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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


This foot note contained in document ADMS-01-01-02-0013-0001-0001
1. A gap of a year and a half, indicated by only a single blank page in the MS , separates this entry from the preceding one. But the interval had been a busy one for JA and a critical one in the relations between the Province of Massachusetts Bay and the British government. Soon after the annual Braintree town meeting in March 1768 (at which JA declined to stand again for selectman and was thanked for this services during the past two years), JA and his family moved “into the White House as it was called in Brattle Square,” formerly the residence of William Bollan (JA, Works , 2:210, note; Autobiography). On 28 Dec. his 2d daughter, Susanna, who lived only until 4 Feb. 1770, was born in this house and was baptized on New Year’s Day by Dr. Samuel Cooper at the Brattle Street Church ( HA2 , John Adams’s Book, Being Notes on a Record of the Births, Marriages and Deaths of Three Generations of the Adams Family, 1734–1807, Boston, 1934, p. 4–5). In the spring of 1769 he “removed to Cole Lane, to Mr. Fayerweathers House,” which he occupied for about a year (second entry of 21 Nov. 1772, below).
Though JA rode the circuit with his usual regularity during these eighteen months (and in Sept. 1768 traveled for the first time as far as Springfield, there meeting Joseph Hawley, with whom he was to form an enduring friendship), his most important cases were related to the current political disputes. One of these was his defense of Michael Corbet and three other sailors in May–June 1769 for the killing of Lt. Panton of the British navy; see entry of 23 Dec. 1769 and note, below. Still more spectacular was his earlier defense, in the winter of 1768–1769, of John Hancock against charges of smuggling. This action in personam grew out of but was distinct from the action in rem concerning Hancock’s sloop Liberty, condemned at the instance of the board of customs commissioners in the summer of 1768. “A painfull Drudgery I had of his cause,” JA wrote in his Autobiography. “There were few days through the whole Winter, when I was not summoned to attend the Court of Admiralty.” JA ’s stubborn and successful defense in a trial lasting five months was one of his major accomplishments as a lawyer, but the necessary notes and references concerning it may be deferred to his discussion of it in his Autobiography.
In June 1768 and again in May 1769 JA was named on committees to prepare instructions for the Boston representatives to the General Court, and in both instances it was he who wrote the instructions. The first is mainly a protest against the seizure of the Liberty ( Works , 3:501–504). The second is a recital of a series of grievances suffered by the town as the result of the presence of British troops since the preceding autumn, and also from the formidable and growing power of the admiralty courts (same, p. 505–510).
Life was not made up exclusively of drama and drudgery. An entry in John Rowe’s Diary dated 4 Aug. 1769 begins: “fine Weather Din’d at John Champneys on A Pigy with the following Company—John Hancock, James Otis, John Adams,” and thirteen others, including Robert Auchmuty, the admiralty judge ( MS , MHi).