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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0001-0006-0009

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1771-07-25 - 1771-07-26

July 25. and 26. Thursday and Fryday.

Both these Days spent in the Tryal of Mr. Otis's Case vs. Mr. Robinson.1
{ 48 }
1. On 4 Sept. 1769 James Otis had published in the Boston Gazette a card denouncing the Commissioners of Customs in Boston for their abuse of “all true North-Americans, in a manner that is not to be endured.” He was referring to statements by the Commissioners in their memorials and other papers that had recently made their way back to Boston and were soon to be published in Letters to the Ministry from Governor Bernard . . ., Boston, 1769. To this he added another communication saying among other things that if Commissioner John Robinson “misrepresents me, I have a natural right . . . to break his head.” See entries of 2 and 3 Sept. 1769, above. It was Otis' head that got broken, in a fracas with Robinson and his friends at the British Coffee House in the evening of 5 Sept.; see Boston Gazette, 11 Sept. 1769.
Otis promptly engaged three lawyers— JA, S. S. Blowers, and Samuel Fitch— and sued for £3,000 damages. His case came up in the January sitting of the Suffolk Inferior Court but was continued from term to term until July 1771, when (as JA reports in the next entry) the jury awarded him £2,000. Both parties appealed to the Superior Court, Robinson through his father-in-law and attorney, James Boutineau, he himself having long since left Boston for London. The appeals were also continued. But at length in the August term of 1772, Otis in a long statement accepted Robinson's apology in open court in lieu of damages, and required only that Robinson's attorney pay £112 11s. 8d. for “the common costs of court,” Otis' medical expenses, and his lawyers' fees in the amount of £30 each. (This statement is printed in full in Tudor, James Otis, p. 504–506, from Suffolk County Court House, Early Court Files, &c., No. 102135, where other relevant papers will be found.)
In JA's docket of Superior Court actions for this term (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184) appears the following:
Otisvs. Robinson [and] Robinson vs.Otis
recd. a genteel Fee in these Cases from Mr. Otis in full.”

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0001-0006-0010

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1771-07-27

July 27. Saturday.

The Jury this Morning delivered their Verdict, for £2000 Sterling Damages, and Costs.—I have spent this Morning in reading the Centinells. There is a profuse Collection of Knowledge in them, in Law, History, Government, that indicates to me the only Author, I think. A great Variety of Knowledge.1
The Subject of the Governors Independency, is a serious, a dangerous, and momentous Thing. It deserves the utmost Attention.
1. A series of 40 more or less regular weekly essays on current constitutional and political questions appeared in Thomas' Massachusetts Spy, May 1771–March 1772, over the signature of “A Centinel.” Though JA thought he knew who wrote them, no further evidence has yet been found on this point. They parallel JA's own thinking, show substantial learning in law and history, and Gov. Hutchinson evidently suspected that JA was the author (see 2 Feb. 1772, below); but for numerous reasons this is an unacceptable hypothesis.

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

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1771-08-09

1771. Aug. 8 [i.e. 9?]. Fryday.1

Have loitered at home the most of the past Week, gazing at my Workmen. I set 'em upon one Exploit, that pleases me much. I proposed ploughing up the Ground in the Street along my Stone Wall { 49 } opposite to Mr. Jos. Fields, and carting the Mould into my Cow Yard. A few Scruples, and Difficulties were started but these were got over—and Plough, Cart, Boards, Shovells, Hoes, &c. were collected, and We found it easyly ploughed by one Yoke of Oxen, very easy to shovel into the Cart, and very easily spread in the Yard. It was broke entirely to Pieces, and crumbled like dry Snow or indian meal in the Cow Yard. It is a Mixture of Sand, of Clay, and of the Dung of Horses, neat Cattle, Sheep, Hogs, Geese &c. washed down the whole length of Pens hill by the Rains. It has been a Century a Washing down, and is probably deep. We carted in 8 Loads in a Part of an Afternoon with 3 Hands besides ploughing it up, and 8 Loads more the next forenoon, with 2 Hands. I must plough up a long ditch the whole length of my Wall from N. Belchers to my House, and cart in the Contents. I must plough up the whole Balk from my Gate to Mr. Fields Corner, and cart in the Sward. I must enlarge my Yard and plough up what I take in, and lay on that Sward; I must dig a Ditch in my fresh Meadow from N. Belchers Wall down to my Pond, and cart the Contents into my Yard. I must open and enlarge four Ditches from the Street down to Deacon Belchers Meadow, and cart in the Contents. I must also bring in 20 Loads of Sea Weed, i.e. Eel Grass, and 20 Loads of Marsh Mud, and what dead ashes I can get from the Potash Works and what Dung I can get from Boston, and What Rock Weed from Nat. Belcher or else where. All this together with what will be made in the Barn and Yard, by my Horses, Oxen, Cows, Hogs, &c. and by the Weeds, that will be carried in from the Gardens, and the Wash and Trash from the House, in the Course of a Year would make a great Quantity of Choice manure.
J.Q.2 says Mr. O[tis] was quite wild at the Bar Meeting—cursed the Servants for not putting 4 Candles on the Table, swore he could yet afford to have 4 upon his own—&c.—&c.
1. The 8th was a Thursday; with little doubt JA was writing on Friday the 9th. Except for the final short paragraph, this whole entry was omitted by CFA from his text of the Diary.
2. Doubtless Josiah Quincy Jr. There is no record of this meeting in the Suffolk Bar Book (MHi). Apparently when JA was absent no minutes were kept.
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.