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Browsing: Early Diary of John Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-02-01-02-0010-0007-0005

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1758-10 - 1758-12
{Folio: 28}

[Shakespeare’s Characters and Figurative Language, October–December 1758.]1

Shakespeare, in the Character of Lady Mackbeth, and of Gertrude, the Wife of old Hamlet, and afterwards of King Claudius, and in the Character of Lady Anne in King Richard, has shewn a sense of the Weakness of Woman’s Reason, and strength of their Passions.
The Horror of both divine and Human Vengeance, that attends guilty minds is strongly represented in the Characters of Mackbeth and his Lady. He grows daily more and more timorous of the Nobility, { 102 } and of every man of [Respect?] in their Realm. At last, they are afraid that the stones and trees, and Birds will reveal their Murder and demand Revenge. Blo[o]d for Blood.
Shakespears vicious Characters are aggravated beyond Life. He draws Ingratitude, Treason, Hypocrisy, Murder, in the strongest Colours of Horror.—In Thinking of any Thing, every Image that can resemble it, rises at once in strong Colours in Shakespears mind. When the News of his Ladies death is brought to Mackbeth, he turns his Thoughts upon Life.

Out out brief Candle!

Lifes but a walking Shadow, a Poor Player

That struts and frets his Hour upon the Stage

And then is heard no more! It is a Tale

Told by an Ideot, full of Sound and Fury

Signifying Nothing.2

Here he compares Life, 1st to a Candle, then to a Shadow, an Image taken from scripture, then to a Player on the stage of Life. Now to a Tale told by an Ideot, another scripture similitude.—Persons in Mackbeths situation are very apt to make these Reflections and Comparisons. After having committed every Vice and folly, in order to attain the Goods of this Life, they find that these Goods are all Trifles, light vain, idle Toys, and then they compair Life to such Things with great Wisdom. Oh the Horror and despair, the Distress and Anguish of a guilty mind.
Richard, Claudius, Mackbeth and his Wife and Iago are Characters of Fiends, not of men. The times have been, that when the Brains were out, the man would die, and there an End, but now they rise again with 20 mortal murders on their Crowns, and push us from our stools. Malcolm and Donalbain when they find their father murthered and a bloody Dagger laid near their Bed, and their own Hands stained with Blood, concluded that the Design was to charge the Murder on them, and to avoid the consequences they fled to England, and a faulcon towering in her Pride of Place, was by a mousing Owl haukt at and killed. The faulcon is Duncan, the mousing Owl is Mackbeth. The old man observed the Omen. Rosse takes Notice of another Omen that preceded Duncans Death. Duncans Horses, beauteous and swift, the Minions of their Race, turned wild in Nature, broke their stalls, flung out, contending gainst Obedience, as they would make War with man. Thriftless Ambition that will raven up thy own lifes means.
Mackbeth kills the others that lay in the K[ing]’s Chamber out of { 103 } pretended Rage at their [Murder] of the King and tells the Lords and Attendants, their faces and Hands were besmeared in blood and that [an] unwiped Dagger laid by the Bed side. Not only Omens preceded, but sympathy in Nature attended Duncans Death. Chimneys were blown down.

Lamentings heard i’the air, strange screams of Death.

Of dire Combustion and confusd Events

New hatchd to the woeful time.

The obscure bird clamourd the livelong night

Some say the Earth was feverous and did shake.3

Mackbeths Imagination was [struck?] and afraid, was as lively and teemed with Notions, a Thousand thoughts came into his Head when he was [remainder missing]
His imagination created 100 things, a Voice crying, Sleep no more, Mackbeth doth Murder Sleep; the innocent Sleep. Sleep is the Idea now. What Thoughts does this call up. Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of Care, the Death of each days Life. As Death is to a mans whole Life, so is <Sleep to a day> each nights Sleep to us, sore Labours Bath, Bath of Labour, Balm of Hurt minds, great natures second Course, chief Nourisher in Lifes feast. The Eye of [remainder missing]
1. There is nothing to indicate the date of these comments on Shakespeare, although it may be noted that on 5? Dec. 1758JA entered in his Diary as published in 1961 an injunction to himself beginning: “Let me search for the Clue, which Led great Shakespeare into the Labyrinth of mental Nature!” (Diary and Autobiography, 1:61). As usual, JA’s quotations are approximate.
2. Act V, scene v, lines 23–28.
3. Act II, scene iii, lines 61, 63–66.

Docno: ADMS-02-01-02-0010-0007-0006

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1758-12 - 1759-01
{Folio: 28, upside down}

[On a Petition from Braintree Troops Enlisted for the Expedition against Canada, December 1758–January 1759.]1

The general Court agreed to raise 7000 men, to cooperate with his Majesties Forces, for the Reduction of Canada. Agreed, consented by a Vote an Order not by a Law an Act.2 They make Acts to raise money and clothe the soldiers when raised. But the K[ing], in the british Constitution, and of Consequence the Governor in ours, has the sole Direction of Peace and War. Inlisting men, sending them out, proclaiming War, negociating Peace, concluding Peace, are all with the sovereign’s Power. But the Parliament must raise supplies.
The Court direct and impower the Treasurer to borrow £28,000, and they enact that the said £28,000 when[soever] borrowed, shall be { 104 } issued by the Governor, with Advice of Council, for the levying and cloathing the said 7000 men, pursuant to the Order of this Court, and for no other use.—By Order of Court, and with Advice of Councill.3
Cur [i.e. Court?] will grant these Petitions, that People may be encouraged to list next Spring, even after the time limited for Inlistments, when the officers are impowered to impress, and not to be so obstinate as some were last Spring. Some refused to the last to inlist, and were dragged into the Service at last. If Money was issued by the Governor to the Officers of this Company or Regiment, to be given as a Bounty to these men, who inlisted after the 2d of May as well as to those before, and the Officers have [defrauded?] them of it, should not this Petition [represent?] the fraud and pray an Order on the officers to make Satisfaction?4—Is the Governor, or Coll. Lincoln or Coll. Quincy or Captain Bracket5 to blame in this Affair. If there was an Order of the Generall Court that such as should inlist after the 2d of May should have the Bounty, as well as those who inlisted before, and the Governor [paid?] Money accordingly, one of them is to blame.
1. From evidence set forth in note 4, below, the latest possible date that this, physically the last entry in the Diary Fragment, could have been written was the first week or so in Jan. 1759. It was probably written in Dec. 1758, when, as we must suppose, JA was called on to help draft the petition from Joseph Nightingale and others of Braintree that is the subject of these notes.
2. The General Court on 11 March 1758 “Voted, That Seven Thousand Men, inclusive of Officers be raised on the part of this Government, by inlistment for the Intended Expedition against Canada, to be formed into Regiments, and Officer’d by such of the Inhabitants of this Province as His Excellency the Capt. General shall be pleased to appoint: The said Men to be continued in the service for a time not exceeding the first Day of November next, and to be dismissed as much sooner as his Majesty’s Service will admit” (Mass., Province Laws, 16:153).
This force was recruited to join the army under Gen. James Abercromby at Albany which in the summer of 1758 undertook an amphibious assault on the French stronghold of Fort Carillon (later Fort Ticonderoga) in order to clear the way to Canada. Abercromby’s army of 15,000 suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Montcalm with a much smaller force. The remains of some of the “inland fleet” in which the British and colonial troops had ascended Lake George were being recovered for reconstruction and preservation in the summer of 1965. See Edward P. Hamilton, The French and Indian Wars, N.Y., 1962; New York Times, 27 June 1965, p. 1, 55.
3. JA is here abstracting an Act of 25 March 1758 (Mass., Province Laws, 4:76).
4. On 17 March 1758 the General Court had voted “That each able bodied effective Man who shall voluntarily inlist himself into the intended Expedition against Canada before the fifteenth day of April next shall be intitled to Thirty shillings and upon his passing Muster shall receive a good Blanket and Fifty shillings more for furnishing himself with Cloaths” (same, 16:160). On 21 April—eloquent testimony on how recruiting was progressing—the time for enlistment “upon the same Bounty” was extended until 2 May (same, p. 176).
Among those who failed to meet the later date but enlisted soon afterward in order to avoid being “dragged into the Service at last” by officers with power to impress, was a neighbor of JA’s named Joseph Nightingale; see JA, Diary and { 105 } Autobiography, 1:303. On 10 Jan. 1759 the House of Representatives received and considered the following petition, which JA is discussing here and had presumably helped Nightingale draft:
“A Petition of Joseph Nightingale, and others, of Braintree, . . . praying, that they may be allowed the Bounty voted for those that should inlist into the Service the last Year, for the Expedition against Canada before the 2d Day of May last, they having inlisted into said Service within a very few Days after the Time assigned, and marched to Fort-Edward by Direction of their proper Officers, and served faithfully during the whole Campaign.
“Read and Ordered, That this Petition be dismiss’d.”
(Mass., House Jour., 35:158.)
The original of the Braintree petition has not been found in M-Ar.
5. Col. Benjamin Lincoln (Sr.), of Hingham (the father of Dr. Bela Lincoln, mentioned frequently above), and Col. Josiah Quincy and Capt. Richard Brackett of Braintree, the principal local militia officers.
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.