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Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0002-0010-0003

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1787-10-03

3d.

Continued in the first volume of Blackstone. In the course of my reading this day; I came across a paragraph, which surprized me; it was this. “It is a principle of universal law, that the natural-born subject of one prince, cannot by any act of his own, no, not by swearing allegiance to another, put off or discharge his natural allegiance to the former: for this natural allegiance was { 299 } intrinsic, and primitive and antecedent to the other: and cannot be devested without the concurrent act of that prince to whom it was first due.”1 I enquired of Mr. Parsons his opinion upon the subject. He said that if instead of universal law, it was common law the assertion would be just; but that in his opinion, by the law of nature every man had a right to put off his natural allegiance, for good cause, and this I think much more reasonable, than to say, that a man is obliged to serve and assist his sovereign however cruel tyrannical and unjust he may be. The doctrine of Blackstone must I think imply that of passive obedience; which is not now to be refuted. It may indeed be said that every unjust act, is a tacit consent to the discharge of the subjects allegiance; but this is straining the meaning of words, a great length; and I think it is much the best to cut the gordian knot, as Mr. Parsons did.
I wrote along in the evening till late.
1. Commentaries on the Laws of England, 11th edn., 4 vols., London, 1791, 1:369–370.

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0002-0010-0004

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1787-10-04

4th.

I this day concluded the first volume of my author: and employ'd all the afternoon in copying from it, under heads. As Parsons goes to Boston next week and will stay there so long, that I shall probably finish the book I am now reading before he returns; I enquired of him, what would be best to take up next. He recommended, Sullivan's lectures, then Wright's tenures, and then Coke Littelton.1 This evening I was at Mr. Tufts's; present at the marriage of his daughter Dolly to Mr. Geo. Odiorne of Exeter. Mr. Cary perform'd the ceremony. I staid there to supper, but came away soon after that, as I spent my time rather tediously. Mercy Brooks from Medford was there: she is one of the very few unmarried women, with whom I can be sociable, after a short acquaintance: whether it is owing to some peculiarity of circumstances, or of character I know not, but the fact I am sure of.
Two pages since I return'd is quite decent, I can now fairly close my book.2
1. Francis S. Sullivan, An Historical Treatise on the Feudal Law, and the Constitution and Laws of England . . . In a Course of Lectures Read in the University of Dublin, London, 1772; Martin Wright, Introduction to the Law of Tenures..., London, 1729; Edward Coke, The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England. Or, A Commentary upon Littleton..., London, 1628, and subsequent editions. A copy of Sulli• { 300 } van's Lectures, containing the bookplate of JQA and the signature of JA on the titlepage, is at MQA.
2. Presumably JQA wrote his entries for 3–4 Oct., which appear on two pages in the Diary, after returning from Samuel Tufts' house.