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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0052

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1775-12 - 1776-02

[Sixth of December 1775]

About the sixth of December 1775, I obtained Leave of Congress to visit my Family and returned home.1 The General Court satt at Watertown, Our Army was at Cambridge and the British in Boston. Having a seat in Council, I had opportunity to Converse with the Members of both Houses, to know their Sentiments and to communicate mine. The Council had unanimously appointed me, in my Absence, without any Solicitation or desire on my Part, Chief Justice of the State. I had accepted the Office, because it was a Post of danger, but much against my Inclination. I expected to go no more to Congress, but to take my Seat on the Bench.2 But the General Court would not { 360 } excuse me from again attending Congress and again chose me a Member with all my former Colleagues except Mr. Cushing who I believe declined, and in his room Mr. Gerry was chosen, who went with me to Philadelphia, and We took our Seats in Congress on Fryday 9. February 1776. In this Gentleman I found a faithfull Friend, and an ardent persevering Lover of his Country, who never hesitated to promote with all his Abilities and Industry the boldest measures reconcileable with prudence. Mr. Samuel Adams, Mr. Gerry and myself, now composed a Majority of the Massachusetts Delegation, and We were no longer vexed or enfeebled by divisions among ourselves, or by indecision or Indolence. On the 29 of Feb. 1776 William Whipple Esq. appeared as one of the Delegates from New Hampshire, another excellent Member in Principle and Disposition, as well as Understanding.
1. JA asked for leave on 8 Dec. and departed on the following day for Braintree, where he arrived on 21 Dec.; see Diary entry of 9 Dec. 1775. The principal reason for his requesting leave—his need to know whether he was expected to stay on in Congress at this critical time or to assume the duties of chief justice of Massachusetts (see the following note)—is ably discussed by CFA (JA, Works, 1:191–192).
2. On 11 Oct. 1775 the new Massachusetts Council, acting on the legal fiction that the governor was “absent,” nominated JA “a Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature” (M-Ar: Council Records, 17:128), and on 28 Oct. Deputy Secretary Perez Morton notified him that he had been elected “first or Chief Justice,” to serve with William Cushing, William Read, Robert Treat Paine, and Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant, “who are to hold their Seats in the Order therein arranged,” as associate justices (Adams Papers; see also James Warren to JA, 5 Nov. 1775, Adams Papers, printed in Warren-Adams Letters, 1:178). After some deliberation JA accepted, stating that in view of the “Hazards and Embarrassments” of such a post at such a time he dared not decline it and would return to take his seat “as soon as the Circumstances of the Colonies will admit of an Adjournment of the Congress” (to Perez Morton, 24 Nov., Dft, Adams Papers; Works, 3:23, note). As for the “Hazards” of the post, see JA's defense of a much criticized passage in his intercepted letter to James Warren of 24 July 1775, p. 320, above.
||This last document is now available in the Papers of John Adams, volume 3, which presents the letter as printed in the Massachusetts Gazette in August 1775.||
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/