Diary of John Quincy Adams, volume 2



27th. JQA 27th. Adams, John Quincy

Recite in Ferguson this week. Mr. Williams, this forenoon concluded his course of astronomical lectures, by explaining the or-133rery, and the cometarium.1 I have not received from these lectures either the entertainment or the instruction, which I expected from them. Except having acquired a clearer notion of the figures of the different planets by viewing them through the telescope, I believe I have not attained one new idea, by the ten Lectures. However I do not know that more could be said than has been. In Sciences of this kind, little novelty is now to be expected. Few discoveries are probably left to be made, and those will be owing perhaps, rather to chance, than to any extraordinary effort of genius.

This evening, just before prayers about 40 horsemen, arrived here under the command of Judge Prescott2 of Groton, in order to protect the court to-morrow, from the rioters. We hear of nothing, but Shays3 and Shattuck4: two of the most despicable characters in the community, now make themselves of great consequence. There has been in the course of the day fifty different reports flying about, and not a true one among them.


A mechanical device for illustrating the motion of comets in their elliptical orbits.


General Oliver Prescott, the Groton physician, military officer, and justice of the peace who, upon hearing of Shattuck's intention of preventing the court from sitting, rode into Cambridge with a body of forty horsemen and secured the courthouse. Receiving word of the reception prepared for them, the rebels melted away (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 12: 569–573).


Daniel Shays, Revolutionary officer, Pelham farmer, and local officeholder, prominent in the rebellion which bears his name. Shays, by this time the leader of the insurgents in western Massachusetts, had two months earlier established an agreement with the Hampshire co. militia to prevent the Supreme Judicial Court, meeting at Springfield, from hearing cases involving indictments against the insurgents or concerning debts ( DAB ).


Job Shattuck, Revolutionary officer, large Groton landowner, and prominent townsman, who had participated in the Groton riots of 1781, which involved the collection of taxes in specie. On 12 Sept., Shattuck assembled about one hundred men from Groton and nearby towns to prevent the sitting of the court of common pleas in Concord. Successful there, they decided to march to Cambridge, where the court was to meet on 28 Nov. The plan to join up with other rebel forces failed, and Shattuck was later captured, tried in Boston the following May, and sentenced to be hanged. After two temporary reprieves, he was unconditionally pardoned and retired to Groton (Samuel A. Green, “Groton during Shays's Rebellion,” MHS, Procs., 2d ser., 1 [1884–1885]:298–312).