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Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0007-0013-0009

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1785-11-09


Drank tea at Mrs. West's,1 where our ladies spent the afternoon. I afterwards went home with Eliza; went in to Mr. White's. Mr. and Mrs. Duncan2 were there. This Lady, in Consequence, of a fit of sickness, has for these two or three months been deprived of her Reason: a little before 7 she went home with her husband; about half an hour after, Mr. J Duncan, came in, and enquired if she was there: we were immediately alarmed, and I went up with Miss Peggy, to Mr. Duncan's. The whole neighbourhood was stirring in a short time, and she has been fruitlessly search'd after, for three hours. The Circumstances of her disappearing, are very singular; Mr. Duncan had not been 2 minutes from her, when she was first miss'd, and she went off without any Cloak. It is generally feared that she went to the River with the intention to put an end to her existence; as she has already attempted it twice. The hopes conceived are but small: the whole family, are deeply affected, and in a State of Suspense, more dreadful than a certainty of the worst could be: Mrs. White, who is the Lady's Sister, is in great distress. Peggy fears the worst, and is prepared for it. If she is gone, said she to me, as we were going up the hill, there is a god, who rules all with infinite Wisdom; we must hope for the best, and submit to whatever he may inflict upon us. Such Reflections, are often made by persons when their passions are cool, but such philosophical and Christian resignation is not common in so young a mind, when it receives a sudden, and violent shock like this. I admired it exceedingly.
1. Possibly Joanna Kast, wife of Henry West, a Haverhill merchant (Haverhill, Vital Records;Essex Inst., Hist. Colls., 71:91–92 [Jan. 1935]).
2. Elizabeth Leonard Duncan was the second wife of James Sr. and stepmother of the Duncan children (James Duncan Phillips, “James Duncan and Son: Merchants, Capitalists and Chain Store Operators,” Essex Inst., Hist. Colls., 89:51 [Jan. 1953]).

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0007-0013-0010

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1785-11-10


My Uncle, went out, early this morning, and when he return'd put an end to our hopes with Respects to Mrs. Duncan, and realized our fears. She was found dead, in the River, near the shore, in a place where there is not more than two foot of water. In this distressing Calamity, it is in some measure a consoling circumstance that she was found: the family must necessarily have suf• { 355 } fered beyond measure, had she never been heard of after she disappeared. I never felt my Spirits so depress'd, as they have been all this day. A Sentiment of Humanity in general, always makes me feel, for a disaster of this sort, but I was never before witness to one, when my attachment to an Amiable family in particular, has heightened the natural feelings to such a degree.
The God, who disposes every thing, for the best, when he bereaves an human creature thus of its Reason, does it perhaps with a view to make the rest sufficiently sensible of the inestimable blessing he has bestow'd upon them. For such is the mind of man, that it can never be grateful for the gifts it possesses, unless it sees the dreadful Consequences attending the want of them; and it is adversity that makes the good man.

The ways of Heaven, are dark and intricate,

Puzzled in mazes, and perplex'd with errors.

My Aunt, and Nancy spent the day at Mr. Duncan's. Mrs. Shaw, was greatly affected, but her conduct proved, this was not the first time, her Sensibility, had been thus called forth. Nancy was distress'd to a great degree: she could not contain her grief; it has heightened my opinion of her: the heart that feels so keenly for other's woes, may be led into errors, but never can be unamiable.
Mr. Thaxter return'd to day from Salem. He is deeply interested in this misfortune; and bears it with the fortitude, for which he is distinguished, and which he has often, been called upon to exert.
He left Salem this morning, and the jury upon the affair, had not then given their Verdict. He seems to be of opinion that they were not guilty of Piracy; but thinks it probable they will be condemned.
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.