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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


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

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-01-01

1773 January the First, Being Fryday.

I have felt very well and been in very good Spirits all Day. I never was happier, in my whole Life, than I have been since I returned to Boston. I feel easy, and composed and contented. The Year to come, will be a pleasant, a chearfull, a happy and a prosperous Year to me. At least such are the Forebodings of my Mind at Present. My Resolutions to devote myself to the Pleasures, the studies, the Business and the Duties of private Life, are a Source of Ease and Comfort to me, that I scarcely ever experienced before.—Peace, be still, my once Anxious Heart.—An Head full of Schemes and an Heart full of Anxiety, are incompatible with any Degree of Happiness.
I have said Above that I had the Prospect before me of an happy and prosperous Year, and I will not retract it, because, I feel a great Pleasure in the Expectation of it, and I think, that there is a strong Probability and Presumption of it. Yet Fire may destroy my Substance, Diseases may desolate my family, and Death may put a Period to my { 77 } Hopes, and Fears, Pleasures and Pains, Friendships and Enmities, Virtues and Vices.
This Evening my Friend Mr. Pemberton invited me and I went with him, to spend the Evening with Jere. Wheelwright. Mr. Wheelwright is a Gentleman of a liberal Education about 50 Years of Age, and constantly confined to his Chamber by Lameness. A Fortune of about two hundred a Year enables him to entertain his few Friends very handsomely, and he has them regularly at his Chamber every Tuesday and Fryday Evening. The Speaker, Dr. Warren and Mr. Swift were there— And We Six had a very pleasant Evening. Our Conversation turned upon the Distress of Rhode Island, upon the Judges Dependency, the late numerous Town Meetings, upon Brattles Publication in Drapers Paper of Yesterday,1 and upon each others Characters. We were very free, especially upon one another. I told Cushing as Ruggles told Tyler, that I never knew a Pendulum swing so clear. Warren told me, that Pemberton said I was the proudest and cunningest Fellow, he ever knew. We all rallied Pemberton, upon the late Appointment of Tommy Hutchinson to be a Judge of the common Bench, and pretended to insist upon it that he was disappointed, and had lost all his late Trimming, and Lukewarmness and Toryism. Warren thought I was rather a cautious Man, but that he could not say I ever trimmed. When I spoke at all I always spoke my Sentiments. This was a little soothing to my proud Heart, no doubt.
Brattle has published a Narration of the Proceedings of the Town of Cambridge at their late Meeting, and he has endeavoured to deceive the World.
1. See the following entry and note 2 there.

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

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-03-04

1773 March 4th. Thurdsday.

The two last Months have slided away. I have written a tedious Examination of Brattle's absurdities. The Governor and General Court, has been engaged for two Months upon the greatest Question ever yet agitated. I stand amazed at the Governor, for forcing on this Controversy. He will not be thanked for this. His Ruin and Destruction must spring out of it, either from the Ministry and Parliament on one Hand, or from his Countrymen, on the other. He has reduced himself to a most ridiculous State of Distress. He is closetting and soliciting Mr. Bowdoin, Mr. Dennie, Dr. Church &c. &c., and seems in the utmost Agony.1
The Original of my Controversy with Brattle is worthy to be comitted { 78 } to Writing, in these Memorandums.—At the Town Meeting in Cambridge, called to consider of the Judges Salaries, he advanced for Law, that the Judges by this Appointment, would be compleatly independent, for that they held Estates for Life in their offices by common Law and their Nomination and Appointment. And, he said “this I averr to be Law, and I will maintain it, against any Body, I will dispute it, with Mr. Otis, Mr. Adams, Mr. John Adams I mean, and Mr. Josiah Quincy. I would dispute it with them, here in Town Meeting, nay, I will dispute it with them in the Newspapers.”
He was so elated with that Applause which this inane Harrangue procured him, from the Enemies of this Country, that in the next Thurdsdays Gazette, he roundly advanced the same Doctrine in Print, and the Thurdsday after invited any Gentleman to dispute with him upon his Points of Law.
These vain and frothy Harrangues and Scribblings would have had no Effect upon me, if I had not seen that his Ignorant Doctrines were taking Root in the Minds of the People, many of whom were in Appearance, if not in Reality, taking it for granted, that the Judges held their Places during good Behaviour.
Upon this I determined to enter the Lists, and the General was very soon silenced.—Whether from Conviction, or from Policy, or Contempt I know not.2
It is thus that little Incidents produce great Events. I have never known a Period, in which the Seeds of great Events have been so plentifully sown as this Winter. A Providence is visible, in that Concurrence of Causes, which produced the Debates and Controversies of this Winter. The Court of Inquisition at Rhode Island, the Judges Salaries, the Massachusetts Bay Town Meetings, General Brattles Folly, all conspired in a remarkable, a wonderfull Manner.
My own Determination had been to decline all Invitations to public Affairs and Enquiries, but Brattles rude, indecent, and unmeaning Challenge of me in Particular, laid me under peculiar Obligations to undeceive the People, and changed my Resolution. I hope that some good will come out of it.—God knows.
1. JA alludes to the bitter dispute between Hutchinson and the House of Representatives over the issue whether “Parliament was our Sovereign Legislature, and had a Right to make Laws for Us in all Cases whatsoever”—a dispute evoked by Hutchinson's speech of 6 Jan., which was answered in an elaborate paper by the House on 26 Jan. For further details, especially on JA 's part in the answer, see his Autobiography and his letter to William Tudor, 8 March 1817 ( LbC , Adams Papers; inserted by CFA in his text of the Diary, Works , 2:310–313); Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 3:266–280. The documents are printed in Mass., Speeches of the Governors , p. 336–364.
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2. At a special town meeting in Cambridge, 14 Dec. 1772, Gen. William Brattle opposed the town's vote of instructions condemning the ministerial proposal to have the Superior Court judges paid by the crown and thus rendered independent of the Province. Brattle published his reasons in the Boston News Letter, 31 Dec. JA answered him in the Boston Gazette, 11 Jan. 1773, and followed with six more weekly pieces, citing innumerable British legal authorities from Bracton onward, to Brattle's sole rejoinder in the same paper, 25 Jan. All these articles, preceded by the Cambridge instructions, are reprinted in JA, Works , 3:511–574. The nub of the controversy, as JA phrased it in his Autobiography, was that since “the Judges Commissions were during pleasure” (durante beneplacito), the judges would become “entirely dependent on the Crown for Bread [as] well as office.” The position of Brattle and other tory advocates of the measure was that under the common law the judges held office during good behavior (quamdiu bene se gesserint), and by the proposed mode of payment would be rendered independent of both royal and popular influence.