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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0004-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-05-09

1779. May 9. <Saturday> Sunday.

The Pilot came on Board this Morning from St. Nazare, and pronounced it unsafe to go out, with this Wind.
F. this Morning, fell to talking.— “Above half the Gentlemen of Paris are Atheists, and the other half Deists. No Body goes to Church but the common People. I wish I could find one honest Man among their Merchants and Tradesmen” &c. &c.
Mr. F., says I, let me be so free as to request of you, when you arrive in America, not to talk in this Style. It will do a great deal of Harm. These Sentiments are not just, they are contracted Prejudices, { 366 } and Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard too have hurt them selves and the public too by indulging in a similar Language.
F. “Oh! I am no Hypocrite.”—Thus this Prater goes on. Yesterday he wanted me, to get him a Passage on board the french Frigate, that I am to go in. I told him I did not think it would be practicable. And I hope it will not, for I dont wish such a Man to go, in that Ship.
At Dinner, much Conversation about the Electrical Eel which gives a Shock to a ring of Persons like the Touch of a Bottle or Conductor. —What is the Name of this fish?
The Magnet is nothing but Iron Oar, Somebody said at Table, and that the Tendency towards the Pole is in all Iron.—Q[uery].
This afternoon, a Mr. Watkin a Disciple of the great Whitfield as he calls himself, performed divine Service upon the Quarter Deck. He is not learned, but his Prayer was very good for the united States and their Allies, their Army and Gen[eral], their Navy and this Ship and her Commander. His Sermon also was passable.
Our Captain talks much about Batavia, is an Admir[er] of that Duch Settlement in the East Indies.1
This Gentleman has been disappointed in Love and in his Ambition—disappointed in the Promotion to which he aspired, and in a Marriage of which he thought himself sure. He has not so much Activity, Dispatch and Decision as [one?] could wish. He seems not to know how to gain or preserve the Affections of his Officers, nor yet how to keep them in Awe. Complaisance, firmness and Steadiness are necessary to the Command of a Ship. Whether it is his imperfect Knowledge of the Language, or his Absence of Mind when poring upon his Disappointments, or any defect in his Temper or Judgment, I know not, but this happy Mixture seems to be wanting. His Lieutenants are smart Men, quick and active—not lettered it is true, but good Seamen, and brave.
1. Landais had accompanied Bougainville in his voyage of circumnavigation, 1766–1769; see entry of 16 May, below. This officer's fantastically checkered career in the French, American, and French Republican navies has been narrated in Charles O. Paullin, “Admiral Pierre Landais,” Catholic Hist. Rev., 17:296–307 (Oct. 1931). Lasseray, Les français sous les treize çtoiles , 1:255–264, provides a more sympathetic estimate of Landais than can be found in American accounts.

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0009-0004-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1779-05-10

Monday May. 10.

This Morning the Wind at S.E. The Pilot came on board, the Alliance unmoored and set Sail, for L'orient. A gentle Breeze, fair Weather, and moderately warm.
{ 367 }
The I Lt. I have made by this War £120 of Prize Money, for which I got six Months Imprisonment, and spent the little that I had. This is all I have got by the War.
The Sand Droguers and Chimney Sweepers in Boston have all turned Merchants and made Fortunes.
Ingraham. Otis says when the Pot boils the Scum rises to the Top.
Eg[o]. The new Cyder, when it ferments sends all the Pummace, Worms, bruised seeds and all sorts of Nastiness to the Top.
People of Fortune have spent their Fortunes, and those who had none, have grown rich.
Ford. I came to France with the highest opinion of Dr. F.—as a Philosopher, a Statesman and as even the Pater Patriae. But I assure you Tempora mutantur.
He has very moderate Abilities, He knows nothing of Philosophy, but his few Experiments in Electricity: He is an Atheist, he dont believe any future State: Yet he is terribly afraid of dying.
This is Fords Opinion. This is his Character of the great Man.
I believe it is too much to say that he is an Atheist, and that he dont believe a future State: tho I am not certain his Hints, and Squibs sometimes go so far as to raise Suspicions:—and he never tells any Body, I fancy that he believes a G[od], a P[urgatory] or f[uture] s[tate].1 It is too rank to say that he understands nothing of Philosophy, but his own electrical Experiments, altho I dont think him so deeply read in Philosophy, as his Name impute[s].
He has a Passion for Reputation and Fame, as strong as you can imagine, and his Time and Thoughts are chiefly employed to obtain it, and to set Tongues and Pens male and female, to celebrating him. Painters, Statuaries, Sculptors, China Potters, and all are set to work for this End. He has the most affectionate and insinuating Way of charming the Woman or the Man that he fixes on. It is the most silly and ridiculous Way imaginable, in the Sight of an American, but it succeeds, to admiration, fullsome and sickish as it is, in Europe.
When I arrive, I must enquire—concerning Congress, Ennemys Army, R.I., N.Y., G[eorgia], our Army, our Currency, Mass. Bay, Boston &c.
1. The ambiguous punctuation of this sentence has been retained precisely as found in the MS .