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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0009

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Cranch, Richard
Date: 1756-10-18

To Richard Cranch

[salute] Dear Sir

In my last1 you remember I desired your sincere Opinion of the new Resolution I had taken, but as you have not yet been so kind as to send it, I must beg your patience while I tell you my sincere opinion of it. The Law, I take to be a very difficult and a very extensive Science and to acquire any considerable degree of knowledge in the Theory and of skill in the Practice, a serene head, a large collection of Books, length of Time, and the Friendship and Patronage of the great Masters in the Profession, are quite necessary. How serene my head will be after 3 years spent in a school you may judge if you please. As to Books, far from having cash to purchase any when I begin the World, Shall be a good deal worse than nothing. And my Birth, my Fortune, every thing within and about me, have thrown and will throw me at a great distance from the greatest Lawyers in this Country. Besides all this, our Mother, the Law, has a numerous Train of Sons, some of whom promise to ennoble the Family and to adorn their Country, and if she should look upon these as legitimate and upon me as a natural Son (and I confess She has some Reason to), I have sufficient ground to fear that the Inheritance will be divided among them and that I shall be disowned as unworthy so illustrious a race. These my Friend are not very cheerful considerations, but my consolation must be, the more danger the more glory. The General who with a small Army in a disadvantageous Posture, engages an Enemy, who is more numerous and better situated, tho' he is defeated in the whole, yet if he bravely struggles for Victory and makes his retreat with dignity, receives the Thanks and the Plaudits of his Country. But if he overcomes, tho' only to make his Enemy decamp, he saves the interest of his Country, and returns amidst the acclamations of the People, bearing the Triumphal Laurel to the Capitol.—And in this particular, you will excuse my vanity, if I propose myself as an Example for you to follow. I know it must be hard to conquer a Passion for a Lady so greatly accomplished as Miss H—— Q.2 But consider my friend that the more engaging the charms of her person and the more distinguished the Refinements of her Mind, the more noble your Resolution will appear if you subdue the inclination that such qualities naturally excite.—My Ideas ebb and flow like the Tide and I per• { 21 } ceive it past high water so that you must wait for the next high tide for another Letter from your sincere Friend,
[signed] John Adams
Pray write me a few lines as soon as you can, for as the Hart panteth &c.
Tr (Adams Papers,) in T. B. Adams Jr.'s hand, Lb/JA/26 (Microfilms, Reel No. 114); at foot of text, doubtless representing address on cover of missing RC: “To Mr Richard Cranch In Weighmouth.” Another Tr (Adams Papers), in an unidentified hand, same location. First Tr was certainly made in 1829 when JQA was preparing to write a biography of his father; the second was probably made not too long afterward, inadvertently.
1. Dated 29 Aug., above.
2. Hannah Quincy (1736–1826), later Mrs. Bela Lincoln and, by her second marriage, Mrs. Ebenezer Storer. Before the end of 1758, that is, about the time JA finished his law studies in Worcester and began practice in Braintree, JA began a romance with this popular and high-spirited young lady, daughter of Col. Josiah Quincy. The course of this affair is recorded in vivid entries scattered over several years in JA's Diary and Autobiography and Earliest Diary; see indexes to those works.

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0010

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Cushing, Charles
Date: 1756-10-19

To Charles Cushing

[salute] My Friend

I look upon myself obliged to give you the reasons that induced me to resolve upon the study and profession of the law, because you were so kind as to advise me to a different profession. When yours came to hand1 I had thoughts of preaching, but the longer I lived, and the more experience I had of that order of men, and of the real design of their institution, the more objections I found in my own mind to that course of life. I have the pleasure to be acquainted with a young gentleman of a fine genius, cultivated with indefatigable study, of a generous and noble disposition, and of the strictest virtue, a gentleman who deserves the countenance of the greatest men and the charge of the best parish in the Province. But with all these accomplishments, he is despised by some, ridiculed by others, and detested by more, only because he is suspected of Arminianism. And I have the pain to know more than one, who has a sleepy stupid soul, who has spent more of his waking hours in darning his stockings, smoaking his pipe, or playing with his fingers than in reading, conversation or reflection, cry'd up as promising young men, pious and orthodox youths and admirable Preachers. As far as I can observe, people are { 22 } not disposed to inquire for piety, integrity, good sense or learning in a young preacher, but for stupidity (for so I must call the pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces), irresistible grace and original sin. I have not in one expression exceeded the limits of truth, tho' you think I am warm. Could you advise me, then, who you know have not the highest opinion of what is called Orthodoxy, to engage in a profession like this.* But I have other reasons too numerous to explain fully. This you will think is enough. What I said to you in my last,2 against the practitioners in the law, I cannot recollect. It is not unlikely my expressions were unguarded, as I am apt to speak and write too much at random. But my present sentiments are that some of those practitioners adorn and others disgrace, both the law that they profess and the country they inhabit. The students in the law are very numerous and some of them, youths of which no country, no age, would need to be ashamed—and if I can gain the honor of treading in the rear and silently admiring the noble air and gallant atchievements of the foremost rank, I shall think myself worthy of a louder triumph, than if I had headed the whole army of orthodox preachers.
The difficulties and discouragements I am under are a full match for all the resolution I am master of. But I comfort myself with this consideration. The more danger the greater glory. The general who at the head of a small army, encounters a more numerous and formidable enemy, is applauded if he strove for the victory and made a skillful retreat, although his army is routed and a considerable extent of territory lost. But if he gains a small advantage over the enemy, he saves the interest of his country, and returns, amidst the acclamations of the people bearing the triumphal laurel to the capitol. (I am in a very bellicose temper of mind to night, all my figures are taken from war.) I have cast myself wholly upon fortune, what her ladyship will be pleased to do with me I can't say. But wherever she shall lead me, or whatever she shall do with me, she cannot abate the sincerity with which I trust I shall always be your friend,
[signed] John Adams
* After I had wrote so far I received yours3 for which I return my thanks and pray the continuance of your favors.
MS not found. Reprinted from the (Nantucket Gazette, 1 Feb. 1817), where it is captioned “To Mr. C. Cushing, School Master, Newbury,” which we may assume to be the address on the cover of the missing RC. In the newspaper this letter follows JA's letter to the same correspondent, 13 April 1756, above, the history of which (including that of the present letter, so far as its history is known) is recounted in note 5 there. Transcripts of the present letter, in { 23 } the hands of Susanna Boylston (Adams) Clark (later Treadway) and of T. B. Adams Jr., respectively, are in the Adams Papers.
1. Not found.
2. Presumably JA to Cushing, 13 April, above.
3. Not found.
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, 2017.