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

Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


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

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1772-06-30

Falmouth, Casco Bay. June 30th. 1772. Tuesday.

My Office at Boston will miss me, this day. It is the last day of Arresting for July Court. What equivalent I shall meet with here is uncertain.
It has been my Fate, to be acquainted, in the Way of my Business, with a Number of very rich Men—Gardiner, Bowdoin, Pitts, Hancock, Rowe, Lee, Sargeant, Hooper, Doane. Hooper, Gardiner, Rowe, Lee, and Doane, have all acquired their Wealth by their own Industry. Bowdoin and Hancock received theirs by Succession, Descent or Devise. Pitts by Marriage.1 But there is not one of all these, who derives more Pleasure from his Property than I do from mine. My little Farm, and Stock, and Cash, affords me as much Satisfaction, as all their immense Tracts, extensive Navigation, sumptuous Buildings, their vast Sums at Interest, and Stocks in Trade yield to them. The Pleasures of Property, arise from Acquis[it]ion more than Possession, { 62 } from what is to come rather than from what is. These Men feel their Fortunes. They feel the Strength and Importance, which their Riches give them in the World. Their Courage and Spirits are buoyed up, their Imaginations are inflated by them. The rich are seldom remarkable for Modesty, Ingenuity, or Humanity. Their Wealth has rather a Tendency to make them penurious and selfish.
I arrived in this Town on Sunday Morning, went to Meeting all day, heard Mr. Smith and Mr. Deane. Drank Tea with Brother Bradbury, and spent the Evening with him at Mr. Deanes. Sat in the Pew with Mr. Smith, Son of the Minister in the Morning, and with Wm. Tyng Esq. Sherriff and Rep[resentative] in the Afternoon.
Lodge at Mrs. Stovers, a neat, clean, clever Woman, the Wife of a Sea Captain at Sea.
Have spent my idle Time, in reading my Clasmate Heminways Vindication of the Power, Obligation and Encouragement of the unregenerate to attend the Means of Grace—and The clandestine Marriage by Colman and Garrick.
1. Councillor James Pitts, a Boston land magnate and merchant, had married Elizabeth, a sister of James Bowdoin. Mr. Shipton points out that Pitts by no means acquired all his wealth through his marriage (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 9:76).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0002-0004-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1772-07-01

Wednesday July 1. 1772.

He, who contends for Freedom,

can ne'er be justly deem'd his Sovereign's Foe:

No, 'tis the wretch that tempts him to subvert it,

The soothing Slave, the Traitor in the Bosom,

Who best deserves that name; he is a worm

That eats out all the Happiness of Kingdoms.1

When Life, or Death,

becomes the Question, all Distinctions vanish;

Then the first Monarch and the lowest Slave

on the same Level Stand, in this the Sons

of equal Nature all.

1. Note by CFA : “These lines are taken from a play, now little read: [James] Thomson's Edward and Eleanora, act i. sc. 2, and act ii. sc. 2” (JA, Works , 2:297).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0002-0005-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1772-09-22

1772. Septr. 22.1

At Boston. Paid Doctr. Gardiner and took up my last Note to him. I have now got compleatly thro, my Purchase of Deacon Palmer, Coll. { 63 } Quincy and all my Salt Marsh, being better than 20 Acres, and have paid £250 O.T. towards my House in Boston, and have better than £300 left in my Pockett. At Thirty Seven Years of Age, almost, this is all that my most intense Application to Study and Business has been able to accomplish, an Application, that has more than once been very near costing me my Life, and that has so greatly impaired my Health.
I am now writing in my own House in Queen Street, to which I am pretty well determined to bring my Family, this Fall.2 If I do, I shall come with a fixed Resolution, to meddle not with public Affairs of Town or Province. I am determined, my own Life, and the Welfare of my whole Family, which is much dearer to me, are too great Sacrifices for me to make. I have served my Country, and her professed Friends, at an immense Expense, to me, of Time, Peace, Health, Money, and Preferment, both of which last have courted my Acceptance, and been inexorably refused, least I should be laid under a Temptation to forsake the Sentiments of the Friends of this Country. These last are such Politicians, as to bestow all their Favours upon their professed and declared Enemies. I will devote myself wholly to my private Business, my Office and my farm, and I hope to lay a Foundation for better Fortune to my Children, and an happier Life than has fallen to my Share.
This [is] the last Training Day for the Year—have been out to view the Regiment, the Cadets, the Grenadiers, the Train &c.—a great Show indeed.
Epitaph.3

Algernon Sidney fills this Tomb,

An Atheist for disdaining Rome

A Rebel bold for striving still

To keep the Laws above the Will

Of Heaven he sure must needs despair

If holy Pope be turnkey there

And Hell him ne'er will entertain

For there is all Tyrannick Reign

Where goes he then? Where he ought to go.

Where Pope, nor Devil have to do.

1. There are no Diary entries between 1 July and 22 Sept. 1772. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the press of JA 's legal business. His Office Book for 1770–1774 ( MS in MQA) shows that he handled 66 cases in the July term of the Suffolk Inferior Court, and his docket of actions in the August term of the Suffolk Superior Court, which ran well over into September, lists no fewer than 78 continued and new cases in which he was concerned (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 183).
2. On 21 Aug. JA bought of Shrimpton { 64 } Hunt for £533 6s. 8d. a brick house and lot in South Queen Street “near the Scaene of my Business, opposite the Court House” (Suffolk Deeds, Liber 122, fol. 7). Late in November his family moved in, and it remained their residence until the summer of 1774. See entries of 21 and 28 [i.e. 27?] Nov., below.
Queen Street was that part of present Court Street which curved around from present Washington Street (formerly Cornhill) to Hanover Street; its name was officially changed to Court Street in 1788 ( Boston Streets, &c., 1910, p. 137, 385). JQA used the front room of this house for his own law office when he began practice, 1790–1791 ( JQA to JA , 9 Aug. 1790, Adams Papers).
According to a note prepared by HA2 for Samuel F. Bemis (Adams Papers Editorial Files), this property remained in the family until about 1900. After the Civil War the Adams Building, No. 23 Court Street, was erected on the site, and here JQA2 and CFA2 had their Boston offices for many years. The building was torn down when the land passed to the Old Colony Trust Company.
3. Copied into the Diary at some point between 22 Sept. and 5 Oct. 1772. The rudimentary punctuation of the MS has been retained.