A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0008

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1761-05-25

[Braintree Lawyer, 1761]

On the 25 of May in this Year 1761, my venerable Father died in his 71st Year, beloved, esteemed and revered by all who knew him. Nothing that I can say or do, can sufficiently express my Gratitude for his parental Kindness to me, or the exalted Opinion I have of his Wisdom and Virtue. It was a melancholly House. My Father and Mother were seized at the same time with the violent Fever, a kind of Influenza, or an Epidemick which carried off Seventeen Aged People in our Neighbourhood. My Mother remained ill in bed at my Fathers { 277 } Funeral, but being younger than my Father and possessed of a stronger constitution, she happily recovered and lived to my inexpressible Comfort, till the Year 1797, when she died at almost ninety Years of Age....1 My Father by his Will left me, what he estimated one third of his Real State, which third consisted in a House and Barn such as they were and forty Acres of Land. He also left me one third of his personal Estate.2 My house humble as it was, with a few repairs and a very trifling Addition served for a comfortable habitation for me and my family, when We lived out of Boston, till our return from Europe in 1788. The Uncertainty of Life as well as of Property, which then appeared to me, in the prospect of futurity, suppressed all thought of a more commodious Establishment. If I should fall which was very probable in a Contest which appeared to me inevitable, I thought it would be an Addition to the Misery of my Wife and Children to be turned out of a more envyable Situation. I continued to live with my Mother and my Brothers, for the first Year, when my youngest Brother, Elihu, removed to the South Parish in Braintree, now Randolph, to a Farm which my father left him, which he cultivated to Advantage, and is now possessed by his oldest Son. I continued with my Mother and my oldest Brother Peter Boylston, till my Marriage in 1764 with Miss Abigail Smith, Second Daughter of the Reverend Mr. William Smith of Weymouth and Grand Daughter of Colonel John Quincy of Mount Wollaston. Sometime after this my Brother married Miss Crosby a Daughter of Major Joseph Crosbey, sold me the House and Farm which my father left to him and went to live in a House of his Wife's.3 Sometime before this,4 in pursuance of my plan of reforming the practice of Sherriffs and Pettyfoggers in the Country I procured of all the Justices in Braintree, John Quincy, Edmund Quincy, Josiah Quincy and Joseph Crosbey a recommendation of my Brother to Stephen Greenleaf Sherriff of the County, and a Certificate of his Character, upon receiving which Mr. Greenleaff readily gave him a Deputation. He was young, loved riding and discharged his Duties { 278 } with Skill and Fidelity but his disposition was so tender, that he often assisted his Debtors, with his own Purse and Credit, and upon the whole to say the least was nothing the richer for his Office.
1. Suspension points in MS.
2. Actually Deacon John Adams' will, proved 10 July 1761, divided his property more or less equally among his three sons after one third was devised to their mother, but JA's share was somewhat smaller than his brothers' because his father had provided for him “a Libberal Education” (Tr, Adams Papers, Wills and Deeds, Microfilms, Reel No. 607). A copy of the inventory of Deacon John Adams' estate, attested by JA as one of the executors before Probate Judge Thomas Hutchinson, 9 Oct. 1761, is with the will.
3. Peter Boylston Adams married Mary Crosby in Aug. 1768 and sold the house now known as the John Adams Birthplace to JA early in 1774.
4. In 1761; see Diary entry of 11 June 1761 and note 1 there.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0009

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1759
Date: 1761

[Jonathan Sewall, 1759]

Sometime in 1761 or two1 Mr. Samuel Quincy with whom I sometimes corresponded, shewed to Mr. Jonathan Sewall, a Lawyer somewhat advanced before Us at the Bar, some juvenile Letters of mine of no consequence, which however Sewall thought discovered a Mind awake to the love of Litterature and Law and insisted on being acquainted with me and writing to me. His Acquaintance and Correspondence were readily embraced by me, and continued for many Years, till political disputes grew so warm as to seperate Us, a little before the War was commenced. His Courtship of Miss Esther Quincy, a Daughter of Edmund Quincy, brought him to Braintree commonly on Saturdays where he remained till Monday, and gave Us frequent Opportunities of Meeting, besides those at Court in Boston, Charlestown and Cambridge. He possessed a lively Wit, a pleasing humour, a brilliant Imagination, great Sub[t]lety of Reasoning and an insinuating Eloquence. His Sentiments of public Affairs were for several Years conformable to mine, and he once proposed to me, to write in concert in the public Prints to stir up the People to militia Duty and military Ardor and was fully of my Opinion that the British Ministry and Parliament would force Us to an Appeal to Arms: but he was poor, and Mr. Trowbridge and Governor Hutchinson contrived to excite him to a quarrell with Mr. Otis, because in the General Court, Col. Otis and his Son had not very warmly supported a Petition for a Grant to discharge the Debt of his Uncle the late Chief Justice who died insolvent. To this Artifice they added another which wholly converted him, by giving him the office of Solicitor General. I know not that I have ever delighted more in the friendship of any Man, or more deeply regretted an irreconcileable difference in Judgment in public Opinions. He had Virtues to be esteemed, qualities to be loved and Talents to be admired. But political Principles were to me in that State of the Country, Sacred. I could not follow him, and he could not follow me.
1. A mistake for, presumably, 1759, since JA's surviving correspondence with Jonathan Sewall begins in that year.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0010

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1763

[Town Officer, 1761–1765]

Now become a Freeholder I attended the Town Meetings, as a Member, as I had usually attended them before, from a Boy as a Spectator. In March1 when I had no suspicion, I heard my name pronounced in a Nomination of Surveyors of Highways. I was very wroth, because I { 279 } knew no better, but said Nothing. My Friend Dr. Savil came to me and told me, that he had nominated me to prevent me from being nominated as a Constable: for said the Doctor, they make it a rule to compell every Man to serve either as Constable or Surveyor, or to pay a fine. I said they might as well have chosen any Boy in School, for I knew nothing of the Business: but since they had chosen me, at a venture, I would accept it in the same manner and find out my Duty as I could. Accordingly I went to ploughing and ditching and blowing Rocks upon Penn's Hill, and building an entire new Bridge of Stone below Dr. Millars and above Mr. Wibirts. The best Workmen in Town were employed in laying the foundation and placing the Bridge but the next Spring brought down a flood, that threw my Bridge all into Ruins. The Materials remained and were afterwards relaid in a more durable manner: and the blame fell upon the Workmen not upon me, for all agreed that I had executed my Office with impartiality, Diligence and Spirit.
There had been a controversy in Town for many Years, concerning the mode of repairing the Roads. A Party had long struggled, to obtain a Vote that the High Ways should be repaired by a Tax, but never had been able to carry their point. The Roads were very bad, and much neglected, and I thought a Tax a more equitable Method and more likely to be effectual, and therefore joined this party in a public Speech, carried a Vote by a large Majority and was appointed [to] prepare a By Law to be enacted at the next Meeting. Upon Inquiry I found that Roxbury and after them Weymouth had adopted this Course: I procured a Copy of their Law and prepared a Plan for Braintree, as nearly as possible conformable to their Model, reported it to the Town and it was adopted by a great Majority.2 Under this Law the Roads have been repaired to this day, and the Effects of it are visible to every Eye.
In 1763 or 1764, The Town voted to sell their Common Lands.3 This had been a Subject of Contention for many Years. The South Parish was zealous and the middle Parish much inclined to the Sale, the North Parish was against it. The Lands in their common Situation, appeared to me of very little Utility to the Public or to Individuals: Under the care of Proprietors when they should become private Property, they would probably be better managed And more productive. My Opinion was in favour of the Sale: The Town now adopted the { 280 } Measure, appointed [Mr.] Niles, Mr. Bass and me, to survey the Lands, divide them into Lots to sell them by Auction and execute deeds of them in Behalf of the Town. This was no small Task. We procured our Surveyors and Chainmen and rambled with them over Rocks and Mountains and through Swamps and thicketts for three or four Weeks. Having made the Division and prepared the Plans, a day was appointed for the Vendue. We handled the Mallett ourselves as Vendue Masters and finished all the Sales in one Night: the Deeds were made out, the Bonds for the Money executed and the whole reported to the Town at the next Meeting. Of the original Purchasers I bought two Woodlotts in one of which is Hemlock Swamp and a Pasture in which is Rocky Run, and I should have bought much more, if the awfull Prospect of publick affairs had not discouraged me.
1. Presumably in 1761, but see the Diary entry of 3 March 1761 and note 1 there, which applies also to the next paragraph in the Autobiography.
2. This report, adopted 21 May 1764, is printed in Braintree Town Records, p. 397.
3. Actually 5 March 1765 (Braintree Town Records, p. 400). For the reports and proceedings of the committee see same, p. 401–402, 406–407.
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/