Diary of John Adams, volume 2

1774 Thursday. Octr. 13.

1774 Saturday. Octr. 15.

1774. Fryday. Octr. 14. JA


1774. Fryday. Octr. 14. Adams, John
1774. Fryday. Octr. 14.

Went in the Morning to see Dr. Chevott Chovet and his Skelletons and Wax Work—most admirable, exquisite Representations of the whole Animal Aeconomy.

Four compleat Skelletons. A Leg with all the Nerves, Veins and Arteries injected with Wax. Two compleat Bodies in Wax, full grown. Waxen Representations of all the Muscles, Tendons &c., of the Head, Brain, Heart, Lungs, Liver, Stomack, Gutts, Cawl-Bladder, Testicles. This Exhibition is much more exquisite than that of Dr. Shippen, at the Hospital. The Doctor reads Lectures, for 2 half Jos. a Course, which takes up Four Months. These Wax Works are all of the Drs. own Hands.1

Dined with Dr. Morgan, an ingenious Physician and an honest Patriot. He shewed us some curious Paintings upon Silk which he brought from Italy which are Singular in this Country, and some Bonesof an Animal of enormous Size, found upon the Banks of the River Ohio. Mr. Middleton, the two Rutledges, Mr. Mifflin and Mr. Wm. Barrell dined with Us. Mrs. Morgan is a sprightly, pretty lady.2

In the Evening We were invited to an Interview at Carpenters Hall, with the Quakers and Anabaptists. Mr. Bacchus is come here from Middleborough, with a design to apply to the Congress, for a Redress of the Grievances of the Antipaedobaptists in our Province. The Cases from Chelmsford, the Case of Mr. White of Haverhill, the Case of Ashfield and Warwick, were mentioned by Mr. Bacchus.

Old Israel Pemberton was quite rude, and his Rudeness was resented. But the Conference which held till 11 O Clock, I hope will produce good.3


On Abraham Chovet (1704–1790) see DAB ; also Peter Stephen Du Ponceau's reminiscences of Chovet and his anatomical waxworks PMHB , 63:323–329 (July 1939).


On this day Congress adopted a Declaration of Rights, one of the ultimate products of the committee “to State the rights of the Colonies in general,” appointed 7 Sept. (see entry of 8 Sept., above), and of the discussions in Congress, beginning 24 Sept., of “the means most proper to be pursued for a restoration of our rights” ( JCC , 1:42). An undated committee (or subcommittee) draft of this declaration, with a caption reading “Heads of Grievances and Rights,” is in the Adams Papers under the assigned date of 14 Oct. 1774 [ante 9 September? 1774] ; it was correctly identified by CFA and printed in JA, Works , 2:535–542; but the usual attribution of it to John Sullivan (same, p. 377 and note; JCC , 1:63) cannot be corroborated. The paper is not in Sullivan's hand, though neither has the hand so far been identified as 153that of any other member of the committee on rights. The report as submitted, or at any rate as approved by Congress, varies widely from the so called Sullivan draft, containing among other alterations a new and important paragraph written by JA, denying Parliament any authority over the Colonies except, “from the necessity of the case, ... the regulation of our external commerce” (JA, Works , 2:538–539). This paragraph, numbered “4,” was the subject of long and vigorous debate; see same, 2:374–375; JA to Edward Biddle?, 12 Dec. 1774 (Dft, Adams Papers, printed in Works , 9:350); JCC , 1:63–73; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:72–75. Writing from memory in his Autobiography, JA said that “When Congress had gone through the Articles, I was appointed to put them into form and report a fair Draught for their final Acceptance.” This may very well have been so, but there is no contemporary evidence to verify JA's statement unless his mention of staying home on Sunday to put “the Proceedings of the Congress into Order” (entry of 16 Oct., below) alludes to this assignment.


In his Autobiography JA elaborates from memory on this conference of the Massachusetts delegates with certain Baptist leaders from New England and several prominent Philadelphia Quakers. But the fullest account is in Alvah Hovey, A Memoir of the Life and Times of the Rev. Isaac Backus, A.M., Boston, 1859, chs. 15–16. James Manning, president of the newly established Rhode Island College (now Brown University), and Isaac Backus (somewhat quaintly spelled “Bacchus” by JA), Baptist minister at Middleborough, Mass., had been sent to Philadelphia by an association of their churches to see what could be done for the relief of Baptists who under Massachusetts law were obliged to pay taxes for the support of “established” ministers not of their own choosing—or who at any rate had great difficulty obtaining exemption from such taxation. On the advice of conservative Quakers, who were not disinclined to embarrass the radical Massachusetts delegates, Manning and Backus requested the conference JA describes. Backus' Diary (quoted by Hovey) gives the names of many who attended and reports the proceedings in full. The discussion was warm and lasted four hours. Backus and Manning pointed out that in a number of instances the Baptists in Massachusetts had been victims of taxation without representation, and Backus recorded that at one point Robert Treat Paine remarked, “There was nothing of conscience in the matter; it was only a contending about paying a little money” (Hovey, Backus , p. 211). Paine's Diary (MHi) is, as usual, laconic on the incident, but on his way home later this month Paine told Ezra Stiles about it, and from this and other evidence Stiles concluded that the Baptists, and Manning especially, were in alliance with the Anglicans and hostile to the patriotic cause (Stiles, Literary Diary , 1:168–170, 472–475, 491, 528; 2:23, 51).

The most protracted of the cases of religious scruple mentioned by JA, all of which can be traced in the histories of the towns concerned, was that of Ashfield. In 1767 certain Baptists of that “new plantation” refused to contribute to the building of a Congregational meetinghouse where they had settled first and had their own place of worship. When property of theirs was distrained to satisfy the tax requirement, they petitioned the General Court and ultimately carried their case to the King in Council. A mass of petitions, legislative acts and resolves, and other documents concerning the troubles in Ashfield from 1767 to 1774 will be found in Mass., Province Laws , 4:1015–1016, 1035–1046; 5:111–113, 143, 228–230, 278–279, 331–334, 371–375; 18:333–334, 450–451. Despite his lack of sympathy with the Baptists' position, Ezra Stiles acknowledged in a long and informative letter of 20 Nov. 1772 that injustice had been done at Ashfield ( Literary Diary , 1:472, note). Backus' account of the Ashfield case was published in an anonymous pamphlet entitled An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, Boston, 1773, p. 33 ff., and copies of this tract were handed out to those who attended the conference at Carpenters' Hall. Chagrined as they were by the surprise sprung upon them by the Baptist and Quaker lobbyists, the Massachusetts delegates promised to do what they could 154to redress the grievances complained of, but on their own ground, i.e. in Massachusetts. Accordingly, in Nov. 1774, Backus submitted a memorial of grievances to the Provincial Congress sitting in Cambridge. A Baptist leader who obtained his information from one of the members reported: “It was generally agreed not to do anything about it, but throw it out; when Mr. Adams got up and said, he was apprehensive, if they threw it out, it might cause a division among the provinces; and it was his advice to do something with it” (Hezekiah Smith to James Manning, 20 Jan. 1775, Hovey, Backus , P. 222). The action taken, however, consisted only of a resolution, 9 Dec. approving of religious liberty for all denominations and advising the petitioners to lay their complaints before the next “general assembly [when it] shall be convened in this colony” (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 65, 67).