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Browsing: Early Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


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

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1754-03-19

19 [March 1754].

This morning is beyond description, Beautyfull, the Skie bespangled with Clouds which shed a lustre on us by the refraction of the rays of light, together with the healthy and enlivening air, which was purifyed By the thunder, afford most spirited materials for Contemplation.1 The gaiety of the weather is equally delightfull to the phylosopher, Poet and the man of Pleasure. The Phylosopher finds his passions all Calm, serene, and Pliable so that he finds no Difficulty in subjecting them to the subserviency of his reason, he can now contemplate all the gaudy appearances of nature and like Pythagoras bring Phylosophy down from heaven and make her conversible to men. The Poet thinks this the Best time to Converse with his muse and { 53 } Consequently gives himself up wholly to her directions. His whole soul is at her disposal!l and he no more retains the government of himself. While the man of pleasure find such delicacys arising from the objects of sence as are adapted to produce the highest sensations of delight in him.2
1. “Rain in the night. Fair with clouds” (John Winthrop, Meteorological Journal, MH-Ar).
2. Here a blank space of nearly half a page appears in the MS , and here also the writing in JA ’s experimental hand of 1754–1756 ends, though temporarily. The following three pages in the MS (i.e. {6–8}) were also originally left blank by the diarist except for the canceled beginning of his notes on Winthrop’s lectures (first entry of 1 April 1754, below). The editors suppose that JA intended to fill up this space with journal entries for the rest of March. See note 1 on the following entry and Introduction, p. 8.

Docno: ADMS-02-01-02-0006-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1758-10 - 1758-12
{Folio: 6}

[On the Law of Nature and the Moral Sense among Animals and among Men, October–December 1758.] 1

Q[uery]. Has any Species of Animals, besides Mankind, ever given Proofs that they have any idea of Justice, of R[igh]t or Wrong. That they have any Discernment of the Difference between Actions and Characters? Have they any moral Sense?
Q. Have they any sense of the Advantages of Temperance and of the Disadvantages of the Contrary. Will not horses, when they are hot, drink large Quantities of Water without Regret and frequently Chest-founder themselves so? They seem to have very little Concern or Apprehension about the Consequences of Violent Exercise and plentiful Eating and drinking.
Q. Did the2 Jewish Law that oxen, and Horses, that pushed or kicked a Man to death, or that copulated with any man or woman, should be slain, stand on this Principle, that the Brutes knew the Prohibitions they were under and were accountable, for the Breach of them?
Q. Let me examine, when, and how this Notion of a Law common to Beasts and men, arose in the World, and in what sense it was understood.
Q. If there are Rules of Justice, of Morality, that extend to all Animals, what do those Men deserve, who have believed this and yet plundered, preyed upon, Murdered Fowl, Beasts and fishes in all Ages.—How can we answer for robbing the Birds Nests of their Eggs and Young, for butchering, fleecing, Sheep, Lamb’s, Calves, Oxen &c., or will the Assistance we give them, in providing Food and shelter for them in Winter, and Pasturage in Winter [ i.e. summer? ], justify our { 54 } Cruel Depredations upon them?—But we never feed or Clothe Robbins, <wild Geese> wild fowl &c. What Justice then, in killing them? Is it not Murder?
Q. <Self Love and> Self Preservation, and the Desire of Propagation, are common to all Animals. But the Law of Nature, which teaches other Species to nurse their Young, teaches man to imbue the tender Minds of Children, with Knowledge and Virtue.
Q. The Law of Nature, as an Instinct is perhaps common, but the Institutions which Reason adds to Instinct, are peculiar to man. Now Justice, Temperance, Gratitude, Benevolence, &c. are Institutions of Reason, are found and proved to be human Duties, and beneficial to society, by Reason and Experience.
Jus naturale est quod Natura omnia Animalia docuit, Jus enim istud non est humani Generis proprium, sed omnium Animalium, quae, aut in terra, aut in mari aut in Coelo nascuntur.3
Temperance, Prudence, Justice, and Fortitude.
Jus naturale, is omnium Animalium.
Is the Law of Nature, common to all Animals, from Man the Lord of all, down to the smallest Animalcules, discernible by Glasses?
Are all the Rules of natural Law, which men are obliged to observe, incumbent upon all Birds, Beasts, fishes.
Temperance, Prudence, Justice, and Fortitude, are Duties of the Law of human Nature. But have the Beasts and Birds and Fishes, given any Proofs that they have any Idea of these Virtues? any sense of their obligation to Practise them? Do they not gorma[n]dize, do <they not> what Prudence, do they not rob, each other. Are not many of them timorous, afraid of Trifles and shadows? But their Vices are no Proof that they are not under these Laws, more than human Vices will prove that Men are not.—We do not understand their Language, their signs, nor their sounds enough to know, what Knowledge they have of their own Constitutions, and Connections.4 But is this Question worth a [ . . . ] Discussion?—I have no concern with a society of Birds or Beasts or fishes, or Insects. I shall neither be [concerned?] for nor against the Cattle. The Law of Nature includes the Laws of Reason as much as Self Love and Desire of Propagation and education, includes those Rules of Temperance, Prudence, Justice, and Fortitude which Reason, by the help of Experience, discovers to be productive of the <good> Happiness and Perfection of human [Nature?].
1. The entry which follows is in JA ’s small and sometimes almost indecipherable hand familiar in his Diary and correspondence from the latter part of 1756 on. Having left three pages blank after his entry of 19 March 1754 (see note on that entry, preceding), he afterward economically filled them up, no { 55 } doubt at about the same time that he wrote the later entries in the Diary Fragment, which are in the same hand and unquestionably belong to the last three months of 1758, or, at the latest, the first week or so of Jan. 1759.
2. MS : “they.”
3. “Natural law is taught by Nature to all living things, for that law appertains not only to the human species but to all living things that are born in the earth, sea, or sky.” Source not identified, but compare the phrasing in Justinian’s Institutes, bk. 2, title 1, § 12, as quoted by JA in his Legal Papers , 2:73.
4. Possibly “Conventions.”