Diary of John Adams, volume 2

May 9. 1771. JA May 9. 1771. Adams, John
May 9. 1771.

From Saturday to Wednesday Morning I staid at Braintree, and rode, walked, rambled and roamed. Enjoyed a Serenity and Satisfaction to which I have been 3 Years a Stranger.

Yet I have had upon my Mind, a puzzling perplexing affair. The Purchase of Elijah Belchers Homestead and two Pastures, has occasioned a Journey to Germantown, where I had not been for three Years, and which Mr. Palmer has made a little Paradise, to treat with Mrs. Palmer about Terms and Conditions, and many Walks about the Land, to see the Condition of the Fences &c. The Fences are in a ruinous Condition and require a large Expence for Repairs.

Wednesday, after Court I waited on Dr. Gardiner, Secretary Fluker Flucker, Mr. Josa. Quincy Jur. and John Erving Jur. Esqr., and was very politely treated by each of those Gentlemen, each of them very readily agreeing, to take my single Note for the Money, and two of em Fluker and Quincy giving me Assignments of their Mortgages, in Exchange for my Note. A droll Adventure with Mr. Erving. He took my Note and gave me up Elijah Belchers for upwards of £56 Principle 13and Interest and seemed mightily pleased. In the Evening, upon seeing Mr. Greenleaf, I discovered that Deacon Palmer had never any Thing to do with this Debt, and that it was not in the List which I was to discharge. So that I had given my Note, without Authority, and to my own Prejudice. But, waiting the next Morning on Mr. Erving, and explaining the Facts to him, he very genteelly gave up my Note and took back that of Belcher.

This Day arrived Hall from London with News of the Committment of the Mayor and Mr. Alderman Oliver to the Tower, by the House of Commons. I read this Morning in the English Papers and the Political Register for April, all the Proceedings against the Printers Thompson and Wheble, and vs. the Mayor and Alderman Wilks, and Oliver. What the Consequence will be, of these Movements, it is not easy to foresee or Conjecture. A Struggle, a Battle, so serious and determined, between two such Bodies as the House and the City, must produce Confusion and Carnage, without the most delicate Management, on both sides, or the most uncommon Concurrence of Accidents.

Tuesday. May. 14. 1771. JA Tuesday. May. 14. 1771. Adams, John
Tuesday. May. 14. 1771.

Yesterday came to Town with my Wife. A fine Rain all night. Captn. Bradford sent his Compliments, and desired me to meet the Clubb at his House this Evening which I did—Dr. Cooper, Mr. Lathrop, Otis, Adams, Dr. Greenleaf, Wm. Greenleaf, Dr. Warren, Thom. Brattle, Wm. Cooper, C. Bradford. A very pleasant Evening. Otis gave us an Account of a present from Dr. Cummings of Concord to Harvard Colledge Chappell of a brass Branch of Candlesticks, such as I. Royal Esqr. gave to the Representatives Room, and that it was sent to N. Hurds to have an Inscription engraven on it. The Inscription is

In Sacelli hujusce ornatum et splendorem phosphoron hoc Munus, benigne contulit Cummings Armiger, Medicus concordiensis.1

Danforth. The Inscription was much faulted, by the Witts at Clubb—and as it was to be a durable Thing for the Criticisms of Strangers and of Posterity, it was thought that it ought to be altered.

Dr. Cooper mentioned an old Proverb that an Ounce of Mother Wit, is worth a Pound of Clergy. Mr. Otis mentioned another which he said conveyed the same Sentiment—an Ounce of Prudence is worth a Pound of Wit. This produced a Dispute, and the sense of the Company was that the Word Wit in the 2d. Proverb, meant, the faculty of 14suddenly raising pleasant Pictures in the Fancy, but that the Phrase Mother Wit in the first Proverb meant, natural Parts, and Clergy acquired Learning—Book Learning. Dr. Cooper quoted another Proverb, from his Negro Glasgow—a Mouse can build an House without Timble2— and then told us another Instance of Glasgows Intellect, of which I had before thought him entirely destitute. The Dr. was speaking to Glasgow about Adams Fall and the Introduction of natural and moral Evil into the World, and Glasgow said they had in his Country a different Account of this matter. The Tradition was that a Dog and a Toad were to run a Race, and if the Dog reached the Goal first, the World was to continue innocent and happy, but if the Toad should outstrip the Dog, the world was to become sinfull and miserable. Every Body thought there could be no danger. But in the Midst of the Career the Dog found a bone by the Way and stopped to knaw it, and while he was interrupted by his Bone, the Toad, constant in his Malevolence, hopped on, reached the Mark, and spoiled the World.


John Cuming of Concord, Mass., was voted an honorary A.M. by Harvard in 1771; the present gift (lost in a fire in the 19th century) was only one of his benefactions to Harvard (Quincy, History of Harvard Univ. , 2:422–423; note by CFA in JA, Works , 2:262). The inscription as recorded by JA might be translated “For the adornment and splendor of this Chapel, the Honorable Cummings, a physician of Concord, has presented this gift, a bearer of light.”


Thus in MS. CFA silently corrects to “trouble,” but a better guess would be “Timber.”