A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0002-0008-0005

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1756-08-07

7 Saturday.

All this past Week my designs have been interrupted, by the Troubles and Confusion of the House. I shall be able to resume the Thread of my Studies I hope now. Wrote pretty industriously in Bolinbroke.— I have never looked attentively into my own Breast. I have never considered, (as I ought) the surprizing Faculties and Opperations of the Mind. Our minds are capable of receiving an infinite Variety of Ideas, from those numerous material objects with which we are surrounded. And the vigourous Impressions which we receive from these, our minds are capable of retaining, compounding and arranging into all the Varieties of Picture and of Figure. Our minds are able to retain distinct Comprehensions of an infinite multitude of Things without the least Labour or fatigue, by curiously enquiring into the Scituation, Fruits, Produce, Manufactures, &c. of our own, and by travailing into or reading about other Countries, we can gain distinct Ideas of almost every Thing upon this Earth, at present, and by looking into Hystory we can settle in our minds a clear and a comprehensive View of This Earth at its Creation, of its various changes and Revolutions, of its various Catastrophes, of its progressive Cultivation, sudden depopulation, and graduall repeopling, of the growth of several Kingdoms and Empires, of their Wealth and Commerce, Warrs and Politicks, of the Characters of their principal Leading Men, of their Grandeur and Power, of their Virtues and Vices, and of their insensible Decays at first, and of their swift Destruction at last. In fine we can attend the Earth from its Nativity thro all the various turns of Fortune, through all its successive Changes, through all the events that happen on its surface, and thro all the successive Generations of Mankind, to the final Conflagration when the whole Earth with its Appendages shall be consumed and dissolved by the furious Element of Fire. And after our minds are furnished with this ample Store of Ideas, far from feeling burdened or overloaded, our thoughts are more free and active and clear than before, and we are capable of diffusing our Acquaintance with things, much further. We are not satiated with Knowledge, our Curiosity is only improved, and increased, Our Thoughts rove beyond the visible diurnal sphere, they range thro the Heavens and loose themselves amidst a Labyrinth of Worlds, and not contented with what is, they run forward into futurity and search for new Employment { 41 } there. Here they can never stop. The wide, the boundless Prospect lies before them. Here alone they find Objects adequate to their desires.
I know not by what Fatality it happens, but I seem to have a Necessity upon me of trifling away my Time. Have not read 50 lines in Virgil this Week. Have wrote very little.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0002-0008-0006

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1756-08-12 - 1756-08-13

12 [–13] Thurdsday. Fryday.

I know not what became of these days.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0002-0008-0007

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1756-08-14

14 Saturday.

I seem to have lost sight of the Object that I resolved to pursue. Dreams and slumbers, sloth and negligence, will be the ruin of my schemes. However I seem to be awake now. Why cant I keep awake? I have wrote Scripture pretty industriously this morning.—Why am I so unreasonable, as to expect Happiness, and a solid undisturbed Contentment amidst all the Disorders, and the continual Rotations of worldly Affairs? Stability is no where to be found in that Part of the Universe that lies within our observation. The natural and the moral World, are continually changing. The Planets, with all their Appendages, strike out their amazing Circles round the Sun. Upon the Earth, one Day is serene, and clear, no cloud intercepts the kind influence of the Sun, and all Nature seems to flourish and look gay. But these delightfull scenes soon vanish, and are succeeded by the gloom and Darkness of the Night. And before the morning Appears, the Clouds gather, the Winds rise, Lightnings glare, and Thunders bellow through the vast of Heaven. Man is sometimes flushed with Joy and transported with the full Fury of sensual Pleasure, and the next Hour, lies groaning under the bitter Pangs of Disappointments and adverse Fortune. Thus God has told us, by the general Constitution of the World, by the Nature of all terrestrial Enjoyments, and by the Constitution of our own Bodies, that This World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State, but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity and continual Excitements to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence, after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety. And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire, and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune, against all the Malice of men, against all the Opperations of Nature. A World in Flames, and a whole System tumbling in Ruins to the Center, has nothing terrifying in it to a man whose Security is builded on the adamantine Basis of good { 42 } Conscience and confirmed Piety. If I could but conform my Life and Conversation to my Speculations, I should be happy.—Have I hardiness enough to contend with omnipotence? Or have I cunning enough to elude infinite Wisdom, or Ingratitude enough to Spurn at infinite Goodness? The Scituation that I am in, and the Advantages that I enjoy, are thought to be the best for me by him who alone is a competent Judge of Fitness and Propriety. Shall I then complain? Oh Madness, Pride, Impiety.