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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


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Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0080

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1774-06-30

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dr.

I have nothing to do here, but to take the Air, enquire for News, talk Politicks and write Letters.
This Town has the best Air I ever breathed. It is very level and there are no Mountains or Hills to obstruct the free Course of the Air, upon any Point of Compass for 8 or 10 Miles. It lies upon the Sea on the south And has a River running through it. The Weather has been inexpressibly fine all this Week. The Air is as clear, as bright, as { 115 } springy, as you can conceive. Braintree Air is thick and unelastic in Comparison of this. What then is that of Boston?
I regret that I cannot have the Pleasure of enjoying this fine Weather, with my Family, and upon my farm.—Oh, how often am I there! I have but a dull Prospect before me. I have no hope of reaching Braintree, under a Fortnight from this Day, if I should in twenty days.
I regret my Absence from the County of Suffolk this Week on another Account. If I was there I could converse with the Gentlemen, who are bound with me for Phyladelphia. I could turn the Course of my Reading and Studies to such subjects of Law and Politicks and Commerce as may come, in Play, at the Congress. I might be furbishing up my old Reading in Law and History, that I might appear with less Indecency before a Variety of Gentlemen, whose Educations, Travel, Experience, Family, Fortune, and every Thing will give them a vast Superiority to me, and I fear to some of my Companions.
This Town of York is a Curiosity, in several Views. The People here are great Idolaters of the Memory of their former Minister Mr. Moody.1 Deacon Sayward says, and the rest of them generally think, that Mr. Moody was one of the greatest Men and best Saints, who have lived since the Days of the Apostles. He had an Ascendency, an Authority over the People here as absolute, as that of any Prince in Europe not excepting his Holiness.
This he acquired by a Variety of Means. In the first Place he settled in the Place without any Contract. His professed Principle was that no Man should be hired to preach the Gospell, but that the Minister should depend upon the Charity, Generosity, and Benevolence of the People. This was very flattering to their Pride. And left Room for their Ambition to display itself, in an Emulation among them, which should be most bountifull and ministerial.
In the next Place, he acquired the Character of firm Trust in Providence. A Number of Gentlemen came in one day, when they had nothing in the House. His Wife was very anxious, they say, and asked him what they should do? “Oh, never fear, trust Providence, make a fire in the oven, and you will have something.” Very soon a Variety of every Thing that was good was sent in, and by one O Clock they had a Splendid Dinner.
He had also the Reputation of enjoying intimate Communications with the Deity, and of having a great Interest in the Court of Heaven by his Prayers.
He always kept his Musquet in order and was fond of Shooting. { 116 } On a Time, they say, he was out of Provisions. There came along two wild Geese. He takes Gun and crys if it please God I kill both, I will send the fattest to the poorest Person in this Parish. He shot and kill'd both, ordered them, plucked, and then sent the fattest to a poor Widow, leaving the other which was a very poor one at home, to the great Mortification of his Lady. But his Maxim was perform unto the Lord thy Vow.
But the best Story I have heard Yet, was his Doctrine in a Sermon from this Text—Lord what shall We do? The Doctrine was, That when a Person or People are in a state of Perplexity, and know not what to do, they ought never to do they know not what? This is applicable to the Times.
He brought his People into a remarkable Submission and Subjection to their Spiritual Rulers, which continues to this Day. Lyman their present Parson, does and says as he pleases, is a great Tory and as odd as Moody.
[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree”; endorsed: “No 4.”
1. Samuel Moody (1676–1747), Harvard 1697, settled at York the year after his graduation and ministered there until his death. Much of the local lore about this eccentric “spiritual dictator” of a frontier settlement for half a century has been gathered in the admirable sketch of him in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 4:356–365.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0081

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1774-06-30

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dr.

I have had a Curiosity to examine what could have been the Cause of Parson Lymans Affection to the Tories. I find that in some former Years, while Hutchinson was Chief Justice, that Arch Corrupter and Deceiver lodged at the House of Dr. Lyman the Parson's Brother, and professed great Friendship for him as well as the Parson, made the Doctor a Justice of the Peace &c.1
The Office of a Justice of the Peace, is a great Acquisition in the Country, and such a Distinction to a Man among his Neighbours as is enough to purchase and corrupt allmost any Man. This laid an early Foundation in the Minister and the Dr. Add to this, the continual Correspondence between Hutchinson and Sayward, the Rescinder and Lymans Deacon. Add also David Sewalls Assistance with whom Hutchinson afterwards boarded, when he was of the Court, and all { 117 } the rest of the Judges ever since. Add also the Influence of the Moulton Family, one of whom is sherriff, and others are in office. In Truth the offices, which are held in every Shire Town of every County, create a Dependence in the Minds of the Principal Gentlemen of the Place upon the Court, which generally draws the Parson and often the Doctor into the Vortex, untill they all become disposed to Act upon the Principle of Coll. Chandler at Worcester, tho they have generally more policy than to avow it “That if the Devil was Governor, as for them and their Houses they would be Governors Men.”
Thus much for Politicks: Now for private Affairs.
I spent the last Evening at Paul Dudley Woodbridges, a Tavern, with Coll. Farnham of Newbury Port, Major Sullivan, Jemmy Sullivan and David Wyer.
Farnham it seems was born in this Town of York and he gave us an Account of an Affair which happened when he was a Boy. Governor Belcher, who, altho he was Bone of our Bone, and Flesh of our Flesh and Blood of our Blood, was the most arbitrary Governor, the Province ever had, sent down a Letter to the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace, to appoint one Frost, (a Relation of Mr. afterwards General Pepperell, at whose Request it was supposed the Mandate issued) to be Clerk of those Courts in the Room of one Hammond. Hammond was a good officer, and the Courts would not displace him. Belcher, upon receiving Information of this Resolution of the Judges and Justices, without Ceremony displaced them, and appointed others who were obsequious enough to make his Clerk.
Now let me wander to my Family. I am very thoughtfull and anxious about our Johnny. What School to send him to—what Measures to take with him. He must go on learning his Latin, to his Grandfather or to you, or somewhere. And he must write.
You must take Care my Dear, to get as much Work out of our Tenants as possible. Belcher is in Arrears. He must work. Hayden must work. Harry Field must work, and Jo. Curtis too must be made to settle. He owes something.
Jo. Tirrell too, must do something—and Isaac. I cant loose such Sums as they owe me—and I will not.
I shall not get enough at York Court to pay my Expences for the Week, and in short, I feel as if my Business was at an End. If I understood any other I would betake myself to it. The Utmost Parcimony and even Penury is necessary, for me to avoid running behind hand. Yr.
[signed] John Adams
{ 118 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree”; endorsed: “No 5.”
1. Rev. Isaac Lyman's brother was Dr. Job Lyman, appointed justice of the peace in 1770 (Whitmore, Mass. Civil List , p. 148). On the whole circle of York “rescinders” and loyalists mentioned in this letter, see JA 's diary entry of 1 July 1770 and note there ( Diary and Autobiography , 1:355–356).