Diary of John Adams, volume 2

1771. July 22d. Monday. JA


1771. July 22d. Monday. Adams, John
1771. July 22d. Monday.

After rambling about my Farm and giving some Directions to my Workmen I went to Boston. There soon came into my Office, Ruddock and Story. It seems that Andrew Belchers Widow has sued Story as Deputy Register of the Admiralty under her Husband in his Lifetime, and Ruddock as his Bondsman, upon the Bond given for the faithfull Discharge of his Office. Three or £400 st. of the Kings third of a Seizure is not accounted for and Ruddock is in Trouble. This Ruddock is as unique a Character as any of his Age—a finished Example of self Conceit, and Vanity.—“I am plunged! I never was concerned in any Affair before, that I could not have any Thoughts of my own upon it. I know there are several Laws—by one Law the Sherriffs Bonds are not to be put in Suit, after 2 Years, and the Treasurers are 46limited to 3 Years, but whether these Precedents will govern this Case I cant tell. I consulted Mr. Pratt, once about an Affair: and he advised me to do something. I told him I was of a different opinion. Every Line in his face altered, when I said this.—You are certainly wrong said he.—Well, says I, you'l be my Lawyer, when We come to Court.—Yes said he.—But next Morning he told me ‘Brother Ruddock I have been ruminating your Affair on my Pillow, and I find You was right, and I was wrong.'”1— Thus Mr. Justice Ruddock is mighty in Counsell.

“I told Andrew Belcher, if he would not do so and so, he should never be chosen Counsellor again. He would not do it, and the next Year he was left out. I told him further, that I would not except of any Post in the World to stop my Mouth about Liberty, but I would write home and get away his Post of Register of the Admiralty.”—Thus Squire Ruddock thinks himself powerfull at Court. The Instances of this Mans Vanity are innumerable—his Soul is as much Swollen as his Carcass.

I dined at my Lodgings, came early to my Office, went home and drank Tea at 6 O Clock and returned to my Office, and here I am.— What a Multitude passes my Window every day! Mr. Otis's Servant brought his Horse to the Door at Seven, and he took a Ride. Treasurer Gray stalked along from New Boston,2 where his Daughter Otis lives, down to the British Coffeehouse where the Clubb meets, as I suppose about half after Seven.

Spent an Hour or two in the Evening at Mr. Cranch's. Mr. Jo. Greenleaf came in, and Parson Hilyard Hilliard of Barnstable—and we were very chatty.

Sister Cranch says, she has had an Opportunity of making many Observations, this Year at Commencement. And she has quite altered her Mind about dancing and dancing Schools, and Mr. Cranch seems convinced too, and says it seems, that all such as learn to dance are so taken up with it, that they cant be students. So that if they should live to bring up Billy to Colledge, they would not send him to dancing School—nor the Misses Betsy and Lucy neither.3—What a sudden, and entire Conversion is this! That Mrs. C. should change so quick is not so wonderfull, But that his mathematical, metaphysical, mechanical, systematical Head should be turned round so soon, by her Report of what she saw at Cambridge is a little remarkable. However the Exchange is for the better. It is from Vanity to Wisdom—from Foppery to Sobriety and solidity. I never knew a good Dancer good for any Thing else. I have known several Men of Sense and Learning, who could dance, Otis, Sewal, Paine, but none of them shone that Way, 47and neither of em had the more Sense or Learning, or Virtue for it.

I would not however conclude, peremptorily, against sending Sons or Daughters to dancing, or Fencing, or Musick, but had much rather they should be ignorant of em all than fond of any one of em.


Here and below, Ruddock's monologue has been slightly repunctuated for clarity.


The Beacon Hill area, later called the West End (Shurtleff, Description of Boston , p. 125).


The Cranches' three children were (1) Elizabeth (1763–1811), who in 1789 married Rev. Jacob Norton of Weymouth (Weymouth Hist. Soc., History of Weymouth, Weymouth, 1923, 4:445); (2) Lucy (1767–1846), who in 1795 married John Greenleaf (Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy , p. 240–241); and (3) William (1769–1855), Harvard 1787, for many years chief justice of the federal Circuit Court of the District of Columbia ( DAB ).

July 23d. Tuesday. JA


July 23d. Tuesday. Adams, John
July 23d. Tuesday.

The Court sat. Nothing remarkable. Dined at home at Brother Smiths, with Mr. Johnson. No Conversation memorable. Brother has 2 Dogs, 4 Rabbits, Six tame Ducks, a dozen Chickens, one Pidgeon, and some yellow Birds and other singing Birds, all in his little Yard.

It is a pitty that a Day should be spent, in the Company of Courts &c., and nothing be heard or seen, worth remembering. But this is the Case—of all that I have heard from Judges, Lawyers, Jurors, Clients, Clerks, I cant recollect a Word, a Sentence, worth committing to writing.

Took a Pipe in the Beginning of the Evening with Mr. Cranch and then supped with Dr. Warren.

The Indian Preacher cryed good God!—that ever Adam and Eve should eat that Apple when they knew in their own Souls it would make good Cyder.

July 24. Wednesday. JA


July 24. Wednesday. Adams, John
July 24. Wednesday.

Dined at home, i.e. at my Brother Smiths with one Payson, a Man who now lives at Milton where Coll. Gooch lived, and who married a Sister of David Wyers Wife. He had an Horse to sell, part English Bred, of Brig. Ruggles's raising—a young Horse, very firm and strong—good in a Chaise &c. We tryed him in a Saddle and in a Chaise too. Brother bought him. Spent the Evening at S. Quincys, with Deacon Storer and J. F. and H. Green about their Cases, in Consultation.

July 25. and 26. Thursday and Fryday. JA July 25. and 26. Thursday and Fryday. Adams, John
July 25. and 26. Thursday and Fryday.

Both these Days spent in the Tryal of Mr. Otis's Case vs. Mr. Robinson.1

48 1.

On 4 Sept. 1769 James Otis had published in the Boston Gazette a card denouncing the Commissioners of Customs in Boston for their abuse of “all true North-Americans, in a manner that is not to be endured.” He was referring to statements by the Commissioners in their memorials and other papers that had recently made their way back to Boston and were soon to be published in Letters to the Ministry from Governor Bernard . . ., Boston, 1769. To this he added another communication saying among other things that if Commissioner John Robinson “misrepresents me, I have a natural right . . . to break his head.” See entries of 2 and 3 Sept. 1769, above. It was Otis' head that got broken, in a fracas with Robinson and his friends at the British Coffee House in the evening of 5 Sept.; see Boston Gazette, 11 Sept. 1769.

Otis promptly engaged three lawyers— JA, S. S. Blowers, and Samuel Fitch— and sued for £3,000 damages. His case came up in the January sitting of the Suffolk Inferior Court but was continued from term to term until July 1771, when (as JA reports in the next entry) the jury awarded him £2,000. Both parties appealed to the Superior Court, Robinson through his father-in-law and attorney, James Boutineau, he himself having long since left Boston for London. The appeals were also continued. But at length in the August term of 1772, Otis in a long statement accepted Robinson's apology in open court in lieu of damages, and required only that Robinson's attorney pay £112 11s. 8d. for “the common costs of court,” Otis' medical expenses, and his lawyers' fees in the amount of £30 each. (This statement is printed in full in Tudor, James Otis , p. 504–506, from Suffolk County Court House, Early Court Files, &c., No. 102135, where other relevant papers will be found.)

In JA's docket of Superior Court actions for this term (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184) appears the following:

Otis vs. Robinson and Robinson vs. Otis

recd. a genteel Fee in these Cases from Mr. Otis in full.”