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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0049

Author: Sewall, Jonathan
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1764-02-15

From Jonathan Sewall

[salute] Dear Brother John

You may remember we had some Confab. together about having the Small Pox in Concert. I intend next week (Thursday) to be inoculated by Doctr. Joseph Gardner at Point Shirley,1 and I expect to have Brother Thacher's Company;2 —now if we could make a Triumvirate, I am perswaded it would be for our mutual Support, Com• { 98 } fort and Edification—but if Brother Thacher should not have Courage enough, yet it would be a singular pleasure to me if you and I could be pockey Companions. I want three Weeks close Conversation with you, which will be about the Time we shall have, as I suppose. I can have a warm convenient Room, and a fine Woman to look after us, (Mrs. Bennet,) and Doctor Gardner will be in the House with us, till we are safe thro'. John I beg you would accompany me, and pray let me know your Resolution imediately, by a Letter unless you can come to Town which you may do with the utmost Safety. If you are not down before the Court, let me know as soon as possible whether I shall secure you a Birth with me. If you can come to Town imediately upon the Rect. of this, it would be best, as we can conjointly settle preliminaries with the Doctr. &c. I think it much best to take it soon, and the Doctor is of this Opinion likewise. Brother, I feel a longing Desire to have you with me, and once more intreat and Command you not to let want of Courage, or any other Cause prevent your Complying with this Request from your Brother and Friend3
[signed] JonSewall
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in Jonathan Sewall's hand: “To John Adams Esqr. in Braintree”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “J Sewell 1764 Feby 15th did not go—but went to Boston and had it the same year.”
1. Gardner (1727–1788) was a prominent Boston physician and patriot, one of the fourteen founders of the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1781. He with three others had intended to establish a smallpox hospital on Point Shirley in Chelsea (now Winthrop) (Walter L. Burrage, A History of the Massachusetts Medical Society, privately printed, 1923, p. 25).
2. Oxenbridge Thacher Jr. (1719–1765), prominent and popular Boston attorney, who served with James Otis Jr. on the writs of assistance case in 1761. JA thought highly of his character, as did many in Boston, but less so of his intellectual powers. A political enemy of Thomas Hutchinson and a vigorous opponent of the Sugar Act, he was rated by JA as second only to Otis in importance in the early Revolutionary movement (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates, 10:322–328; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 1:passim).
3. No written reply to Sewall's invitation has been found. JA was inoculated for smallpox by Dr. Nathaniel Perkins and left a detailed record of his experience (Adams Family Correspondence, 1:16–17, 22–24, 28–30, 32–36, 39–401:16–17, 22–23, 23–24, 24–25, 28–29, 29–30, 32–35, 36, 39–40). The relative scarcity of Series III documents for 1764 is accounted for partly by JA's inoculation and his marriage to Abigail in October 1764, although he continued to be very active in legal work.

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0050

Author: Adams, John
Author: Niles, Samuel
Author: Hayward, Joshua
Author: Braintree, town of
Date: 1764-05-21

Report of the Braintree Committee for Repairing Highways

The Committee appointed to Consider of Some Plan for Repairing the High ways1 having taken the Same into Consideration Report as follows (viz.)
{ 99 }
That there be a Tax laid on Polls and Estates this present year for that purpose.
That the Tax on Polls be two shillings per Poll and the Same proportion on Estates according to the Last Town Tax.2
That the assessors be directed as soon as may be to assess the Inhabitants accordingly and to deliver to the Several Surveyors a List of those Persons that are or may be assigned to their Respective districts with the Several Sums each one shall be Respectively assessed and that each Person so assessed shall have Liberty if he See Cause to pay the Sum he is assessed in said List or Tax in working on the High ways at the Rate of Two Shillings Per Day for a Man, Two Shillings Per Day for a pair of oxen, and eight pence Per Day for a Cart and Two Shillings Per Day for a Horse and Horse Cart. And if any Person or Persons shall refuse or neglect to work out his or their proportion at the Rates aforesaid on their being Legally Notified by the Surveyor in that Case the Surveyor or Surveyors shall return a List of Such Delinquent or Delinquents by the first of November next to the assessors with the Sum due from each one Respectively which Sum or Sums of Money remaining due on said Tax the assessors are directed when they make the next Town Rate to add to Such Delinquents Town Tax in a distinct Collumn by it Self and to impower the Several Constables in their Warrants to them to collect the Same and pay it in to the Town Treasurer. Excepting as hereafter expressed (viz.) That if it should be found unnecessary to Expend the full of that Proportion on the ways in the North Precinct that one half of Such Surplusage be returned to the Precinct Treasurer of that Precinct and for the use of that precinct and that the other half be returned to the Town Treasurer. And further. That all such Sums of money as shall come in this Way into the Town Treasury be appropriated to the Reparation of High ways in the Town and to no other purpose.3 And that each Surveyor be impowered to hire Persons at Customary Reasonable wages to work on the High ways to the amount of the Sum to be worked out by his district which Persons shall be paid by draughts on the Town Treasurer.

[salute] All which is Submitted.

[signed] Saml. Niles
[signed] Joshua Hayward
[signed] John Adams
The above Report being Read was voted accepted and the Reparation of the High ways within said Town to be managed in Conformity thereto the ensuing year.
{ 100 }
MS (Braintree Town Records, 1731–1783, p. 227–228); in hand of Elisha Niles, town clerk.
1. As early as 1730, Braintree's town meeting had considered proposals to substitute a system of tax-supported road maintenance for the traditional reliance on annually appointed surveyors who were expected to get out the inhabitants to labor, or furnish labor, on the roads (CFA2, Three Episodes, 2:674–676). On 1 March 1756, the town adopted such a plan, but the decision was reversed by another vote two weeks later. Although the question was revived in 1760 and 1761, Braintree did not actually approve the experiment of “Repairing the Highways by a Tax” until the town meeting of 19 March 1764 (Braintree Town Records, p. 346–347, 370, 376, 395).
JA was instrumental in winning this reform in Braintree in 1764, and his 21 March 1761 memorandum on local conditions and legal authorities respecting the question of road assessments (Diary and Autobiography, 1:203) demonstrated his long-standing interest in the subject. In later years, JA recalled that the old system left the roads “very bad, and much neglected,” and that he considered “a Tax a more equitable Method and more likely to be effectual.” Thus, at the town meeting of 19 March 1764, he joined advocates of the road tax “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.” Having learned that Roxbury and Weymouth had already instituted the maintenance plan under discussion in Braintree, JA continued: “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 [on 21 May] and it was adopted by a great Majority” (same, 3:279).
2. The last tax, set 24 Aug. 1763, was £300 (Braintree Town Records, p. 393). The proportion of town taxes to be paid by estates has not been ascertained; but if Braintree in apportioning town taxes followed the customary practice in Massachusetts with regard to province taxes, it would expect to raise two-thirds of the total tax from estates, the other third from polls.
3. The plan adopted by Braintree differed slightly from the Weymouth model as to rates of assessment and of valuation of labor and draft animals, but JA's plan preserved the basic principles of the Weymouth system: townsmen might fulfill their obligations by either labor or taxes, and the proceeds of such tax payments were reserved for bridge and highway maintenance. See Weymouth Hist. Soc., History of Weymouth, Massachusetts, Boston, 1923, 2:568.
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/