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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0003-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1758-10-05

Braintree Octr. 5th. 1758.1

Yesterday arrived here from Worcester.2 I am this Day about beginning Justinians Institutions with Arnold Vinnius’s Notes. I took it out of the Library at Colledge.3 It is intituled, D. Justiniani Sacratissimi Principis Institutionum sive Elementorum Libri quatuor, Notis perpetuis multo, quam hucusque, dilligentius illustrati, Cura & Studio, Arnoldi Vinnii J.C. Editio novissima priori Progressu Juris civilis Romani, Fragmentis XII. Tabularum & Rerum Nominumque Indice Auctior, ut ex Praefatione nostra patet.—Now I shall have an opportunity of judging of a dutch Commentator whom the Dedicat[ion] calls celeberrimus suâ Etate in hac Academiâ Doctor.—Let me read with Attention, Deliberation, Distinction. Let me admire with Knowledge. It is low to admire a Dutch Commentator m[erely] because he uses latin, and greek Phraseology. Let me be able to draw the True Character both of the Text of Justinian, and of the Notes of his Commentator, when I have finished the Book. Few of my Contemporary Beginners, in the Study of the Law, have the Resolution, to aim at much Knowledge in the Civil Law. Let me therefore distinguish my self from them, by the Study of the Civil Law, in its native languages, { 45 } those of Greece and Rome. I shall gain the Consideration and perhaps favour of Mr. Gridley and Mr. Pratt by this means.4—As a stimulus let me insert in this Place Justinians Adhortationem ad Studium Juris. “Summa itaque ope et alacri Studio has Leges nostras accipite: et vosmet ipsos sic eruditos ostendite, ut Spes vos pulcherrima foveat, toto legitimo Opere perfecto, posse etiam nostram Rem publicam in Partibus ejus vobis credendis gubernari.” Data Constantinopoli XI. Kalendas Decembris, Domino Justiniano, perpetuo Augusto tertium Consule.— Cic. 1. de Orat.—Pergite, ut facitis, Adolescentes, atque in id Studium in quo estis incumbite ut et vobis honori, et Amicis Utilitati, et Reipublicae emolumento esse possitis.—Arnoldus Vinnius in Academia Leidensi Juris Professor fuit celeberrimus.
I have read about 10 Pages in Justinian and Translated about 4 Pages into English. This is the whole of my Days Work. I have smoaked, chatted, trifled, loitered away this whole day almost. By much the greatest Part of this day has been spent, in unloading a Cart, in cutting oven Wood, in making and recruiting my own fire, in eating nuts and apples, in drinking Tea, cutting and smoaking Tobacco and in chatting with the Doctor’s Wife5 at their House and at this.6 Chores, Chatt, Tobacco, Tea, Steal away Time. But I am resolved to translate Justinian and his Commentators Notes by day light and read Gilberts Tenures by Night till I am master of both, and I will meddle with no other Book in this Chamber on a Week day. On a Sunday I will read the Inquiry into the Nature of the human Soul, and for Amusement I will sometimes read Ovids Art of Love to Mrs. Savel.—This shall be my Method.—I have read Gilberts 1st Section, of feuds, this evening but am not a Master of it.
1. First entry in JA ’s booklet “No. 2,” as numbered by CFA (our D/JA/2). Actually this is a collection of loose leaves, not a stitched gathering, and many of the leaves are badly chipped and worn at the edges. Where illegible or partly missing words or phrases can be reconstructed from the early transcripts prepared for JQA and carefully corrected by CFA , the editors have not ordinarily used square brackets, reserving them for very doubtful readings.
2. JA had recently finished his two-year period of legal studies under the “Inspection” of James Putnam. He kept no diary during that period and wrote almost no letters that have been preserved. A few incidents of his life in Worcester, 1756–1758, are recorded in his Autobiography, q.v. On 19 July 1758 he had attended commencement in Cambridge and argued, for his master of arts degree, the affirmative side of the quaestio, An Imperium civile, Hominibus prorsus necessarium, sit (Harvard Quaestiones, 1758, broadside).
3. This copy of Vinnius’ Justinian, which was probably of the edition published at Leyden, 1730, is no longer in the Harvard College Library.
4. Jeremiah (or Jeremy) Gridley (1702–1767), Harvard 1725, and Benjamin Prat (1711–1763), Harvard 1737 and later chief justice of New York Province, were at this time the two leading lawyers of Boston.
5. Mrs. Elisha Savil; see entry of 17 March 1756 above, and note 3 there.
{ 46 }
6. This sentence, falling at the foot of one page of the MS and the top of the next, is partly worn away. The present text follows the early transcript as corrected by CFA .

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0003-0001-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1758-10-06

Fryday. Oct. 6.

Rose about sun rise. Unpitched a Load of Hay. Translated 2 Leaves more of Justinian, and in the afternoon walked to Deacon Webbs, then round by the Mill Pond home. Smoaked a Pipe with Webb at the Drs. and am now about reading over again Gilberts section of feudal Tenures.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0003-0001-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1758-10-07

Saturday [7 October].

Read in Gilbert. Rode with Webb to Mr. Cranche’s. Dined and drank Tea with him, and then home. Saturday night.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0003-0001-0004

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1758-10-08

Sunday [8 October].

Read a few Leaves in Baxters Enquiry into the Nature of the human Soul. He has explaind with great Exactness, the Resistance, which Matter makes to any Change of its State or Condition, whether of motion or of Rest. The Vis Inertiae, the positive Inactivity of matter not barely its Inactivity, but its AntiActivity. For it not only is destitute of a Power of changing its state from Rest to motion or from motion to Rest, but it has the possitive Power, each single Particle has a Possitive Power of Resisting any force that attempts to change its state. But a leaden Ball, held between my fingers, as soon as I withdraw my fingers, will of itself for ought I see change its State from rest to motion and fall suddenly to the floor. This Phenomenon is not Vis Inertiae, ’tis by no Reluctance or Aversion to motion that it moves, but it seems to be a Tendency to motion, an Active Principle. If it is passive the Agent that presses it downwards is invisible. But because matter in all the Experiments I have tried, resists a Change from rest to motion upwards, will it follow, that all matter essentially resists a Change from rest to motion, downwards. Is it a Posteriori from Experiments, that he deduces this Proposition, that all matter essentially resists any Change of State, or is it a Priori from some Property that is essentially included in our Idea of Matter that he demonstratively [argues?] this Vis Inertiae. Is Inactivity, and AntiActivity, included in our Idea of Matter? Are Activity, Perceptivity &c. Properties that we by only comparing Ideas can see to be incompatible to any Properties of matter.
If nothing is Matter which has not this antiactive Principle, then human Minds are not matter for they have no such Principle. We are { 47 } conscious, that we can begin and end motion of ourselves. If he argues a Posteriori from Experiments, he can pretend only to Probability. For Unless he was certain that he had made the Experiment and found the Property in every Particle of Matter that ever was created, he could not be certain, that there was no Particle in the World, without this Property, tho he had tried all but one and found that they had it. We have tried but a few Parcells of Matter. The Utmost we can say is, that all we have tried are inactive. But for Argument sake I will deny, that all the Parcels that we have tried, have this Property. On the Contrary I will say that all have a motive Power downwards. Powder has an Active Power springing every Way &c. Thus Experiment is turned against the Doctrine. I cant yet see how he will prove all matter Anti inactive a Priori from Properties of matter before known essential, with which he must shew this to be necessarily connected.