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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1

This note contained in document ADMS-01-01-02-0006-0004-0001
7. This detached entry appears to be out of place chronologically, since it reports part of Benjamin Prat’s plea in abatement of the writ in the case of Gray v. Paxton, tried in Suffolk Inferior Court, July 1761. This was a famous case, with marked political overtones. Harrison Gray (1711–1794) was provincial treasurer and receiver-general; Charles Paxton (1707–1788) was a commissioner of customs in Boston (Stark, Loyalists of Mass., p. 34–336, 318–319). The action grew out of Paxton’s practice of charging his costs for secret informers entirely against the King’s (that is to say, the Province’s) one-third share of the value of goods forfeited under admiralty court decisions, while the Governor and the informer each got their full thirds. As a result of a petition from a number of merchants and after much bickering between the House of Representatives and Governor Bernard, the General Court in Jan. 1761 authorized Treasurer Gray to sue Paxton for the alleged deficiencies (more than £357). Much discussed during the spring, the case came on in the Inferior Court in July, and Paxton lost. The Superior Court in its August term supported Prat’s plea in abatement and reversed the decision. A new action, Province v. Paxton, was thereupon brought in the Inferior Court, Jan. 1762, and judgment was again rendered against Paxton. He again appealed, and, to use Bernard’s words, “pursuant to the direction of all the Judges the jury found for the defendant [Paxton],” Feb. 1762. The records of the two cases, with full commentary, are printed by Samuel M. Quincy in Appendix II to Quincy, Reports, p. 541–552. It is to Chief Justice Hutchinson’s role in the two cases on appeal that JA refers so bitterly in his Diary for 30 Dec. 1765: “Who has made it his constant Endeavor to discountenance the Odium in which Informers are held?” &c.
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, 2018.