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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0057

Author: Adams, John
Author: Ploughjogger, Humphrey
Recipient: Boston Gazette (newspaper)
Date: 1765-10-14

Humphrey Ploughjogger to the Boston Gazette

[salute] MessieursEdes & Gill,

I Han't rit nothing to be printed a great while:1 but I can't sleep a nights, one wink hardly, of late. I hear so much talk about the stamp act and the governor's speech,2 that it seems as if 'twould make me crazy. The governor has painted a dreadful picture of the times after the first of November—I hate the thoughts of the first of November. I hope twill be a great storm, and black and gloomy weather, as our faces and hearts will all be. Tis worse than all the fifth of Novembers3 that ever was. The Pope never did half so much mischief, as that stamp act will do, if the world stands as long as the Pope has done. However, seems to me the governor has represented the times worse than they will be. For in the first place they do say, that thieves and robbers and rioters, ay and lyars too, and all sorts of rogues, may be punish'd as well after the stamp act takes place as before. And as to suing poor folks for money, that does no body no good but the lawyers. But as to trade and shipping and such like, it seems to me we had better be without the most of that than with it—for it only makes rum and such things cheap, and so makes folks drink toddy and flip instead of cyder, when they an't half so good and holsome—and it mades [makes] us all beaus, and dresses us up fine. We got into a way on't o late,—our young men buy them blue surtouts, with fine yellow buttons, and boughton broad cloth coats jackets and breeches—and our young women wear callicoes, chinces and laces, and other nicknacks to make them fine. But the naughty jacks and trollops must leave off such vanity, and go to nitting and spinning. I always used to keep a comely boughten coat to go to meeting in, but I'le vow I'le { 147 } never put it on again after first November, if the stamp act takes place; I'le cut up the hide of my fat Ox that I'm fatting for my winter's beef first, and make a coat of that, with the hair on. I'm sure I could be edified as much with the sermon, as if I had on a royal robe, and be as warm in it too. I've read somewhere that the folks in old England before Caesar went there, wore such skins of beasts, and yet loved liberty, and knew how to keep it too. I don't believe our young folks would love to dance together at husking frolicks, and to kiss one another a bit the less, if they wore woolen shirts and shifts of their own making, than they do now in their fine ones. I do say, I won't buy one shilling worth of any thing that comes from old England, till the stamp act is appeal'd, nor I won't let any of my sons and daughters; I'de rather the Spittlefield weavers should pull down all the houses in old England, and knock the brains out of all the wicked great men there, than this country should loose their liberty. Our fore fathers came over here for liberty of conscience, and we have been nothing better than servants to 'em all along this 100 years, and got just enough to keep soul and body together, and buy their goods to keep us from freezing to death, and we won't be their negroes. Providence never designed us for negroes, I know, for if it had it wou'd have given us black hides, and thick lips, and flat noses, and short woolly hair, which it han't done, and therefore never intended us for slaves. This I know is good a sillogissim as any at colledge, I say we are as handsome as old England folks, and so should be as free.
So I don't like the governor's speech very well, any more than I did tother speech that he made, where he has not done fairly by me.4 I'me sure I wrote abundance, about Hemp before he said a word about it. Mr. U and I wrote a good many papers,5 and us'd many arguments for it, and told the way of managing ont, a year or two before the governor said a word about it. Ay, and a great many folks were stirred up to try it, by our writings too, and I believe raly Mr. U and I ought to have the honor and glory and profit ont too—of bringing ont into fashion. I dont see why it would not be reasonable for our Deputies to make Mr. U and I a grant or two for our extraordinary services, as they do sometimes to other great men that dont deserve it half so much.
[signed] Humphry Ploughjogger
MS not found. Reprinted from the (Boston Gazette, 14 Oct. 1765).
1. On Humphrey Ploughjogger, see above, Editorial Note, 3 March – 5 Sept. 1763.
2. Gov. Francis Bernard addressed the General Court, 25 Sept. 1765, defending Parliament's right to tax the colonies. Although he did not specifically justify the Stamp Act, he warned that Massachusetts would virtually lapse into anarchy if it did not obey the act after it { 148 } went into effect on 1 Nov. (Mass., Speeches of the Governors, &c., 1765 – 1775, p. 39–43).
3. Pope's Day, commemorating the frustration of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In Boston this was usually the occasion for an outburst of anti-Catholic demonstrations and bruising battles between the town's South End and North End mobs.
4. Among other things, Gov. Bernard's address to the General Court, 30 May 1765, recommended the approval of bounties to encourage the production of hemp.
5. Humphrey Ploughjogger and “U” wrote three and four pieces respectively for Boston newspapers; see note 1, above.

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0058

Author: Cooper, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1765-12-18

From William Cooper

Boston, 18 December 1765. Printed: JA, Diary and Autobiography, 1:265–266. See Notes on the Opening of the Courts [19 Dec. 1765?], and Argument before Gov. Bernard [20 Dec. 1765], below.

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0059

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1765-12-19

Notes on the Opening of the Courts

Right, Wrong and Remedy.2
Common Law is common Right, 1. Inst. 142.a. Cokes Proem to 2d Inst.
The Law is the Subjects best Birthright. 2. Inst. 56.
Want of Right and Want of Remedy is all one, for where there is no Remedy, there is no Right, 1. Inst. 95.b.
The Law provides a Remedy for every Wrong. 1. Inst. 197.b. 2. Inst. 55. 56. [4]05. but see 1. Inst. 199.b.
The Law hath a Delight in giving of Remedy. Lit. 323. 1. Inst. 54.b. 199.b. [2]00.a.
The Act of Law, never doth Wrong. 1. Inst. 88.b. 148.a.b. 379.a.
Where the Construction of any Act is left to the Law, the Law will never construe it to work a wrong. Woods. Inst. P. 4. 5.3
A statute must be construed that no innocent man may by a literal Construction receive Damage. Wood Page 9.
An Act of Parliament can do no Wrong. Holt. 12. Mod. 687. 688. Hill. [13]Wm. 3. B. R. City of London vs. Wood.4
Actus dei nemini facit Injuriam.—Actus Legis nulli facit Injuriam.
Cases of Necessity and Impossibility.
The Law forces no one to that which is impossible or vain. 1. Inst. 79.a. 92.a. 127.b.—to procure the Stamp Papers is impossible, and to stop Justice would be vain.
Things of Necessity are to be excepted out of a general Law. 2. Inst. 168.5
{ 149 } { 150 } { 151 }
There is nothing of greater Necessity than the Administration of Justice,—Justice cannot be administered at present but in the Usual Way.—Therefore the present Case and these Times are excepted out of that general Law the Stamp Act.
Things for Necessity Sake, or to prevent a Failure of Justice, are excepted out of a Statute. Woods. Inst. Page 9 [8].6
Acts of Parliament that are against Reason, or impossible to be performed shall be judged void. 8. Rep. 118. 128. 129. 2. Inst. 587. 588.7
MS (Adams Papers); endorsed by JA: “before Govr and Council abt opening Courts”; Tr (Adams Papers); copied by CFA into M/CFA/31 (Microfilms, Reel No. 327). JA's MS is torn at several points along the edges; missing words and numbers are supplied from JA's source; see note 3, below.
1. In JA, Diary and Autobiography, 1:267, note 2, this MS was tentatively dated 20 Dec. 1765, the day on which JA, together with James Otis and Jeremiah Gridley, appeared before the Governor and Council to argue in behalf of Boston's memorial calling for the opening of the courts in defiance of the Stamp Act. Probably, however, JA made these notes a day earlier when he received a brief note from William Cooper notifying him of his selection to appear with Otis and Gridley as town counsel in this matter (see 18 Dec. 1765, above). After getting Cooper's letter, JA gave a good deal of thought to the kinds of argument he might use on Boston's behalf (Diary and Autobiography, 1:265–266). The next day JA was busy traveling to Boston and conferring there with political leaders before he appeared before the Governor and Council—too busy to have had opportunity to write out these notes on that day. Thus, 19 Dec. seems the more plausible date.
2. Presumably JA was unable to avail himself fully of these notes when he appeared in the council chamber, for Otis and Gridley gave their younger colleague the apparently unexpected honor of speaking first. According to a slightly flustered JA, “Then it fell upon me, without one Moments Opportunity to consult any Authorities, to open an Argument, upon a Question that was never made before, and I wish I could hope it never would be made again” (Diary and Autobiography, 1:267). For JA's argument, which does cite two authorities, see the next document.
3. Thomas Wood, An Institute of the Laws of England . . . Published for the Direction of Young Beginners, or Students in the Law . . . , 7th or 8th edn., London, 1745, 1754. Pages 4 and 5 under the heading “Rules Concerning Law” contain verbatim all of the statements above, including the citations from Coke's Institutes. Where the MS is torn numbers have been supplied from Wood. In the first rule, the reference to Coke's “Proem to 2d Inst.” was apparently supplied by JA.
4. Modern Reports or Cases Adjudged in the Court of King's Bench from the Second Year of King William III to the End of His Reign, London, 12 [1738]: 687, 688, Hillary [term] 13 William. The quotation is taken from Chief Justice Sir John Holt in City of London v. Wood.
5. These two rules are also from Wood, p. 4–5.
6. JA miscopied the page number.
7. From Wood, p. 9, but JA omitted “common Justice and” before “Reason.”
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/