Early Diary of John Adams, volume 1



ix Descriptive List of Illustrations Descriptive List of Illustrations

[Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]

Descriptive List of Illustrations

The illustrations are between pages 42 and 43. Those not otherwise attributed are from the Royall Tyler Collection, Gift of Helen Tyler Brown, courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society. Pages cited in ornamental brackets ({ }) refer to the (editorially supplied) pagination of the MS.

First Page of John Adams’ Earliest Diary, June 1753

Written when he was seventeen and beginning his third year at Harvard, this page not only initiated Adams’ long series of diaries, but is the earliest example of his handwriting now known. Although in the large and rather round hand that, later on, he tended to reserve for formal rather than personal purposes, the general cast of the writing makes it immediately recognizable as Adams’. Compare, on the one hand, page {9} of the MS (illustrated below), which shows Adams experimenting the next year with a different style of penmanship, and, on the other, with the small hand of pages {15} and {23} of the MS (also illustrated below), written in 1758, when his writing had matured in almost all respects.

The variations in the handwriting found in Adams’ Earliest Diary are discussed in the Introduction at p. 8–9. The impulses that led to his keeping this first diary are discussed at p. 33–34.

Professor Winthrop’s Notes for His “Course of ... Lectures” in Natural Philosophy at Harvard

Elected “Hollisian Professor of the Mathematicks and of natural and Experimental Philosophy” in 1738, John Winthrop prepared in 1746 a “Summary of a Course Of Experimental Philosophical Lectures” in MS, of which a flyleaf and the first three pages of text, including the whole of his notes for “Lecture 1st.,” on Motion, are reproduced here. There were thirty-three lectures in the full “Course,” but in 1754, when John Adams attended and took notes on the lectures (see the following illustration), only eight were delivered, for the reason given in a note on the entry of 11 April 1754, p. 64, below.

Professor Winthrop’s “lecture hall and laboratory was the western room of the second story of Old Harvard, and he made it a place of significance in the history of science in America” (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 9:244). His influence on young John Adamsx was more profound and lasting than that of any other member of the Harvard faculty; see the Introduction at p. 34–35.

Courtesy of the Harvard University Archives.

Notes, in Adams' Variant Hand, on Winthrop’s First Lecture, 1 April 1754

This page contains half of Adams’ notes on Professor Winthrop’s first lecture, treating of Motion; see the preceding illustration for Winthrop’s own notes for the same lecture. As engaging as anything else in this undergraduate journal is Adams’ confession that, although Winthrop had explained to the class the laws to which “motion is subject,” Adams had “forgot” them.

Like many undergraduates before and since, Adams experimented with his handwriting. Except for the caption-date and an occasional letter or word in the text, this page {9}, if seen independently, could scarcely be identified as in Adams’ hand. Compare the first page of the MS, written in 1753, illustrated above, and two later pages {15, 23}, written in 1758, illustrated below; also the discussion in the Introduction at p. 8–9.

Professor John Winthrop, About 1773, By John Singleton Copley

Although he was a versatile scientist, John Winthrop (1714–1779), A.B. Harvard 1732, LL.D. Edinburgh 1771 and Harvard 1773, F.R.S., probably made his most valuable contributions as an astronomer and thus initiated Harvard’s distinction as a center of astronomical research. In 1761, for example, Winthrop took a voyage to Newfoundland, accompanied by two student assistants, to observe the transit of Venus, a principal purpose of which was to determine the distance of the earth from the sun. The Harvard Corporation voted to pay the expenses of this earliest scientific expedition sponsored by an American educational institution, and allowed Winthrop to borrow such apparatus owned by the College as would be useful to him.

It was therefore appropriate that Copley in this striking portrait chose to represent John Adams’ favorite teacher seated beside his telescope. The window, the landscape, and the heavens upon which the instrument is trained are conventionalized in the manner of the day; the setting might be either Harvard Hall or Winthrop’s house on the northwest corner of present Boylston and Mount Auburn streets. But the telescope itself is a good representation of a reflector telescope made by the well-known James Short of London which belonged to Winthrop personally and is still extant. It was given to Harvard after its owner’s death and is permanently exhibited in the library at Winthrop House beneath the portrait in which it figures.

See the note on Winthrop at p. 46, below. See also I. Bernard Cohen, Some Early Tools of American Science . . . , Cambridge,xi 1950, p. 37–39; Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789, Chapel Hill, 1956, p. 99–100. Information on Winthrop’s telescope now in Winthrop House has been kindly furnished to the editors by Mr. David P. Wheatland.

Concerning the portrait, see Barbara Neville Parker and Anne Bolling Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits, Boston, 1938, p. 209–210; Jules D. Prown, John Singleton Copley (in press 1965).

Courtesy of Harvard University.

Samuel Quincy, About 1767, by John Singleton Copley

“How resolutely, how inviolably, how surprizingly we have preserv’d and pursued The Resolution of writing each other upon Points of Law, which we took at Weighmouth,” John Adams wrote to his friend Sam Quincy late in 1758 (draft at p. 66, below). But this was pure sarcasm, for nothing had followed the vow the two young law students had taken some time before. Samuel Quincy (1734–1789), brother of the “Orlinda” (Hannah Quincy) of the present diary, had graduated at Harvard a year ahead of Adams, trained for the law in the Boston office of Benjamin Prat, and was admitted to the Suffolk bar on the same day with Adams in November 1758. Adams was long and deeply attached to Quincy, a convivial man as well as an able practitioner. But in 1771 Quincy accepted appointment under the crown as solicitor general and a secret retainer from the tea-tax revenue, and, as the Revolution approached, broke with his family on the great political issue of the day, left for England in May 1775, and never returned to Massachusetts, though he longed to. See the note on Quincy at p. 68, below, and references there; see also JA, Legal Papers , 1:cvii–cviii, and numerous references in its index to cases in which Adams and Quincy were engaged as colleagues or opponents.

On this portrait of Quincy in his barrister’s gown, see Barbara Neville Parker and Anne Bolling Wheeler, John Singleton Copley: American Portraits, Boston, 1938, p. 158–159; Jules D. Prown, John Singleton Copley (in press 1965).

Courtesy of Miss Grace W. Treadwell, on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

John Adams’ Scientific Manual at Harvard: Nieuwentijdt’s “Religious Philosopher”

As an undergraduate, Adams supplemented Professor Winthrop’s lectures and laboratory experiments with reading in this popular and handsomely illustrated compilation of scientific “Discoveries,” “Laws,” and “Demonstrations” by the learned mathematician and physician Bernard Nieuwentijdt (1654–1718), of Purmerende in Holland. See entry of 20 June 1753 and notes, p. 45–46, below. Originally published at Amsterdam in 1714 under the title Het Regt Gebruik der Werelt Beschouwingen (“The Right Use of thexii Contemplation of the World”), and first issued in English in London four years later, Nieuwentijdt’s book, “designed for the Conviction of Atheists and Infidels,” exhibited an ardently teleological view of the world and its creatures as then known. It was thus highly acceptable to readers in both Europe and America in the 18th century, and copies in French and English as well as in Dutch are commonly listed in private and institutional libraries of the period. No Adams copy has been found; this copy of a mixed third and fourth edition, 3 vols., London, 1730, was acquired in 1733 by Samuel Cooke, Harvard 1735.

Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.

The Gridley-Adams Copy of Van Muyden’s Abridgment of Justinian’s “Institutes”

When John Adams, fresh from his legal apprenticeship in Worcester, called in the fall of 1758 on the great Boston lawyer Jeremy Gridley to seek advice and help in gaining admission to the bar, Gridley wanted to know not only what common-law books the younger man had read, but what works in Roman or civil law as well. The fact that Adams had read any civil law at all impressed Gridley, and, Adams remembered, “He lead me up a pair of Stairs into a Chamber in which he had a very handsome library of the civil and Cannon Laws and Writers in the Law of Nature and Nations. Shewing me a Number of small manuals and Compendiums of the civil Law he put one of them into my hand, and said put that in your Pocket and when you return that I will lend you any other you choose” ( Diary and Autobiography, 3:271). The book Adams put in his pocket was undoubtedly the very copy of Van Muyden’s small Tractatio on Justinian’s famous Institutes here illustrated, for on 26 October he recorded the loan in his Diary (same, 1:56). In December he was still creeping through the Dutch commentator’s crabbed Latin (same, p. 63). The very untidy notes on the Tractatio that he entered at two different places in his Earliest Diary were probably written in December 1758 or early 1759; see p. 55–59, 100–101, below.

Johannes van Muyden (1652?–1729), of Utrecht, was one of the great Dutch school of commentators on the civil law. The first edition of this Tractatio, one of a number he published, was issued at Utrecht in 1694. See Nieuw Ned. Biog. Woordenboek , 2:969.

For Adams’ studies in, and use of, civil law, see his Legal Papers , 1:lv–lvi, lxxiv–lxxv, and its index under “Civil law.”

From the three signatures on the titlepage and other available evidence, one may guess that this copy of Van Muyden was first owned by “Jo: Campbell” (not further identified) and then by “Jer. Gridley”; that it was returned in due time by Adams to its owner; and that Adams purchased it (with other books known to have come from the same source) at the sale of Gridley’s library after his death in 1767.

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

Draft of a Letter From John Adams to Samuel Quincy: “My Resolutions are Like Bubbles”

The present page {15} is typical (though above average in legibility) of the make-up of Adams’ Diary Fragment (the MS of his Earliest Diary) after he returned to Braintree in October 1758. For the improvement of his style, he began drafting his letters to his friends in his old diary booklet. At the top of this page is the conclusion of a letter to Tristram Dalton. Then follows his letter to Samuel Quincy reminding him of their mutual but unfulfilled vow to correspond on “Points of Law.” At the foot, upside down and presumably inserted later, is a scrap from Virgil applied to a number of Adams’ young friends (including Sam Quincy) who are consumed by the secret fires of love. This may very well have been a warning to himself in connection with his current interest in Sam’s sister Hannah (“Orlinda”).

The hand is essentially Adams’ small mature hand, familiar in his law notes, pocket diaries, and other personal writings for many years to come. Contrast the two earlier pages {1, 9} from the Diary Fragment reproduced in facsimile among these illustrations.

Draft of a Letter From John Adams to William Crawford: “You Must Not Conclude . . . That I Am in The Vapours”

Another typical page, {23} in the MS, written late in 1758, in what had by now become for Adams an all-purpose miscellany rather than a diary. At the top is a query, which can be made out with effort, concerning Luke Lambert’s horses that trampled Joseph Field’s crops and led to Adams’ first case as a trial lawyer. Then follows a draft letter, deliberately casual in tone, to his friend Crawford, inquiring about friends in Worcester and particularly about a girl there named Betsy Greene. The draft is initialed “J.A.,” the only occurrence in the Diary Fragment of Adams’ name in any form. Finally there are detached quotations and reflections on Fame and Reputation, matters of absorbing interest to an intensely ambitious young man making his start in the world.

John Adams' Book of Selected Orations of Cicero

This hard-used little book belonged to a long succession of schoolboys, three of whose names appear here, reflecting their ownership probably in this order: John Adams, who paid a pound (or a guinea) in Massachusetts currency for it early in 1750 when preparing for Harvard; Adams’ classmate, William Whittemore, who may have used it as a freshman in college; and John Stevens, Harvard 1766. At some point thereafter it made its way back to Adams or his family, doubtless because Adams had written his name so boldly and frequently in the front leaves. On the first flyleaf, not shown here, he displayed his powers as a Latinist by adding below his name: “Hoc nomen pono quia hunc Librum perdere nolo.”xiv Two presumably earlier owners’ names also appear on this first flyleaf, but they are illegible; and at the foot are three faintly penciled names all in the same hand (which cannot be certainly identified): “J Q Adams / G Adams / J Adams”—a son and two grandsons of the first Adams owner.

John Adams read Cicero at all stages of his life, and never with keener interest than in 1758 when, as an aspiring advocate, he analyzed the style of the Oratio pro Milone (the final selection in the volume illustrated) to discover Cicero’s mastery of the art of “moving the Passions.” See below, p. 74–76, and p. 81, note 18.

The John Adams copy is a London reprint of an edition of Cicero’s Select Orations prepared originally for use in Dutch schools. Thus, as it happens, all three of the books chosen to illustrate Adams’ Earliest Diary had Dutch sources—an accidental but interesting indication of the international sweep of Dutch culture in the 18th century.

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

John Adams’ Diary Fragment in The Tyler Collection, 1929

This is a detail from a larger photograph, taken (if we have read the Vermont Mutual Fire Insurance Company calendar correctly) in May 1929, when the Tyler family MSS and related materials were in the hands of the late Helen Tyler Brown, of Brattleboro, Vermont, a great-granddaughter of Royall Tyler the playwright. See the Introduction at p. 30–31. This is the only moment, so far as the present editors know, at which the MS of John Adams’ earliest diary emerged to view between the 1780’s, when it evidently passed from the possession of the Adams family, and April 1965, when it was identified in the Royall Tyler Collection, Gift of Helen Tyler Brown, in the Vermont Historical Society at Montpelier.

The MS appears, nearly flat, between the open volume at front left and a bound volume of The Port Folio. The large heading on the first page, “Harvard Colledge . . .” (as in the first illustration in the present volume), can be more or less made out.