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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0010-0001-0007

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1766-01-07

Tuesday [7 January].

At Boston. Hampden has given us in Yesterdays Gazette, a long Letter to Pym upon shutting up the Courts, in which he proves from Holts and Pollexfens Arguments at the Revolution Conference, from Grotius De Jure Belli, B. 1. C. 3. §. 2. that shutting up the Courts is an Abdication of the Throne, a Discharge of the Subjects from their Allegiance, and a total Dissolution of Government and Reduction of { 287 } all Men to a state of Nature. And he proves from Bracton that partial Tumults, &c. are not a Tempus Guerrium, (Bellorum) a Time of War.
Sam. Waterhouse has made a most malicious, ungenerous, Attack upon James Lovell Jur. the Usher of the Grammar school, and insinuated about feminine Gender and Conjunction Copulative—as Y.Z. and H. had attacked him, about Idleness and familiar Spirits, and Zanyship, and Expectancy of a Deputation &c.1 This Way of reviling one another is very shocking to Humanity and very dangerous in its Consequences. To pry into a Mans private Life, and expose to the World, all the Vices, and Follies of Youth, to paint before the Public Eye, all the Blotts and Stains, in a Mans private Character, must excite the Commisseration of every Reader, to the Object, and his Indignation against the Author of such Abuse.
Spent half an Hour with Father Dana, another with Samuel Quincy, an Hour with Mr. Otis, &c. Otis is in high Spirits, is preparing for next Mondays Paper.2 Says that Mr. Trail brings very comfortable News, that Conway told him the Stamp Act must be repealed, that there was some Difficulty about coming off with Honor and that America would boast that she had conquered Britain. But he hoped the Americans would Petition. He longed to receive some Petitions &c. John Wentworth writes his Uncle Saml., that the Marquis of Rockingham told him, he would give his Interest to repeal 100 stamp Acts, before he would run the Risque of such Confusions, as would be caused by Enforcing it. That he knew there were already 10,000 Workmen discharged from Business, in Consequence of the Advices from America.
Clarendon to Pym.3
Nothing gave me so much Regret, or such Remorse in my whole Life, as the Part I acted in conniving at some of King Charles’s grievous and illegal Measures, and the Pains I took to support him, and his two oppressive Instruments Laud and Strafford. But my very zealous Attachment to the Church and the enthusiastical Spirit of Party, made me see many Objects in a Partial Light. I have condemned my self for these faults from that Time to this. And it grieves me to hear that the Barbadians have acted so vile a Part, in the Year 1765. That Island was settled, under the Protectorate of Cromwell, by zealous Partisans for Passive Obedience, and I suppose a Remnant of the servile Spirit of their Ancestors, and of those ruinous Doctrines have prevailed on them to submit. I said under the Protectorate for I must own I can scarcely prevail on my self to call it an Usurpation, or the struggle { 288 } made by you and Hampden and others, a Rebellion. If I was to revise my History, I should alter many Things which the Rage of Party hurried me to record, and in Particular, the Tittle of that Work.
1. These pieces appeared from time to time in both the Boston Evening Post and the Boston Gazette, Nov. 1765–Jan. 1766. They have decidedly lost their savor, if they ever had any. James Lovell (1737–1814), Harvard 1756, a teacher in the South Grammar School in Boston, achieved local celebrity by delivering the earliest of the anniversary orations on the “Boston Massacre,” 1771. A zealous patriot, he was elected to the Continental Congress late in 1776, where he served for five years on (and for long periods as) the Committee for Foreign Affairs, distinguishing himself equally, according to Edmund C. Burnett, by his diligence and his love of intrigue and mystification. In both his official capacity and as a family friend, Lovell corresponded voluminously with JA and AA, indiscriminately mixing international and personal affairs and views in his always lively letters. Burnett’s short account of Lovell in DAB is masterly, but a more comprehensive biography, drawing on his widely dispersed papers, is badly needed.
2. This can hardly mean anything else than that Otis was the author of the “Hampden” letters to “William Pym,” and that Otis told JA so at this time.
3. Draft of a fragment of the second “Clarendon” letter as published in the Boston Gazette, 20 Jan. 1766.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0010-0001-0008

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1766-01-08

Wednesday Jany. 8th. 1766.

At Home. Wrote &c.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0010-0001-0009

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1766-01-09

Thurdsday Jany. 9th. 1765 [i.e. 1766].

At Home.

Tantone Novorum

Proventu Scelerum quaerunt uter imperet Urbi?

Vix tanti fuerat Civilia Bella movere

Ut Neuter.1

Must such a Number of new Crimes be committed, to decide which of these two, Caesar or Pompey, shall be master in Rome? One would hardly purchase at that Price, the good Fortune of having Neither of them for Master.
Clarendon to Pym.2
Grotius De Jure Belli et Pacis B. 2 C. 16. §. 22. N. 1. The Interpretation that restrains the Import of Words is taken either from an original Defect in the Will of the Speaker or from some Accident falling out inconsistent with his design. Note. 1. There are some Cases, which there is good Reason to believe, the Person who speaks either did or at least might foresee them; and yet that he never intended they should be included in the general Terms, tho he has not expressly { [facing 288] } { [facing 289] } { 289 } excepted them, because he supposed such an Exception clear in itself. There are other Cases which could not be foreseen but are such as if they could have come into the Mind of him who speaks, he would have excepted them. This is the Accident, inconsistent with his design.
§.25. Tis also a very usual Inquiry, whether Acts are to be understood, with this tacit Condition if things continue in the same Posture, they are now in: and We frequently read in History, of Embassadors, who understanding that there was so great a Turn in Affairs, as would render the whole Matter and reason of their Embassy void, have returned home without opening their Commission at all. (implied Conditions, tacit Exceptions, tacit Restrictions.)
§. 26. Since it is impossible to foresee and specify every Accident, there is a Necessity for reserving the Liberty of exempting such Cases, as the Speaker would, were he present him self, exempt. One infallible Token that there ought to be such an Exemption is, when to adhere precisely to the Letter would be unlawful i.e. repugnant to the Laws of God and Nature. Another Token of Restriction shall be this, when to stick close to the Letter, is not absolutely, and of it self unlawful, but when upon Considering the Thing with Candor and Impartiality, it appears too grievous and burdensome. Seneca says, In the Law you say there is nothing excepted. But however, many Things which are not expressly excepted, are yet evidently implied to be so. The Letter indeed is narrow but the meaning extensive, and some Things are so very plain, as to want no Exception at all. And again, We engage to appear in Court on a certain day, and yet all those who do not appear, are not liable to the Penalty. There are some invincible Obstacles that excuse a Non Performance.
Thus all the Rules, that have been framed by Phylosophers, Civilians, and Common Lawyers, for the Interpretation of Promises, Covenants, nay Oaths, Treaties, Commissions, Instructions, Edicts and Acts of Parliament, are exactly coincident with the Maxim of Common sense, in the Conduct of private Life, that Cases of Necessity and Impossibility are always excepted. That there is a Necessity for proceeding with Business, has been proved by your old Friend Hampden, beyond all Contradiction. He has proved that Protection and Allegiance are reciprocal, that a Failure of Justice without actual Violence as in Cases of Invasion and Rebellion, is an Abdication of the Crown and Throne. So that if the Prevention of a total Dissolution of Government and an universal Reduction of all Men to a state of Nature, is a Case of Necessity, this Province is at present in that Case.
1. “Lucan’s Pharsalia, 1. 2, v. 60” (CFA’s note in JA, Works, 2:175).
{ 290 }
2. The following notes and extracts from Grotius were not used in any of JA’s “Clarendon” letters as published.
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/