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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 4


Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0169

Author: Warren, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1776-07-17

From James Warren

[salute] My Dear Sir

When you are Informed, that on the variety of Changes that have taken place in this Town, it is now become A Great Hospital for Inoculation, you will wonder to see A Letter from me dated here, but so it is that the rage for Inoculation prevailing here has whirled me into its vortex, and brought me with my other self into the Croud of Patients with which this Town is now filled. Here is A Collection of Good, Bad, and Indifferent of all Orders, Sexes, Ages and Conditions. Your good Lady and Family among the first. She will give you (I presume) such an account of her self &c. as makes it unnecessary for me to say more on that head.
She will perhaps tell you that this is the reigning subject of Conversation, and that even Politics might have been suspended for A Time, if your Decleration of Independence, and some other political Movements of yours had not reached us. The Decleration came on Saturday,1 and diffused A general Joy. Every one of us feels more Important than ever. We now Congratulate each other as freemen. It has really raised our Spirits to A Tone Beneficial to mitigate the Malignancy of the small Pox, and what is of more Consequence seems to Animate, and Inspire every one to support, and defend the Independency he feels. I shall Congratulate you on the Occasion and so leave this subject, and go to one not quite so Agreable. Congress have Acted A part with regard to this Colony, shall I say Cunning, or Politic, or only { 390 } Curious, or is it the Effect of Agitation. Has the Approach of Lord Howe had such An Effect on the southern Colonies, that they have forgot, the very Exntensive Sea Coast we have to defend, the Armed Vessels we have to Man from South Carolina to the Northern Limits of the United Colonies, that A large part of the Continental Army is made up from this Colony, that the General has not only got our Men but our Arms, and that they within two months ordered A reinforcement of three Battalions to the five Already here. Lucky for us you did not give time to raise these before your Other requisitions reached us, or we should have been striped indeed. Dont the Southern Colonies think this worth defending or do they think with half our Men gone the remainder can defend it, with Spears and darts, or with Slings (as David Slew Goliah). I was surprised to find the whole five Battalions called away. No determination is yet taken how their places shall be supplyed. The General Court are not setting, they were prorouged on Saturday. The Council have this matter under Consideration. What can they do but Call in the Militia or perhaps stop the last 1500 Men Called for to go to Canada if in their power. The works for the defence of this Town must not be Abandoned. They must be defended with or without Continental Assistance. Don't suppose that I am a Preacher of Sedition, or intend to be factious, or that the Eruptive fever is now upon me. Neither of these is true. I shall suppress all Sentiments of Uneasiness but to you and some few who I have reason to Suppose think of these Matters in the same way, and determine to do and suffer any and every thing for the good of the whole. But I think, tho' the Grand Object will be York, and Canada and their principal Force there, we are not so safe as we ought to be.
I can give you little or no News. Two of our Vessels have been brought too by A Man of War at sea, and the Masters taken as they were told before Lord Howe, who told them he was Bound directly to Philadelphia to settle with the Congress the unhappy dispute. He dismissed both the Vessels and gave them passes to protect them against any or all Cruisers, haveing first reprimanded one of them for the violation of Acts of Parliament in the Illicit trade at St. Petres2 from which place he then came with French Commodities. Our Coast is Clear. I hear of no Cruisers at present to Interrupt the passage of Vessels. Last saturday was the first time, I have been in this Town since the flight of the Invincible British Troops. I can't describe the Alteration and the Gloomy Appearance of this Town. No Business, no Busy Faces but those of the Physicians. Ruins of Buildings, Wharfs { 391 } &c. &c. wherever you go, and the streets covered with Grass. I have just heard that an honest Man from St. Petres, in 25 days says they had there Intelligence of A decleration of War between Spain and Portugal. This is neither Impossible or Improbable, and may Account for Lord Howe's being in A Single Ship, as we are told he had Arrived at the Hook. I wish you all Happiness and am with regards to Mr. Adams and Gerry Yours &c.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Warren July 17. 1776.”
1. That is, on 13 July. Warren had received the Dunlap broadside from Elbridge Gerry (James T. Austin, The Life of Elbridge Gerry, 2 vols., Boston, 1828–1829, 1:202–203; Adams Family Correspondence, 2:48, note 8).
2. Probably St. Pierre in Martinique.

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0170

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Mason, Jonathan Jr.
Date: 1776-07-18

To Jonathan Mason Jr.

[salute] My dear Sir

Your agreable Letter from Boston the 9th. July, was handed me, on Tuesday last by the Post.
The Confusions in America, inseparable from So great a Revolution in affairs, are Sufficient to excite Anxieties in the Minds of young Gentlemen just stepping into Life. Your Concern for the Event of those Commotions, is not to your dishonour. But let it not affect your Mind too much. These Clouds will be disperssed, and the Sky will become more Serene.
I cannot advise you, to quit the retired scene, of which you have hitherto appeared to be so fond, and engage in the noisy Business of War. I doubt not you have Honour and Spirit, and Abilities sufficient, to make a Figure in the Field: and if the future Circumstances of your Country should make it necessary, I hope you would not hesitate to buckle on your Armour. But at present I See no Necessity for it. Accomplishments of the civil and political Kind are no less necessary, for the Happiness of Mankind than martial ones. We cannot be all Soldiers, and there will probably be in a very few Years a greater Scarcity of Lawyers, and Statesmen than of Warriours.
The Circumstances of this Country, from the Years 1755 to 1758, during which Period I was a student in Mr. Putnams Office, were almost as confused as they are now. And the Prospect before me, my young Friend was much more gloomy than yours. I felt an Inclination, exactly Similar to yours, for engaging in active martial Life, but I was advised, and upon a Consideration of all Circumstances concluded, to mind my Books. Whether my determination was prudent or not, it is not possible to say, but I never repented it. To attain { 392 } the real Knowledge, which is necessary for a Lawyer, requires the whole Time and Thoughts of a Man in his youth, and it will do him no good to dissipate his Mind among the confused objects of a Camp. Nocturnâ versate manu, versate diurnâ1—must be your Motto.
I wish you had told me, particularly, what Lawyers have opened Offices in Boston, and what Progress is made in the Practice, and in the Courts of Justice. I cannot undertake to Advise you, whether you had better go into an office in Boston or not. I rather think that the Practice at present is too inconsiderable to be of much service to you. You will be likely to be obliged to waste much of your Time in running of Errands, and doing trifling drudgery without learning much.—Depend upon it, it is of more Importance that you read much, than that you draw many Writts. The common Writts upon Notes, Bonds and Accounts, are mastered in half an Hour. Common Declarations for Rent, and Ejectment and Trespass, both of Assault and Battery and Quare Clausum fregit,2 are learn'd in very near as short a Time. The more difficult Special Declarations, and especially the Refinements of Special Pleadings are never learnd in an office. They are the Result of Experience, and long Habits of Thinking.
If you read Ploudens Commentaries,3 you will see the Nature of Special Pleadings. In Addition to these read Instructor Clericalis, Mallory, Lilly, and look into Rastall and Cooke.4 Your Time will be better Spent upon these Authors, than in dancing Attendance upon a Lawyers Office and his Clients. Many of our most respectable Lawyers never did this att all. Gridly, Pratt, Thatcher, Sewall, Paine.5 Never served regularly in any office.
Upon the whole, my young Friend, I wish that the State of public Affairs, would have admitted of my Spending more Time with you. I had no greater Pleasure in this Life, than in assisting young Minds possessed of ambition to excell, which I very well know to be your Case. Let me intreat you not to be too anxious about Futurity. Mind your Books. Set down patiently to Ploudens Commentaries, read them through coolly, deliberately, and Attentively. Read them in Course. Endeavour, to make yourself Master of the Point on which the Case turns. Remark the Reasoning, and the Decision. And tell me a year hence, whether your Time has not been more agreably, and profitably Spent than in drawing Writs and running of Errands. I hope to see you eer long. I am obliged to you for this Letter, and wish a Continuance of your Correspondence. I am anxious, very anxious, for my dear Mrs. Adams, and my Babes. God preserve them. I can do them no kind office, whatever.
{ 393 }
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “Sent.”
1. Give your days and nights to the study of these authors.
2. Trespass because he has broken the close.
3. The Commentaries or Reports of Edmund Plowden . . . , London, 1761, which is listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library.
4. Robert Gardiner, Instructor Clericalis or Precedents in the Court of King's Bench and Common Pleas, for Young Clerks, appeared in six parts over a period of years and in various editions. The Catalogue of JA's Library shows he owned Parts 1 and 3–5 [London,] 1713–1727. John Mallory, Modern Entries in English, Being a Select Collection of Pleadings . . . , 2 vols. [London,] 1734–1735, is not in the Catalogue. John Lilly, Modern Entries, Being a Collection of Select Pleadings . . . , transl. [London,] 1741, is found in the Catalogue only in the Latin edition of 1723. William Rastell, Collection of Entrees, of Declarations, . . . , and Divers Other Matters [London,] 1596, is in the Catalogue. The latest edition was 1670. Sir Edward Coke, A Book of Entries, London, 1671, is also in the Catalogue.
5. The legal careers of Jeremiah Gridley, Benjamin Prat, Oxenbridge Thacher, Jonathan Sewall, and Robert Treat Paine are briefly sketched in JA, Legal Papers, 1:ci, cvi, cix–cxi, cv–cvi.
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/