A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive
Next Page
Previous Page
John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 13 of 53, 1770 - 1773

Mr. Bowdoin; Mr. Ruddock a very respectable justice of the Peace, who had risen to Wealth and Consequence, by a long Course of Industry as a Master Shipwright, was sett up in Opposition to me. Notwithstanding the late Clamour against me, and although Mr. Ruddock was very popular among all the Tradesmen and Mechanicks in Town, I was chosen by a large Majority. I had never been at a Boston Town Meeting, and was not at this, till Messengers were sent to me, to inform me that I was chosen. I went down to Phanuel Hall and in a few Words expressive of my sense of the difficulty and danger of the Times; of the importance of the Trust, and of my own Insuffiency to fulfill the Expectations of the People, I accepted the Choice. Many Congratulations were offered, which I received civilly, but they gave no joy to me. I considered the Step as a devotion of my family to ruin and myself to death, for I could scarce perceive a possibility that I should ever go through the Thorns and leap all the Precipices before me, and escape with my Life. At this time I had more Business at the Bar, than any Man in the Province: My health was feeble: I was throwing away as bright prospects [as] any Man ever had before him: and had devoted myself to endless labour and Anxiety if not to infamy and to death, and that for nothing, except, what indeed was and ought to be all in all, a sense of duty. In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions: That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence. I immediately attended the General Courtandat Cambridge, to which place the Governor had removed it, to punish the Town of Boston, in Obedience however, as he said I suppose truly to an Instruction he had received from the King. The Proceedings of the

Legislature, at that time and place may be seen in their Journals, if they are not lost. Among other Things will be found a laboured controversy between the House and the Governor, concerning these Words "In general Court assembled and by the Authority of the same." I mention this merely on Account of an Anecdote which the friends of Government circulated with diligence, of Governor Shirley who then lived in retirement at his Seat in Roxbury. Having read this dispute in the public Prints, he asked who has revived these old Words. They were expressed during my Administration. He was answered the Boston Seat. "And who are the Boston Seat?" Mr. Cushing, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. John Adams. Mr. Cushing I know and Mr. Hancok [I] know, replied the old Governor, but where the Devil this brace of Adams's came from, I know not. This was archly circulated by the Ministerialists, to impress the People, with the Obscurity of the original, of the par nobile fratrum, as the Friends of the Country used to call Us, by way of Retaliation. This was to me a fatiguing Session, for they put me upon all the Drudgery of managing all the disputes, and an executive Court had a long Session which obliged me to attend,allmost constantly there upon a Number of very disagreable Causes. Not long after the Adjournment of the General Court came on the Tryals of Preston and the Soldiers. I shall say little of these Cases.Prestons Tryal was taken down in short hand and sent to England but was never printed here. I told the Court and jury in both Causes, that as I was no Authority, I would propose to them no Law from my own memory: but would read to them, all I had to say of that Nature, from Books, which the Court knew and the Council on the other Side must acknowledge to be indisputable Authorities. This Rule was carefully observed but the Authorities were so clear and full that no question of Law was made. The juries in both Cases, in my Opinion gave correct Verdicts. It appeared to me, that the greatest Service which could be rendered to the People of the Town, was to lay before them, the Law as it stood that

that [they] might be fully apprized of the Dangers of various kinds, which must arise from intemperate heats and irregular commotions. Although the Clamour was very loud, among some Sorts of People, it has been a great Consolation to me through Life, that I acted in this Business with steady impartiality, and conducted it to so happy an Issue.
The complicated Cares of my legal and political Engagements, the slender Diet to which I was obliged to confine myself, the Air of the Town of Boston which was not favourable to me who had been born and passed allmost all my life in the Country; but especially the constant Obligation to speak in public almost every day for many hours, had exhausted my health, brought on a Pain in my Breast and a complaint in my Lungs, which seriously threatened my Life, and compelled me, to throw off a great part of the Load of Business both public and private, and return to my farm in the Country. Early in the Spring of 1771 I removed my family to Braintree, still holding however an office in Boston. The Air of my native Spot, and the fine Breezes from the Sea on one Side and the rocky Mountains of Pine and Savin on the other, together with daily rides on horse back and the Amusements of Agriculture always delightful to me soon restored my health in a considerable degree. I was advised to take a journey to the Stafford Springs in Connecticutt, then in as much Vogue as any mineral Springs have been since. I spent a few days in drinking the Waters and made an Excursion, through Somers and Windsor down to Hartford and the journey was of Use to me, whetherthe Waters were or not. On my Return I had my Annual journey totake make on the Eastern Circuit at Ipswich, York and Falmouth, now Portland, and this Exercise continued to improve my health.
Finding my health much improved, and finding muchgreat Inconvenience

in conducting my Business in Boston, in my Office there, while my family was in the Country, I began to entertain thoughts of returning. Having found it very troublesome to hire houses and be often obliged to remove, I determined to purchase a house, and Mr. Hunt offering me one in Court Street near the Sc ne of my Business, opposite the Court house, I bought it and inconvenient and contracted as it was I made it answer both for a Dwelling and an Office, till a few Weeks before the 19th of Appril 1775 when the War commenced.
During my last Residence in Boston, two Causes occurred, of an extraordinary Character, in which I was engaged and which cost me no small Portion of Anxiety. That of the four Sailors, who killed Lieutenant Panton of the Rose Frigate. These were both before Special Courts of Admiralty held in Consequence of the Statute. The four Sailors were acquitted as their Conduct was adjudged to be in Self Defence, and the Actions justifiable Homicide. The other was the Tryal of Ansell Nicholson [Nickerson], for the Murder of three or four Men, on board a Vessell. This was and remains still a misterious Transaction. I know not to this day what judgment to form of his Guilt or Innocence. And this doubt I presume was the Principle of Acquittal. He requested my Assistance and it was given. He had nothing to give me, but his promissory Note, for a very moderate Fee. But I have heard nothing of him, nor received any Thing for his note, which has been lost with many other Notes and Accounts to a large Amount, in the distraction of the times and my Absence from my Business.
arose a Controversy concerning the Independence of the Judges. The King had granted a Salary to the judges of our Superiour Court and forbidden them to receive their Salaries as usual from the Grants of the House of Representatives, and the Council and Governor, as had been practiced till this time. This as the judges Commissions were during pleasure

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 13 of 53 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.
Next Page
Previous Page