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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-02-13

1778 February 13. Fryday.1

Captain Samuel Tucker, Commander of the Frigate Boston, met me, at Mr. Norton Quincy's, where We dined, and after Dinner I sent my Baggage, and walked myself with Captain Tucker, Mr. Griffin a Midshipman, and my eldest Son, John Quincy Adams, between 10 and 11. Years of Age, down to the Moon Head, where lay the Bostons Barge.2 The Wind was very high, and the Sea very rough, but by Means of a Quantity of Hay in the Bottom of the Boat, and good Watch Coats with which We were covered We arrived on board the Boston, about five O Clock, tolerably warm and dry.—On board I found Mr. Vernon, a Son of Mr. Vernon of the Navy Board, a little Son of Mr. Deane of Weathersfield, between 11. and 12. Years of Age, and Mr. Nicholas Noel, a french Gentleman, Surgeon of the Ship, who seems to be a well bred Man.3
Dr. Noel shewed me, a Book, which was new to me. The Title is, Les Elemens de la Langue Angloise, dévélopés d'une maniere nouvelle, facile et très concise, en forme de Dialogue, ou la pronunciation est enseignée par un Assemblage de Lettres qui forme des sons similaires en François, et ou la juste Mesure de chaque Syllable est determinée. Avec un Vocabulaire, des Phrases familieres, et des Dialogues, tres interessans, pour ceux qui souhaitent parler Anglois correctement, { 270 } et en peu de Tems. Nouvelle Edition, revûe, corrigée et enrichè de plusieurs nouvelles Regies et Remarques, servant à écarter les Difficultés qui retardent le Progress des Etrangers. Par V. J. Peyton. Linguarum Diversitas alienat hominem ab homine, et propter solam linguarum diversitatem, nihil potest ad consociandos homines tanta Similitudo naturae. St. August. De Civit. Dei. A Londres, Chez J. Nourse et Paul Vaillant, dans le Strand 1776.
1. First entry in D/JA/47. This is a small quarto volume bound in marbled boards and may well be one of the two “Account Books” or “Memd. Book” purchased by the Navy Board for JA 's use on his voyage and mission; see John Bradford to JA , 11? Feb. 1778 and enclosures (Adams Papers); the enclosures are reproduced in this volume List of Stores Sent on Board the Continental Frigate Boston, February 1778 facing page 194 . The book contains about a hundred pages of journal entries, 13 Feb. 1778–26 April 1779, and though not nearly filled it was doubtless left home when JA sailed for Europe again in Nov. 1779. Years later the blank leaves were thriftily used for transcripts of JA 's earliest Diary booklets, 1755–1761, made under the supervision of JQA ; see Introduction.
When JA arrived home from Congress on 27 Nov. 1777, he had every expectation of a long leave and began to pick up the threads of his legal practice. But in York, Penna., on the following day Congress elected him a joint commissioner with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee to represent the United States in France, Silas Deane having been recalled on 21 Nov. ( JCC , 9:946–947, 975). JA 's commission, erroneously dated 27 (instead of 28) Nov., was enclosed in a letter to him from Richard Henry Lee and James Lovell, “In Committee for foreign Affairs,” York, 3 Dec. (Adams Papers; JA, Works , 7:6–7). “After much Agitation of mind and a thousand reveries,” as he says in his Autobiography, JA announced his acceptance in a letter to President Henry Laurens, 23 Dec. (PCC, No. 84, I; Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. 2:458).
2. In what is now Quincy Bay, though the name “Moon Head” is confusing and has been much disputed. There was and still remains a “Moon Head” on Moon Island off the tip of Squantum, the peninsula that encloses Quincy Bay on the north. But this Moon Head could not have been accessible by foot and is thus ruled out as the place from which JA embarked. Family and local tradition in Quincy long designated a low eminence on the shore near Norton Quincy's house and just opposite Half Moon Island as the spot, but when some antiquarian-minded friends sent CFA a sketch of the ground in 1877 he declined to interpret what JA meant by Moon Head and in effect declared the problem insoluble (Cyrus Woodman to James Baxter, 10 Aug. 1877, enclosed in Baxter to CFA , 13 Aug., Adams Papers; CFA to Baxter, 15 Aug., LbC , Adams Papers). Two bits of evidence, hitherto overlooked, settle the question where JA embarked from, though not why he called it what he did. The first is in a letter from AA to John Thaxter, 15–18 Feb. 1778, in which she says that her husband and son “embarked from this Town, the place you well know, Hofs Neck” (MHi:Waterston Coll.). The second is a passage in JA 's Autobiography that was not published by CFA : “In our Way [from Norton Quincy's house] We made an halt of a few minutes at the House of Mr. Seth Spear on Hoffs neck, where some Sailors belonging to our barge had been waiting for us.” He then relates the conversation that passed between him and Mrs. Spear, who predicted an unfavorable voyage. Clearly, then, the party embarked from Hough's Neck, the southern extremity of Quincy Bay. This point was directly on the way to Nantasket Roads, where the Boston was anchored. Capt. Tucker's logbook (see the following paragraph) has this entry for 13 Feb. 1778: “I haveing Some Capital business at Brantre Send my boat on Shore to Georges Island [in Nantasket Roads] and brought { 271 } off a Pilot to Conduct me their att 10 AM Proceeded their finisht my business and Returned on board by 5 PM.”
The original logbook of the Boston, a 24–gun Continental frigate, is in the Samuel Tucker Papers (MH) and forms a valuable supplement to JA 's record of this voyage; it is printed with reasonable fidelity as an appendix to Sheppard, Tucker , p. 261–327. Tucker prepared what he called “An Abstract of a Journal Kept ... on Board the Contl. Frigate Boston,” and presented it to JA in 1791 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 342). The “Abstract” differs in many details from the logbook, a fact which accounts for the variations between material quoted from the log in our notes and quotations attributed to it in notes by CFA , who used the “Abstract” when editing JA 's Diary (JA, Works , 3:95 ff.).
3. William Vernon Jr., College of New Jersey 1776, was going to France to gain experience in trade; after a brief stay at Bordeaux he entered the house of “Mr. Revellat ainé, one of the Principal Negociants” of Montauban in Guienne, declining an offer by JA to serve as his secretary (entry of 16 Feb., below; Vernon Jr. to JA , 10 April, 16 May, 26 Sept. 1778; JA to Vernon Jr., 12 May, 15 Sept. 1778, both LbC ; JA to Vernon Sr., 2 Dec. 1778, LbC ; all in Adams Papers). As for Jesse Deane, he was placed with JQA and other young Americans in M. Le Coeur's private boarding school in Passy. He stayed in Europe five years, spending the last two of them with his father in Ghent and London. Returning to America in 1783, he joined a business enterprise in Hartford, but was apparently not successful. See entry of 14 April, note, below; Deane Papers , index, under his name.
On Nicolas Nöel, chirurgien-major in the French army, see Lasseray, Les français sous les treize étoiles , 2:342–345. The official ship's doctor was Benjamin Brown, later a member of Congress from Massachusetts (Sheppard, Tucker , p. 84 and passim).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0001-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-02-14

1778. 14. Feb. Saturday.

A very fine Morning, the Wind at Northwest. At Daybreak orders were given for the Ship to unmoor.
My Lodging was a Cott, with a double Mattress, a good Bolster, my own Sheets, and Blanketts enough. My little Son, with me—We lay very comfortably, and slept well. A violent Gale of Wind in the Night.

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0001-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-02-15

Feb. 15. Sunday.

This Morning weigh'd the last Anchor, and came under Sail, before Breakfast. A fine Wind, and a pleasant Sun, but a sharp cold Air.— Thus I bid farewell to my native Shore.—Arrived, and anchored in the Harbour of Marblehead, about Noon. Major Reed, Captn. Gatchell Father in Law of Capt. Tucker came on board, and a Captain Stevens who came on Board to make me a present of a single Pistol.

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0001-0004

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-02-16

1778. Feb. 16. Monday.

Another Storm for our Mortification—the Wind at N.E. and the Snow so thick that the Captain thinks he cannot go to Sea. Our Excursion to this Place, was unfortunate, because it is almost impossible, to { 272 } keep the Men on Board. Mothers, Wives, Sisters come on bord, and beg for Leave for their Sons, Husbands, and Brothers to go on Shore for one Hour &c. so that it is hard for the Commander to resist their Importunity.
I am anxious at these Delays. We shall never have another Wind so good as We have lost. Congress, and the Navy Board, will be surprized at these Delays, and yet there is no Fault, that I know of. The Commander of the Ship is active and vigilant, and does all in his Power, but he wants Men—he has very few Seamen indeed. All is as yet Chaos on board. His Men are not disciplined. The Marrines are not. The Men are not exercised to the Guns. They hardly know the Ropes.
My Son is treated very complaisantly by Dr. Noel, and by a Captain and Lieutenant of Artillery, who are on board, all French Gentlemen. They are very assiduous in teaching him French. The Dr. Monsr. Noel, is a genteell well bred Man, and has received somewhere a good Education. He has Wounds on his Forehead, and on his Hands, which he says he received, last War, in the Light Horse Service.
The Name of the Captain of Artillery is Parison,1 and that of the Lieutenant is Begard.
Since my Embarkation, Master Jesse Deane delivered me a Letter, from his Uncle Barnabas Deane dated 10. Feb. recommending to my particular Care and Attention, the Bearer, the only Child of his Brother Silas Deane Esq. now in France, making no doubt, as the Letter adds, that I shall take the same Care of a Child in his Situation, which I would wish to have done to a Child of my own, in the like Circumstance.—It is needless to mention his Youth and Helplessness, also how much he will be exposed to bad Company and to contract bad Habits, without some friendly Monitor to caution and keep him from associating with the common Hands on board.2
About the same Time, another Letter was delivered to me from Wm. Vernon Esq. of the Continental Navy Board, dated Feb. 9.—in these Words “I presume it is unnecessary to say one Word in order to impress your Mind with the Anxiety a Parent is under, in the Education of a Son, more especially when not under his immediate Inspection, and at 3000 Miles distance. Your parental Affection fixes this Principle. Therefore I have only to beg the Favour of you, Sir, to place my Son, in such a Situation, and with such a Gentleman as you would chuse for one of yours, whom you would wish to accomplish for a Merchant. If such a House could be found, either at Bourdeaux or Nantes, of protestant Principles, of general and extensive Business, { 273 } I rather think one of those Cities the best; yet if it should be your Opinion that some other Place might be more advantageous to place him at, or that he can be imployed by any of the States Agents, with a good Prospect of improving himself, in such manner, that he may hereafter be usefull to Society, and in particular to these American States, my Views are fully answered. I have only one Observation more to make, viz. in respect to the AEconomy of this Matter, which I am perswaded will engage your Attention, as the small Fortune that remains with me, I would wish to appropriate for the Education of my Son, which I know must be husbanded, yet I cant think of being rigidly parsimonious, nor must I be very lavish, lest my Money should not hold out.
“I imagine a Gratuity of one hundred Pounds Sterling may be given to a Merchant of Eminence to take him for two or three Years, and perhaps his yearly board paid for. I shall be entirely satisfyed in whatever may seem best for you to do, and ever shall have a gratefull Remembrance of your unmerited Favours, and sincerely hope in future to have it in my Power to make Compensation. I wish you Health and the Utmost Happiness, and am, with the greatest Regards &c.”3
Thus I find myself invested with the unexpected Trust of a Kind of Guardianship of two promising young Gentlemen, besides my own Son. This benevolent office is peculiarly agreable to my Temper. Few Things have ever given me greater Pleasure than the Tuition of Youth to the Bar, and the Advancement of Merit.
1. On “Pondicherry” Parison, “one of General Du Coudrais Captains,” see entry of 19 Feb., below, and JA 's Autobiography under date of 24–26 Feb. 1778.
2. Deane's letter, here partly quoted and partly paraphrased, is in the Adams Papers, dated from Boston.
3. This is the full text of Vernon's letter as found in the Adams Papers.