves. Dissolve the Cohesion, and reduce these Mountains to their primogeneal Atoms, these Atoms are as dull and senseless as they were when combined into the Shape of a mountain. In short matter has no Consciousness of its own Existence, has no power of its own, no active Power I mean, but is wholly passive. Nor can Thought be ever produced by any modification of it. To say that God can superadd to matter a Capacity of Thought is palpable nonsense and Contradiction. Such a Capacity is inconsistent with the most essential Properties of matter.