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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0011-0001-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1767-03

Saturday March 1767.

Went with Captn. Thayer to visit Robert Peacock and his poor distressed Family. We found them, in one Chamber, which serves { 333 } them for Kitchen, Cellar, dining Room, Parlour, and Bedchamber. Two Beds, in one of which lay Peacock, where he told us he had lain for 7 Weeks, without going out of it farther than the Fire. He had a little Child in his Arms. Another Bed stood on one side of the Chamber where lay 3 other Children. The Mother only was up, by a fire, made of a few Chips, not larger than my Hand. The Chamber excessive cold and dirty.
These are the Conveniences and ornaments of a Life of Poverty. These the Comforts of the Poor. This is Want. This is Poverty! These the Comforts of the needy. The Bliss of the Necessitous.
We found upon Enquiry, that the Woman and her two oldest Children had been warned out of Boston. But the Man had not, and 3 Children had been born since.
Upon this Discovery we waited on Coll. Jackson, the first Select Man of Boston, and acquainted him with the facts and that we must be excused from any Expence for their Support.
When I was in that Chamber of Distress I felt the Meltings of Commiseration. This Office of Overseer of the Poor leads a Man into scenes of Distress, and is a continual Exercise of the benevolent Principles in his Mind. His Compassion is constantly excited, and his Benevolence encreased.1
1. On 2 March JA had been reelected a selectman (Braintree Town Records, p. 414). Overseeing the poor was one of the duties of selectmen in Braintree until 1786; see same, p. 566, and CFA2, Three Episodes, 2:722 ff.

Docno: ADMS-01-01-02-0011-0002-0001

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1767-04-04

April 4th. 1767.1

Suits generally Spring from Passion. Jones vs. Bigelow, Cotton and Nye arose from Ambition. Jones and Bigelow were Competitors for Elections in the Town of Weston, Cotton and Nye were Rivals at Sandwich. Such Rivals have no Friendship for each other. From such Rivalries originate Contentions, Quarrells and Suits. Actions of Defamation are the usual Fruits of such Competitions. What affection can there be between two Rival Candidates for the Confidence of a Town. The famous Action of slander at Worcester between Hopkins and Ward, of Rhode Island, Sprouted from the same Stock. There the Aim was at the Confidence of the Colony.
Poor Nye of Sandwich, seems dejected. I should suspect by his Concern that Cotton gained Ground vs. him. He seems to be hipp’d. It fretts and worries and mortifies him. He cant sleep a Nights. His Health is infirm.
Cotton is insane, wild. His Proposal of giving his House and Farm { 334 } at Sandwich to the Province, is a Proof of Insanity. He has Relations that are poor. Jno. Cotton is now poor enough. He has a Brother Josiah Cotton the Minister whom he procured to be removed to Woburn, and thereby to be ruin’d, who is very poor, maintained by Charity. Roland was Josiahs ruin; yet he did not choose to give his Estate to Josiah. Besides his Behaviour at Boston upon that occasion, was wild. His sitting down at the Council Table with his Hat on and Calling for his Deed and a Justice to acknowledge it, when the Council was sitting.
Cottons Method of getting Papers Signed by Members, in order to demolish poor Nye is new. The Certificate from Murray and Foster if genuine is a mean, scandalous Thing. It was mean in Murray and Foster to sign that Paper. For one Rep[resentative] to give a Constituent a Weapon to demolish another Rep., is ungentlemanlike.2
1. First regular entry in “Paper book No. 14” (D/JA/14), though preceded by the detached notes on legal cases which have been inserted above under date of July 1766.
2. The case of Roland Cotton v. Stephen Nye, the latter of whom had succeeded the former as representative from Sandwich in the General Court in 1761, was an action for defamation. The plaintiff was awarded damages in Barnstable Inferior Court in April. JA appealed for the defendant to the Superior Court at its Barnstable session in May but again lost; see the entries for 16 and 17in May, below. Paine and Otis served as Cotton’s counsel. Nye was obliged to pay £7 damages and £15 13s. 5d. costs. (JA, List of Cases in Bristol, Plymouth, and Barnstable Courts, 1764–1767, and notes on Cotton v. Nye, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reels 184, 185; Superior Court of Judicature, Minute Book 82).
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.