Diary of John Adams, volume 1

Friday [29 December]. JA


Friday [29 December]. Adams, John
Friday 29 December.

Let me see, if Bob Paine dont pick up this Story to laugh at. Lambert will laugh no doubt, and will tell the story to every man he sees, and will squib me about it, whenever he sees me. He is impudent and unfair enough, to turn this on every Occasion to my Disadvantage. Impudence, Drollery, Villany, in Lambert, Indiscretion, Inconsideration, Irresolution, and ill Luck in me, and Stinginess as well as ill Luck on the Side of Field, all unnite in this Case to injure me.

Fields Wrath waxed hot this morning. When he found himself defeated a second time.1 He wished the affair in Hell, called Lambert a Devil and said, “That’s always the Way in this Town, when any strange Devil comes into Town, he has all the Priviledges of the Town.”

Let me Note the fatal Consequences of Precipitation. My first Determination, what to do in this affair was right. I determined not to meddle. But By the cruel Reproaches of my Mother, by the Importunity of Field, and by the fear of having it thought I was incapable of drawing the Writt, I was seduced from that determination, and what is the Consequence? The Writt is defective. It will be said, I undertook the Case but was unable to manage it. This Nonsuit will be in the mouth of every Body. Lambert will proclaim it.

[facing 64] [facing 65] 65

Let me never undertake to draw a Writt, without sufficient Time to examine, and digest in my mind all the Doubts, Queries, Objections that may arise.—But no Body will know of any Abatement except this omission of the County.

An opinion will spread among the People, that I have not Cunning enough to cope with Lambert. I should endeavour at my first setting out to possess the People with an Opinion of my subtilty2 and Cunning. But this affair certainly looks like a strong Proof of the Contrary.


Sentences punctuated as in MS.


MS: “sublilty.”

Saturday [30 December]. JA


Saturday [30 December]. Adams, John
Saturday 30 December.

How a whole Family is put into a Broil sometimes by a Trifle.1 My P. and M.2 disagreed in Opinion about boarding Judah, that Difference occasioned passionate Expressions, those Expressions made Dolly and Judah snivell, Peter3 observed and mentioned it, I faulted him for it, which made him mad and all was breaking into a flame, when I quitted the Room, and took up Tully to compose myself. My P. continued cool and pleasant a good while, but had his Temper roused at last, tho he uttered not a rash Word, but resolutely asserted his Right to govern. My Mamma was determined to know what my P. charged a Week for the Girls Board. P. said he had not determined what to charge but would have her say what it was worth. She absolutely refused to say. But “I will know if I live and breath. I can read yet. Why dont you tell me, what you charge? You do it on purpose to teaze me. You are mighty arch this morning. I wont have all the Towns Poor brought here, stark naked, for me to clothe for nothing. I wont be a slave to other folks folk for nothing.”—And after the 2 Girls cryed.—“I must not speak a Word to 4 your Girls, Wenches, Drabbs. I’le kick both their fathers, presently. You 5 want to put your Girls over me, to make me a slave to your Wenches.” Thus when the Passions of Anger and Resentment are roused one Word will inflame them into Rage.

This was properly a conjugal Spat. A Spat between Husband and Wife. I might have made more critical observations on the Course and Progress of human Passions if I had steadily observed the faces, Eyes, Actions and Expressions of both Husband and Wife this morning.

M. seems to have no Scheme and Design in her Mind to persuade P. to resign his Trust of Selectman. But when she feels the Trouble and Difficulties that attend it she fretts, squibs, scolds, rages, raves. 66None of her Speeches seem the Effect of any Design to get rid of the Trouble, but only natural Expressions of the Pain and Uneasiness, which that Trouble occasions. Cool Reasoning upon the Point with my Father, would soon bring her to his mind or him to hers.

Let me from this remark distinctly the Different Effects of Reason and Rage. Reason, Design, Scheme, governs pretty constantly in Putnams House, but, Passion, Accident, Freak, Humour, govern in this House. Put knows what he wants, and knows the Proper means to procure it, and how to employ them. He employs, Reason, Ridicule, Contempt, to work upon his Wife.

I feel a fluttering concern upon my mind.6

Andrew Oliver is a very sagacious Trifler.7 He can decypher, with surprizing Penetration and Patience, any Thing wrote in signs, whether English, Latin, or French. But to what Purpose? Tis like great skill and Dexterity in Gaming, used only for Amuzement. With all his Expertness he never wins any Thing. But this is his Way to fame. One man would be a famous Orator, another a famous Physician, another a famous Phylosopher, or a 4th a famous Dancer, and he would be a famous Decypherer. But I am quite content with the 24 Letters without inventing all the possible Marks that might signify the same Things. Ned Quincy is learning to be such another Nugator Sagax, an artificial arrangement of Dots and Squares.


The whole of the entry recounting this domestic incident was omitted by CFA in editing JA’s Diary.


Papa and Mama, or Pater and Mater. Susanna (1709–1797), daughter of Peter and Ann (White) Boylston of Muddy River, or Brookline, married Deacon John Adams on 31 Oct. 1734; she married, 2d, John Hall, 3 Dec. 1766.


JA’s younger brother, Peter Boylston Adams (1738–1823); later a captain in the militia and holder of numerous local offices.


MS reads “for”—clearly an inadvertence by the diarist.


MS: “I”—another inadvertence.


This and the following paragraph, each separated in the MS by lines across the page from what precedes, may have been written on either 30 or 31 Dec. 1758 or even in Jan. 1759 preceding the several undated entries that apparently belong to that month.


Andrew Oliver Jr. (1731–1799), Harvard 1749, who published an Essay on Comets, Salem, 1772 (Eliot, Biog. Dict. of N.E. ).