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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0011

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1764 - 1765

[Marriage and Law Practice, 1764-1765]

In the Winter of 1764 the Small Pox prevailing in Boston, I went with my Brother into Town and was inocculated under the Direction of Dr. Nathaniel Perkins and Dr. Joseph Warren.1 This Distemper was very terrible even by Inocculation at that time. My Physicians dreaded it, and prepared me, by a milk Diet and a Course of Mercurial Preparations, till they reduced me very low before they performed the operation. They continued to feed me with Milk and Mercury through the whole Course of it, and salivated me to such a degree, that every tooth in my head became so loose that I believe I could have pulled them all with my Thumb and finger. By such means they conquered the Small Pox, which I had very lightly, but they rendered me incapable with the Aid of another fever at Amsterdam of speaking or eating in my old Age, in short they brought me into the same Situation with my Friend Washington, who attributed his misfortune to cracking of Walnuts in his Youth. I should not have mentioned this, if I had not been reproached with this personal Defect, with so much politeness in the Aurora. Recovered of the Small Pox, I passed the summer of 1764 in Attending Court and pursuing my Studies with some Amusement on my little farm to which I was frequently making Additions, till the Fall when on the 25th of October 1784 [i.e. 1764] I was married to Miss Smith a Daughter of the Reverend Mr. William Smith a Minister of Weymouth, Grand daughter of the Honourable John Quincy Esquire of Braintree, a Connection which has been the Source of all my felicity, Although a Sense of Duty which forced me away from her and my { 281 } Children for so many Years has produced all the Griefs of my heart and all that I esteem real Afflictions in Life. The Town of Braintree had chosen me, one of the Select Men, Overseers of the Poor and Assessors,2 which occasioned much Business, of which I had enough before: but I accepted the Choice and attended diligently to the functions of the Office, in which humble as it was I took a great deal of Pleasure. The Courts at Plymouth Tau[n]ton, Midd[l]esex and sometimes at Barnstable and Worcester, I generally attended. In the Spring of 1765, Major Noble of Boston had an Action at Pownalborough, on Kennebeck River. Mr. Thatcher, who had been his Council, recommended him to me, and I engaged in his cause, and undertook the Journey. I was taken ill on the Road and had a very unpleasant Excursion. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the fatigue and disgust of this Journey. It was the only time in my Life, when I really suffered for want of Provisions. From Falmouth now Portland in Casco Bay, to Pounalborough There was an entire Wilderness, except North Yarmouth, New Brunswick and Long reach, at each of which places were a few Houses. In general it was a Wilderness, incumbered with the greatest Number of Trees, of the largest Size, the tallest height, I have ever seen. So great a Weight of Wood and timber, has never fallen in my Way. Birches, Beaches, a few Oaks, and all the Varieties of the Fir, i.e. Pines, Hemlocks, Spruces and Firs. I once asked Judge Cushing his Opinion of their hight upon an Avaradge, he said an hundred feet. I believe his estimation was not exaggerated. An Hemlock had been blown down across the Road. They had cutt out a logg as long as the road was wide. I measured the Butt at the Road and found it seven feet in Diameter, twenty one feet in circumference. We measured 90 feet from the Road to the first Limb, the Branches at Top were thick: We could measure no farther but estimated the Top to be about fifteen feet, from the Butt at the Road to the Root we did not measure: but the Tree must have been in the whole at least an hundred and <thirty> twenty feet. The Roads, where a Wheel had never rolled from the Creation, were miry and founderous, incumbered with long Sloughs of Water. The Stumps of the Trees which had been cutt to make the road all remaining fresh and the Roots crossing the path some above ground and some beneath so that my Horses feet would frequently get between the Roots and he would flounce and blunder, in danger of breaking his own Limbs as well as mine. This whole Country, then so rough, is now beautifully cultivated, { 282 } Handsome Houses, Orchards, Fields of Grain and Grass, and the Roads as fine as any except the Turnpikes, in the State. I reached Pownalborough alive, gained my Cause much to the Satisfaction of my Client and returned home. This Journey, painfull as it was, proved much for my Interest and Reputation, as it induced the Plymouth Company to engage me in all their Causes, which were numerous and called me annually to Falmouth Superiour Court for ten years.
1. This medical incident occurred in April-May 1764. Perkins inoculated JA , and Warren inoculated JA 's brother, but which of his two brothers this was is uncertain. JA 's letters at this period to his fiancée, Abigail Smith (Adams Papers), give abundant details on the method and regimen of smallpox inoculation before Jenner's discovery of vaccination.
2. On 3 March 1766; see Diary entry of that date, and Braintree Town Records , p. 408.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0012

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1765

[The Stamp Act, 1765]

This Year 1765 was the Epocha of the Stamp Act....1 I drew up a Petition to the Select Men of Braintree, and procured it to be signed by a Number of the respectable Inhabitants, to call a Meeting of the Town to instruct their Representatives in Relation to the Stamps.2 The public Attention of the whole Continent was alarmed, and my Principles and political Connections were well known.... I prepared a Draught of Instructions, at home and carried them with me: the cause of the Meeting was explained, at some length and the state and danger of the Country pointed out, a Committee was appointed to prepare Instructions of which I was nominated as one. We retired to Mr. Niles House, my Draught was produced, and unanimously adopted without Amendment, reported to the Town and Accepted without a dissenting Voice. These were published in Drapers Paper, as that Printer first applied to me for a Copy.3 They were decided and spirited enough. They rung thro the State, and were adopted, in so many Words, As I was informed by the Representatives of that Year, by forty Towns, as Instructions to their Representatives. They were honoured sufficiently, by the Friends of Government with the Epithets of inflammatory &c. I have not seen them now for almost forty Years and remember very little of them. I presume they would now appear a poor trifle: but at that time they Met with such strong feelings in the Readers, that their Effect was astonishing to me and excited some serious Reflections. I thought a Man ought to be very cautious what kinds of fewell he throws into a fire when it is thus glowing in the Community. Although it is a certain Expedient to acquire a momentary Celebrity: Yet it may produce future Evils which may excite serious Repentance. I have seen so many fire brands, thrown into the flames, <especially> not only in the worthless and unprincipled Writings of the { 283 } profligate and impious Thomas Paine and in the French Revolution, but in many others, that I think, every Man ought to take Warning. In the Braintree Instructions however, If I recollect any reprehensible fault in them, it was that they conceeded too much to the Adversary, not to say Enemy. About this time I called upon my Friend Samuel Adams and found him at his Desk. He told me the Town of Boston had employed him to draw Instructions for their Representatives: that he felt an Ambition, which was very apt to mislead a Man, that of doing something extraordinary and he wanted to consult a Friend who might suggest some thoughts to his mind. I read his Instructions and shewed him a Copy of mine. I told him I thought his very well as far as they went, but he had not gone far enough. Upon reading mine he said he was of my Opinion and accordingly took into his, some paragraphs from mine.4
On the fourteenth of August this Year, The People in Boston rose, and carried Mr. Oliver who had been appointed Distributor of Stamps, to Liberty Tree where they obliged him to take an Oath, that he would not exercise the office.5 The Merchants of Boston could not collect their debts, without Courts of Justice. They called a Town Meeting, chose a Committee of thirty Gentlemen to present a Petition to the Governor and Council, to order the Courts of Justice to proceed without Stamped Papers, upon the principle that the Stamp Act was null because unconstitutional. This Principle was so congenial to my Judgment that I would have staked my Life on the question: but had no suspicion that I should have any thing to do with it, before the Council, till a Courier arrived with a Certificate from the Town Clerk that I was elected by the Town, with Mr. Gridley and Mr. Otis, to argue the Point the next morning. With so little preparation and with { 284 } no time to look into any books for analogous Cases, I went and introduced the Argument but made a very poor figure. Mr. Gridley and Mr. Otis more than supplied all my defects. But the Governor and Council would do nothing. The Court of Common Pleas, however were persuaded to proceed and the Superiour Court postponed and continued the Question till the Act was repealed. At an Inferiour Court in Plymouth, Mr. Paine and I called a Meeting of the Bar, and We laboured so successfully with our Brothers that We brought them all to agree in an Application to the Court to proceed without Stamps, in which We succeeded.
1. Here and below in JA 's account of the Stamp Act crisis, the suspension points are in the MS .
2. No text of such a petition has been found.
3. Adopted in town meeting on 24 Sept. ( Braintree Town Records , p. 404–406), the Braintree Instructions were first printed in Draper's Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News Letter, 10 Oct. 1765, and later elsewhere; see note on Diary entry of 18 Dec. 1765. JA 's rough draft (Adams Papers) has never been printed, and the Instructions as a whole deserve closer textual study than they have yet received.
4. Samuel Adams' biographer pointed out that this was a mistaken claim, since Boston had adopted its instructions to its representatives on 18 Sept. and published them on the 23d, whereas the Braintree Instructions were not even adopted until the 24th (Wells, Samuel Adams , 1:65, note; see also Samuel Adams, Writings , 1:7–12; Boston Record Commissioners, 16th Report , p. 155–156). Despite the argument from chronology it is perfectly possible that the cousins conferred together on this occasion. It would have been characteristic of them both to do so, and especially characteristic of JA to have been ready with a public paper, or at least wellformed ideas for it, in the expectation of being asked to write it. A comparison of the texts of the two sets of instructions shows no identical paragraphs, but the arguments and occasionally the phrasing of the Boston Instructions are enough like those from Braintree to give some color to JA 's claim.
5. Andrew Oliver's house had been mobbed on 14 Aug. 1765, but it was not until the following 17 Dec. that he was forced to renounce his post as stamp distributor. On these and subsequent events alluded to here, see JA 's Diary entries of 15 Aug. 1765 (and note 2 there), 19 Dec. 1765 and following.