Papers of John Adams, volume 1

58 On Political Faction, Man’s Nature, and the Law: 3 March – 5 September 1763 On Political Faction, Man’s Nature, and the Law: 3 March – 5 September 1763
On Political Faction, Man's Nature, and the Law
3 March – 5 September 1763










Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

In 1763, John Adams made his first verifiable entry into print with the publication of his “Humphrey Ploughjogger” letter in the Boston Evening-Post on 14 March (No. I, below). He was to use the pseudonym several more times—twice that summer, once in 1765, and twice in 1767. His authorship of the 1763 Ploughjogger pieces is attested to in his own words, written long after the fact and inaccurate in detail, but convincing nonetheless.

In an enumeration of his published works prepared for the Abbé de Mably, 17 January 1783, Adams listed “2 or 3, fugitive peices written in the year 1762 or 3., under the Signature of Humphrey Ploughjogger, not worth mentioning” (LbC, “never sent,” Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 108). On 13 February 1792, in a letter to his son Charles, Adams recollected writing only one Ploughjogger letter, but he now gave a better report of its reception: “That my Confessions may be compleat I must tell you that I wrote a very foolish unmeaning thing in Fleets Paper in 1762 or 1763 under the signature of Humphrey Ploughjogger. In this there was neither good nor Evil, yet it excited more merriment than all my other writings together” (MHi: Seymour Coll. of Charles Adams Letters).


Adams made only one other reference to Humphrey Ploughjogger in extant documents, considerably earlier than either of those just cited, but probably arising out of his 1765 use of the pseudonym. In his Diary, 10 January 1766, he wrote: “Humphry Ploughjogger received a Letter from a Friend, thanking him for his good Advice and presenting him with a Crimson, Homespun Cap to wear with his Hide, as a Reward” ( Diary and Autobiography , 1:290). Since it was customary for 18th-century contributors to newspapers who used a pseudonym to continue to employ the same one, a practice insisted upon by colonial printers who wanted to be able to identify contributors in the event of prosecution for libel, writers only very rarely used a pseudonym already claimed by another. This practice was followed even if the pseudonym was used at long intervals over a period of years (Roger B. Berry, “John Adams: Two Further Contributions to the Boston Gazette, 1766–1768,” NEQ , 31:94–95 [March 1958]). Thus, Adams' authorship of the Ploughjogger pieces would seem well substantiated.

The pseudonymous pieces signed “U,” appearing in the Boston Gazette between July and September 1763, were also claimed by Adams in the listing he prepared for Abbé de Mably. Adams recalled that he composed these letters “in answer to a Tory-Writer, who subscribed himself J Jonathan Sewall.” Actually Adams' intention was more complicated than he remembered, for he sought to serve several purposes, not all of them related to “J.”

The Humphrey Ploughjogger letters are in an American tradition of humor that arises from illiterate phonetic spelling and rustic dialect, and that is meant to cover an undertone of serious purpose. One thinks, for example, of James Russell Lowell's Hosea Biglow. In his first Ploughjogger letter, Adams sought to ridicule “grate men who dus nothin but quaril with one anuther and put peces in the nues paper” and to poke fun at bugbears of the day—a standing army, popery, and the Pretender. For months the Boston press had been filled with vituperative charges and countercharges of two factions, one that gathered around James Otis Jr. and his cause, and the other that supported Gov. Francis Bernard and Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson. The quarrel had its origin in the Governor's naming Hutchinson to the post of chief justice, despite his not being a lawyer and despite the promise made by a Bernard predecessor to name Otis Sr. to the next vacancy. Young Otis saw an insult to his family and, more important, the gathering in Hutchinson's hands of a multiplicity of offices, some of which would lead to a conflict of interests. Within a month or two of his appointment, Hutchinson participated in the famous writs of assistance case that Otis pleaded unsuccessfully before the Superior Court (JA, Legal Papers , 2:106–147). After that, Hutchinson had been involved, unintentionally and to his detriment, in the dispute between the Governor and the House over the naming of a new colonial agent (Bailyn, Thomas Hutchinson , p. 51–60). By 1763 these were already old quarrels, but it took little to revive them in young Otis' con-60tinuing campaign of harassment against the Lieutenant Governor. The immediate spark setting off fresh controversy was Otis' criticism of the Governor for spending money on a gunboat in the fall of 1762, in Otis' eyes a threat to legislative prerogative. The door was then opened to rehearsal of old grievances (Berkin, Jonathan Sewall , p. 29–30).

The intemperate language and abusive tone of these publications would have disturbed John Adams in any case (see Diary and Autobiography , 1:243), but his concern deepened when one of his closest friends entered the fray. On 14 February 1763 in the Boston Evening-Post appeared Jonathan Sewall's first effort in a defense of the Bernard-Hutchinson administration which grew into a series of newspaper contributions, the last published June 13. Writing as “J,” Sewall satirized the Otises and their allies in terms no worse than other newspaper combatants, but his enthusiasm and commitment to his task aroused Adams (Berkin, Jonathan Sewall , p. 167). Thus, it was no accident that he wrote the first Ploughjogger letter only seventeen days after Sewall had made his debut as “J.”

One can only speculate that the humorous first letter of Ploughjogger was a mild attempt to reprove Sewall and other disputants, but when Sewall continued, wholly committed to one side, his good friend felt betrayed. In this period Adams was an exemplar of the Anglo-American tradition that considered blind factionalism detrimental to the public good. Thus sometime in the spring of 1763, but most likely after Adams' first newspaper article appeared, he wrote an outraged and outrageous letter to his friend, identified only as Jonathan, which he broke off abruptly and apparently never copied and sent (No. II, below). The writing of it vented his spleen; keeping the letter prevented, for the time being at least, what would probably have been an irreparable breach in their friendship.

Shortly after the last of Sewall's “J” pieces appeared in print, Humphrey Ploughjogger came back after a three-month absence, still complaining about newspaper quarrels but directing his energies now to a call for agricultural diversification, particularly the cultivation of hemp. His postscript suggests he was driven to take up his pen once more by the outbreak of fisticuffs between two members of the legislature.

Gen. William Brattle of the Council and Col. John Murray, representative from Rutland, got into a scuffle outside the Town House on 8 June when Murray demanded an apology for a slighting remark he claimed Brattle had made some time before. When Brattle denied the accusation, Murray called him a liar and attacked him. The sheriff separated the two men, but when they met again the same afternoon another scuffle broke out. Although Murray apologized for his conduct the next day before the Council and was pardoned by the governor and the councilors, Brattle was not satisfied. Before the end of June, he retained John Adams as counsel in his suit for trespass against Murray, and the case first came to court in Boston on 5 July. (For JA's legal notes on the case, see No. V, note 2, below.) Brattle's suit was not disposed of until 1766, with Adams acting as attorney through the whole process. Brattle won token damages of £30, 61although he had sued for £1,500. The episode was important for Adams as an instance of resort to unwritten law in defense of honor, a custom he was to attack in several of the “U” letters.

The first of the “U” letters, however, was an answer to Ploughjogger's request for information about the cultivation of hemp (No. IV, below); thus, Adams began a dialogue with himself carried on in two different newspapers. His original purpose was not as he remembered it many years later, when he told the Abbé de Mably the “U” letters were written to answer a tory. It was characteristic and understandable for Adams to shove farther back in the past his dedication to whig principles and his strong opposition to tory ideas. Sewall, of course, could not be called a tory in 1763. Although “U” began by posing as a learned gentleman who would satisfy Ploughjogger's desire to turn men's minds away from factional strife and toward the practical and needful matter of agricultural diversification, Adams was deflected from his purpose after the first letter by the Brattle-Murray imbroglio and by Sewall's dedication to one side in the political clash between the Otis and Bernard-Hutchinson factions. Subsequent “U” letters bemoan the writer's failure to get back to agricultural reform; only two, one of them unpublished, are addressed directly to “J” (Nos. VI and VII, below). Adams' lengthy treatment of the immorality of private revenge grew out of deep personal conviction, but he may have sought also to sway public opinion to his side as the plaintiff's attorney in Brattle's suit against Murray, who had sought directly to defend his honor.

I. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 3 March 1763 JA Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)


I. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 3 March 1763 Adams, John Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)
I. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the Boston Evening-Post
Lofing Sun Bostun, the thurd of March 1763 1

Thes fue Lins cums to let you no, that I am very wel at prisent, thank God for it, hoping that you and the family are so too. I haf bin here this fortnite and it is fiftene yeres you no sins I was here laste, and ther is grate alterashons both in the plase and peple, the grate men dus nothin but quaril with one anuther and put peces in the nues paper aginst one anuther, and sum sayes one is rite, and others sayes tuther is rite and they dont know why or wherefor, there is not hafe such bad work amumgst us when we are a goin to ordane a minstur as there is amungst these grate Fokes, and they say there is a going to be a standin armey to be kept in pay all pece time and I am glad of it Ime sure for then muney will be plenty and we can sell off our sauce2 and meat, but some other peple says we shall be force to pay um and that wil be bad on tuther hand becaus we haf pade taksis enuf alredy amungst us, and they say we are despretly in det now but howsomever 62we dont pay near upon it so much as bostun folks and thats som cumfurt but I hop our depetys will be so wise as to take care we shant pay no more for that, the Bostun peple are grone dedly proud for I see seven or eight chirch minsturs3 tuther day and they had ruffles on and grate ty wigs with matter4 a bushel of hair on um that cums haf way down there baks, but I dont wonder they go so fin for there is a parcel of peple in Lundun that chuses um as they say and pays um, but our m—— thinks themselfs well off if they can get a toe shirt to go to Leckshun in,5 but that is not their sorts for if they ant well pade they cant help it and they ort to be for the bible says the laburrer is wurthy of his hier and they that prech the Gospel should live by the Gospel, but Ime dredful afrade that now there is so many of these minsturs here that they will try to bring in popiree among us and then the pritandur will come and we shal all be made slaves on.6 I have bote your juse harp and intend to come home next week and tell your mother so. so no more at prisent but that I am Your lofeing father

Humphry Ploughjogger

MS not found. Reprinted from ((Fleet's) Boston Evening-Post, 14 March 1763).


This is the only letter in this group for which the author assigned a date of composition.


See OED under Sauce, 4a: “Chiefly U.S. Vegetables or fruits, fresh or preserved, taken as part of a meal.”


Anglican clergymen. Americans had to go to England for ordination by a bishop.


Probably to be read as “with a matter of,” meaning “about a bushel.” See OED under Matter, 24. For another example, see No. III, below.


That is, Congregational ministers think they are well off if they can afford a coarse linen shirt to wear to Election Day ceremonies. These were held in Boston on the last Wednesday in May, when the General Court convened and elected the Governor's Council. It was a day “of 'treats' and feasts as well as sermons and politics” (A. W. Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons 1670–1775, Minneapolis, 1968, p. 11).


Period editorially supplied.

II. To Jonathan Sewall, 1763 JA Sewall, Jonathan


II. To Jonathan Sewall, 1763 Adams, John Sewall, Jonathan
II. To Jonathan Sewall
My Dear Friend Braintree, Spring 1763

For so I must call you, tho your late Behaviour, in Point of Ill Nature, and Jealousy, has savoured too much of the Instigations of the Devil. Jonathan, thou art1 become, an Artful Designing fellow.—Cunning, left handed, crooked Wisdom, is the highest Excellence thou canst aspire justly pretend to.—Had I but known this, three Years agone, I would have seen thee, gizzarded eer I would have honourd thee with my Friendship.


Thou Fool, To praise, as thou dost, one side of the Question, in political Disputes, and to execrate as thou dost the other. Thou art Either an hireling Scribbler, and prostitutest thine Head, thine Heart and thy fingers to blacken every Feature of one Party, however fair some of them may be, and to whiten every feature of the other, how foul or swarthy soever some of them may be, or else thou art a silly, undistinguishing Jack Tar, on board the ship, who never lookest into the Right and the Wrong the True or the false, but eer fightest valiantly, whenever the Master gives a dram and pointeth out an Antagonist. Oh the perpetual Hankerings of France after universal Monarchy, cry, the Polititians of an English Coffee house, and an English Gazette.—Oh all grasping Ambition!—oh punic Perfidy, &c. &c. &c. Poor, virtuous, modest, Pious Phylosophical England, allways attentive to the Interests of human Nature, the Rights and Liberties of Mankind but especially of Christians is from these Considerations purely, not at all from Avarice, Ambition or self Love, excited to controul and destroy the Powers of France and all other Powers, and to Monopolize, all the Trade, Wealth, Business and Power of the Universe.

Such senseless, such pittyful Stuff and Trash, I did not expect from thee friend Jonathan. I do not blame thee at all for satirizing and execrating one side, that side I believe as fully as thou dost, deserves it. But I blame thee, for praising the other. Both Parties deserve Curses.—Both Parties will sacrifice the good of their Country, in small Things to their own Malice, Envy, Revenge, Avarice Ambition, or Lust. Thou knowest this to be true, and God knoweth it to be true. And yet to talk as thou dost—thou art almost a Devil.

Dft (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 601); on the verso of this unfinished, undirected, and unsigned MS are some legal notes by JA unrelated to the text of the letter.


JA's resort to Biblical style, which he maintains throughout the remainder of the letter, underscores the bitter irony he sees in having a faithless friend named Jonathan, the name of Saul's son who remained true to David (1 Samuel: chs., 18–20).

III. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 20 June 1763 JA Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)


III. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 20 June 1763 Adams, John Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)
III. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the Boston Evening-Post
20 June 1763 To the Publishers of the Boston Evening-Post. Plese to put this following, in your next Print.

I Arnt book larnt enuff, to rite so polytly, as the great gentlefolks, that rite in the News-Papers, about Pollyticks. I think it is pitty, they should know how to rite so well, saving they made a better use ont. 64And that they might do, if they would rite about something else. They do say we are a matter a million of muney in det. If so be the matter be so, I dont see but the Cunstibles must dragg two thirds on us to goal, for our land and housen and creeturs wont pay tacksis, without ther is muney to sell them for. And I am shure ther arnt haff a million of muney amongst us. And now the war is done, we cant bring in any more amungst us.—In the war time I could sell my fatt ocksen, and sheep, and every thing I could raise on my place, for a pretty good round price in muney. So that the war did me some good, 'tho' I lost by it two of my sons, as stout young fellows as ever took a man by the sholders. But now I cant sell any thing, because nobody has no muney hardly. And they do say that amost all the muney folks can rake and scrape, is sent away by water to buy Corn and Hemp and such like, besides that that is sent to buy fine cloths. As to finery gentlefolks may do what they ples, for we cant make um so fine here as they bring um from Lunnun. But I know we can raise as good Ingean corn here as they can in Virginny, and as good Wheet as they can in Connetticut, and folks say we could raise as good Hemp, as they raise in any part of the world. And if so be, this be true we might raise anuff amongst us, to send to Lunnun to pay for our fine cloths; for they do say, it fetches a nation1 price, and they want abundance of it ther, about their shipping, but no body amungst us knows how to raise it.

What I'me ater is, to get some great larnt gentleman, who has been to Old Ingland, and knows how they raise Hemp there, and can read books about it, and understand um, to print in your News, some direckshon, about it, that we may go to trying, for we cant afford to run venters, by working, may be, a month and then have nothing come of it for want of working right.2—I'le affirm it, a little short piece in the print, no bigger than these few lines I send you at this present riting, if it did but tell us how to raise Hemp, how to fitt our land and feed, how and when to sow it, how to gather the crop and when, and how to dress it, and suck like would do a thousand pounds worth of good.

Seems to me folks must have a queer kind of souls to love to study, to fling dirt and play hide and seek in the News, better to walk or ride about the country, in good weather, and study like King Solomon, the Herbs from the Cedar of Lebanon to the Hysop in the wall. I'le avouch it I've took more delight in looking upon a bunch of leeves, or blossoms, or sprigs of grass for two hours together, to see how nice and pretty it is made, than I ever did last winter, or spring in reeding any of them scolding pieces in the News, and yet tho' I want bro't up to College I love to reed.


I wonder why folks will rite so as they do in the News, they make amost all the world hate um for it. whereas I'le say it they could make every body love um if they would rite about farming, and teech country folks how to pay their rates by rasing hemp and such like. For it would be strange, if we in a land of light were not as good as Heathens, and I've seen it in a sermon book, that they worshipt, even arter he was dead, that man that taut um how to use Grapes, and tother too that taut um how to sow corn and such like. Thes Pagans were fools to worship um, tho it shows that they lov'd and honour'd the man that did um good, which we Chrischans dont always do, tho I hope most of us should.—Sum of our ministers say that none of thes heathens are sav'd, which I cant hardly beleeve.

I do say that our great knowing rich men cant answer it to a good conshence, if they dont take sum panes and spend sum muney too, to learn us little ignorant poor folks how to pay our rates, and get a living, dont they remember the parable of the Talents!—besides we have work'd hard and lost our sons and brothers in the war, to defend them in hole skins, and got so far in det that we cant pay saving they contrive sum way for us.—I wonder whether they ever sit alone and medetate.—If they did their bowels would yerne toward us.—I sit up sumtimes till 12 a Clock at night thinking about myself and Naibours our land and stock and rates, and about the war, and about my too poor dear sons, one of um died of a camp fevur, and tother was skalp'd by the Ingeans, till my hart is redy to burst and my eyes run over. I'm shure if I had as much larning, books and time to spaer from my labor, with my poor abillitys, thof3 I say it, I could find out 20 ways of teeching mankind things they want to know, and helping um pay their dets and live comfortable.

Good Mr. Elliot did rite sumthing once about farming, but not enuff about Hemp.4—I see his book tother day, poor man he's ded now, but our loss in his gain.—I red a good deel in his book, and like it extrordinary well. I wish I had one of um. I suppose I could get one for haff a dollur. I think I'le leeve off tacking the News papers for haff a yeer, and bye one, and in haff a yeer I hope the News will get cleer again of so much wicked langage, and ripping and rending of one grate man agenst another! There's sundry leeves at the end ont, put out by a fine man, folks say I know him, I've seen him ride by my house, and thof I durst not speek to him yet I'm a fool for it, for they say he's a nice good-natur'd free Gentleman, yet I love him for the pains he has took to make folks ditch their meadows, and sow Wheet and Hemp and such like.5


I do say it would be a nice thing if we could raise enuff Hemp to pay our rates, and bye a little rum and shuger, which we cant well do without, and a little Tea, which our Wifes wont let us have any peace without.

I've been as long as a sarmon amost, so I wont rite no more at present. Sumbody put a lettur of mine into the print tother day that I was asham'd to see there, so I wanted to let the world know I could if I try'd both spell and word a lettur, abundance better than that was, and I have told um sum things they would do well to think on, when they go to bed and when they get up, if their Wifes dont pester um too much. So I remain your's to sarve.

Humphrey Ploughjogger

P.S. Seems to me if grate Men dont leeve off writing Pollyticks, breaking Heads, boxing Ears, ringing Noses and kicking Breeches, we shall by and by want a world of Hemp more for our own consumshon.6

MS not found. Reprinted from ((Fleet's) Boston Evening-Post, 20 June 1763).


Short for damnation; used as an adjective and an adverb for great, extremely, &c. “All Chiefly Dial.” (Webster's, 2d edn.).


JA soon responded to Ploughjogger's request; see No. IV, below.


Dialect for though ( OED ).


Rev. Jared Eliot (1685–1763), Yale 1706, F.R.S., of Killingworth (now Clinton), Conn., published Essays upon Field-Husbandry in New England, As It Is or May Be Ordered, Boston, 1760 (Sabin, No. 22136), originally issued in parts, New London and N.Y., 1748–1759, “the most widely read and prized agricultural essays in America” before the Revolution ( DAB ).


The “sundry leeves at the end” are an appendix (p. [159]–166) containing laudatory comments on Eliot's book and some added notes on New England agriculture. The author, the “Gentleman” mentioned, was Peter Oliver, later chief justice of the Superior Court, whom JA (if not “Humphrey Ploughjogger”) knew; see Diary and Autobiography , 1:225–227 and passim. Oliver and Eliot corresponded on agricultural and scientific subjects, and Oliver urged and oversaw the publication of his friend's book in Boston; see Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 8:740. A copy of the Essays once owned by Rev. Ezra Stiles and now in MHi bears at p. [159] the notation “By the Hon. Judge Oliver of Middleborough,” and the appendix includes the several points of advice mentioned in Ploughjogger's letter.


Hemp for hanging.

IV. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 18 July 1763 JA U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)


IV. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 18 July 1763 Adams, John U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)
IV. “U” to the Boston Gazette
18 July 1763 Messieurs Edes & Gill, Please to give the following a Place in your next.

Among the Votaries of Science, and the numerous Competitors for literary Fame, Choice and Judgment, about the Utility of their Studies, and the Interest of the human Race, have been remarkably 67neglected. Mathematicians have exerted, an obstinate Industry, and the utmost Subtilty of Wit, in demonstrating, little Niceties, among the Relations of Lines and Numbers, of Surfaces and Solids; and in searching for other Demonstrations, which, there is not the least Probability, will ever be found. Great Advantages of Genius, Learning, Wealth, and Leisure, have been improved by Philosophers, in examining and describing to the World, the Formation of Shells and Pebbles, of Reptiles and Insects, in which Mankind has no more Concern, than it would have in sage Conjectures about the Weight of the Indian's Elephant and Tortoise. Many Pens have been employed, and much Mischief and Malevolence occasioned, by Controversies concerning Predestination.—The original of Evil.—And other abstruse Subjects, which, having been to no good Purpose, under learned Examination, for so many Centuries, may by this Time, be well enough concluded unfathomable by the humane Line.

But Agriculture, the nursing Mother of every Art and Science, every Trade and Profession in Society, has been most imprudently, and ungratefully despised. It has been too much so, till of late in Europe; but much more so in America; and perhaps not the least so, in the Massachusetts-Bay.

With Advantages of Soil and Climate, which few Countries under Heaven can pretend to rival; we have never raised our own Bread.—Capable as we are, of making many wholsome and delicious Liquors, at a small Expence, we send abroad annually, at a very great Expence, for others that are less wholesome agreable and delicate.—When it is in our Power, without any Difficulty, to raise many other Commodities, in sufficient Plenty, not only for our own Consumption, but for Exportation, we send all the Globe over, Yearly to import such Commodities for our own Use!

All these Facts are indisputably true: But Things cannot long continue in the same Course. Many Sources of our Wealth are dried away; and unless we seek for Resources, from Improvements in our Agriculture, and an Augmentation of our Commerce, by such Means, we must forego the Pleasure of Delicacies, and Ornaments, if not the Comfort of real Necessaries, both in Diet and Apparel.

The Intention of this Paper then, is to intreat my worthy Countrymen, who have any Advantages, of Leisure, Education, or Fortune, to amuse themselves, at convenient Opportunities, with the study, and the Practice too, of Husbandry. Nor let any who have Ability, to think and act, tho' in narrow Circumstances, be discouraged, from exerting the Talents that have been given them, in the same Way.

68 Haud facile emergunt, quorum Virtutibus Obstat Res angusta Domi,1

With all its Truth and Pathos, has been the occasion of greater Evil, by Soothing the Pride and Indolence of Genius; than it ever was of Good, by prompting the rich and powerful, to seek the solitary Haunts of Merit, and to amplify her Sphere. In making Experiments, upon Soils and Manners Manures,2 Grains and Grasses, Trees and Bushes; and in your Enquiries into the Course of Nature in producing them: You will find as much Employment for your Ingenuity, and as high a Gratification to a good Taste, as in any Business or Amusement you can choose to pursue. I said as high a Gratification to a good Taste; for, believe me, the finest Productions of the Poet or the Painter, the Statuary, or the Architect; when they stand in Competition with the great and beautiful Works of Nature, in the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms; must be pronounced mean, and despicable Baubles—In such Inquiries as these, the Mathematician, the Philosopher, the Chymist and the Poet, may all improve their favourite Sciences to the Advancement of their Health, the Increase of their Fortunes, and the Benefit of their Country.

If I might descend, without Presumption, to Particulars, I would recommend such Enquiries to Divines and Physicians, more than to any other Orders. For, without enquiring into the Truth of the Observation, that the Lawyers among us, are the most curious in Husbandry, which, if true, is unnatural and accidental,—Divines, having more Leisure, and better Opportunities for Study than any Men, will find, in that Science, an agreeable Relaxation from the arduous Labours of their Profession, an useful Exercise for the Preservation of their Health, a Means of supplying their Families with many Necessaries that might otherwise cost them dear, and an excellent Example of Ingenuity and Industry, removing many Temptations of Vice and Folly, to the People under their Charge.—Besides, their Acquaintance with the Sciences subservient to Husbandry, will give them great Advantages, and in the Prosecution of such studies, they will find their Sentiments raised, their Ideas of divine Attributes display'd in the Scenes of Nature, improved, and their Adoration of the great Creator, and his Providence exalted.—Physicians have many Advantages, not only of the World in general, but of other liberal Professions—The Principles of those Sciences, which subserve more immediately their peculiar Occupation, are at the same Time the Foundations of all real, and rational Improvements in Husbandry. Necessitated as they are to much Travel and frequent Conversations, with many sorts of People, 69they might, for their own mere Diversion, remark the Appearances of Nature, and store their Minds with many useful observations, which they might disperse among their Patients, without the least Loss of Time, or Interruption to the Duties of their Profession.

These Reflections have been occasion'd, by a late Piece in the Evening-Post, signed Humphrey Ploughjogger.—Who was the Writer of that Piece, what were his Intentions, whether to do good or to do Evil, for what Reasons he chose that Manner of Conveyance to the Public, or whether the whole was written to introduce the Postscript, And “to shew by one Satyric Touch No Country wanted Hemp so much” I am not at Leisure to inquire. And indeed, since Mr. J. with his noble and ignoble Trumpeters, has propagated an universal Jealousy, of every Writer in your Paper, I shall leave the important Questions, whether this Publication springs from Benevolence or Vanity, a public Spirit or seditious Views, a Love of Money, or Desire of Fame, to the sage Discussion of Mr. J and his adherents.

My professed Design, as well as that of Mr. Ploughjogger, is not only innocent but important. There is no Subject less understood, or less considered, by Men in general even of the learned Orders, than the Theory of Agriculture. And the Writer, who should direct with Success, the Attention of inquisitive Minds, to that Branch of Learning, whether he intended to befriend the Public, or to blow it into Flames, would certainly be the occasion of much publick Utility. The particular Subject which, that Writer has chosen to recommend to the Consideration of the Province, promises, more fairly than any other, private Profit to the Farmer, and the Merchant, public Benefit to this Province, and perhaps to the Provinces in general, as well as to Great-Britain, (the Parent and Protector of them all) whose Society of Arts &c.3 have discovered their kind Concern for us, as well as their wise Provision for their native Country, among many other Instances, by offering Encouragement for raising this Commodity, in New-England. It has been said that “a thousand Weight to an Acre is an ordinary Crop of Hemp,” that “several Hundred Thousand Pounds worth of foreign Hemp, is yearly expended, in New-England,” that “Hemp may be raised, on drained Lands;” and that “if we can raise more than to supply our own Occasions, we may send it home.”4 It has been said too, by another good Authority, “that an Acre of Land well tilled, will produce a Ton Weight, and that a Ton of it is worth Sixty Pounds of Lawful Money.”5

It is not without Reason then, that I embrace with Pleasure, the 70Opportunity of seconding Mr. Ploughjogger, in his Attempt, to recommend, to the Labours of the Farmer, the Enquiries of the Curious, and the Encouragement of Statesmen, a subject so important to this Province, to New-England in general, to Great-Britain herself, to the present Age, and to future Generations.

Hemp, is a Plant of great Importance, in the Arts and Manufactories, as it furnishes a great Variety of Threads, Cloths, and Cordage. It bears the nearest Resemblance to Flax, in its Nature, the manner of its Cultivation, and the Purposes to which it serves. It must be annually sown afresh. It arises, in a little space of Time, into a tall, slender, shrub, with an hollow Stem. It bears a small round seed, filled with a solid Pulp. Its Bark is a Tissue of Fibres, joined together with a soft substance, which easily rots it.—There are two Kinds of it, male, and female, the former only bears the seed, and from that seed arises both male and female. The seed should be sown in the Month of May, in a warm Sandy rich soil. They begin to gather it about the first of August, the Female being soonest ripe. The Proofs of its Ripeness are an Alteration of the Colour of its Leaves to Yellow, and its Stalks to White. It must be pulled up by the Roots and then bound in Bundles. The Male should stand Eight or Ten Days in the Air, that the Seed may ripen, which they afterwards get out, by cutting off, the Heads, and threshing them. It must then, be watered, by laying it, about a Week, in a Pond, in order to rot the Bark. I said, a Pond, tho' a Brook would be better if it did not give the Water an unwholsome Quality. After it is taken out, and dry'd, the woody Part of the Stem, must be broken from the Bark which covers it, by Crushing it, in an Instrument, called a Brake, beginning at the Roots. After it has been sufficiently broken, the small shivers, must be swingled out, as we swingle Flax. When this is done it must be beaten on a Block, or in a Trough with an Hammer, or with Beetles, till it becomes soft and pliable. When it has been well beaten it must be huckled, or passed thro' a toothed Instrument, like the Clothier's Comb, to seperate the shorter Tow, from that which is fit to be spun.6

This is a very short Answer to Mr. Ploughjogger's Enquiries, extracted from Writers, upon this excellent Plant; But if he or any other Person has a Curiosity to see a more particular Account of it (and give me Leave to tell him and them there is not an Herb, from the Cedar to the Hyssop, that may be studied to more Advantage) let them consult the Praeceptor, Nature delineated, Chamber's Dictionary, and above all the Compleat Body of Husbandry.7

And that I may add no more, Let the World in general consider, 71that the Earth, the Air, and Seas, are to furnish all Animals with Food and Raiment: That mere Animal Strength, which is common to Beasts and Men, is not sufficient to avail us, of any considerable Part of the bountiful Provision of Nature: That our Understandings, as well as our Limbs and Senses, must be employed in this service. And let the Few, who have been distinguished by greater Intellectual Abilities, than Mankind in general, consider that Nature intended them for Leaders of Industry. Let them be cautious, how they suffer their Talents to sleep or rust, on one Hand; and of certain Airs of Wisdom and Superiority, on the other, by which some Gentlemen of real Sense, Learning and public Spirit, giving offence to the common People have in some Measure defeated their own benevolent Intentions. Let them not be too sparing of their Application or Expence, lest, failing of visible Profit and Success, they expose themselves to ridicule, and rational, useful Husbandry itself, to Disgrace, among the common People.—The Example of the few, if skilfully and judiciously set, will soon be admir'd and followed. For human Nature is not so stupid, or so abandoned as many worthy Men imagine, nor the common People if their peculiar Customs and Modes of Thinking are a little studied, so ungrateful or intractible, but that their Labours may be conducted by the Genius and Experience of a Few, to very great and useful Purposes.


Reprinted from the (Boston Gazette, 18 July 1763). Dft suggesting that JA originally planned to publish this letter in the Boston Evening-Post printed in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:245–250. JA probably submitted the letter to the Gazette instead of to the Evening-Post as a means of concealing that the “Humphrey Ploughjogger” and the “U” letters were by the same author.


From Juvenal. “Those people do not easily emerge from obscurity whose abilities are cramped by narrow means at home.”


A printer's error as is shown in draft text printed in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:247.


The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture, and Commerce, established in England in 1754 to promote the development of new ideas in science (J. Steven Watson, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815, Oxford, 1960, p. 28).


The quotations are taken directly from or are paraphrases of material in Eliot, Essays upon Field Husbandry, p. 10, 11.


The “good Authority” has not been identified.


This account is a close paraphrase of the article on hemp in Ephraim Chambers (ca. 1680–1740), Cyclopaedia: or, an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, London, 1728, and later editions.


Robert Dodsley (1703–1764), ed., The Preceptor: Containing a General Course of Education, 2 vols., London, 1748, and later editions.

[Noël Antoine Pluche (1688–1761)], Le spectacle de la nature, ou entretiens sur les particularités de I'histoire naturelle, Paris, 1732–1735; transl. as Nature Delineated . . . , John Kelly, D. Belamy, J. Sparrow, 3d edn., 4 vols., 72London, 1743–1744. Also transl. as Nature Displayed, both titles appearing in JA, Diary and Autobiography , index.

A Compleat Body of Husbandry, Containing Rules for Performing, in the Most Profitable Manner, the Whole Business of the Farmer and Country Gentleman . . . Compiled from the Original Papers of the Late Thomas Hale, 4 vols., London, 1756, 1758–1759. This source corrects the misinformation that the male plant bears the seed.

V. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 1 August 1763 JA U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)


V. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 1 August 1763 Adams, John U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)
V. “U” to the Boston Gazette
To the Printers. 1 August 1763

Man, is distinguished from other Animals, his Fellow-Inhabitants of this Planet, by a Capacity of acquiring Knowledge and Civility, more than by any Excellency, corporeal, or mental, with which, mere Nature, has furnished his Species.—His erect Figure, and sublime Countenance, would give him but little Elevation above the Bear, or the Tyger: nay, notwithstanding those Advantages, he would hold an inferior Rank in the Scale of Being, and would have a worse Prospect of Happiness, than those Creatures; were it not for the Capacity, of uniting with others, and availing himself of Arts and Inventions, in social Life. As he comes originally from the Hands of his Creator, Self Love, or Self-Preservation, is the only Spring, that moves within him.—He might crop the Leaves, or Berries, with which his Creator had surrounded him, to satisfy his Hunger—He might sip at the Lake or Rivulet, to slake his Thrist—He might screen himself, behind a Rock or Mountain, from the bleakest of the Winds—or he might fly from the Jaws of voracious Beasts, to preserve himself from immediate Destruction.—But would such an Existence be worth preserving? Would not the first Precipice, or the first Beast of Prey, that could put a Period to the Wants, the Frights and Horrors, of such a wretched Being, be a friendly Object, and a real Blessing?

When we take one Remove from this forlorn Condition, and find the Species propagated, the Banks of Clams, and Oysters, discovered, the Bow and Arrow, invented, and the Skins of Beasts, or the Bark of Trees, employed for Covering: altho' the human Creature has a little less Anxiety and Misery than before; yet each Individual is independent of all others: There is no Intercourse of Friendship: no Communication of Food or Cloathing: no Conversation or Connection, unless the Conjunction of Sexes, prompted by Instinct, like that of Hares and Foxes, may be called so: The Ties of Parent, Son, and Brother, are of little Obligation: The Relations of Master and Servant, the Distinction of Magistrate and Subject, are totally unknown: Each Individual is his own Sovereign, accountable to no other upon Earth, 73and punishable by none.—In this Savage State, Courage, Hardiness, Activity and Strength, the Virtues of their Brother Brutes, are the only Excellencies, to which Men can aspire. The Man who can run with the most Celerity, or send the Arrow with the greatest Force, is the best qualified to procure a Subsistence. Hence to chase a Deer over the most rugged Mountain; or to pierce him at the greatest Distance, will be held, of all Accomplishments, in the highest Estimation. Emulations and Competitions for Superiority, in such Qualities, will soon commence: and any Action which may be taken for an Insult, will be considered, as a Pretension to such Superiority; it will raise Resentment in Proportion, and Shame and Grief will prompt the Savage to claim Satisfaction, or to take Revenge. To request the Interposition of a third Person, to arbitrate, between the contending Parties, would be considered, as an implicit Acknowledgment of Deficiency, in those Qualifications, without which, none in such a barbarous Condition, would choose to live. Each one then, must be this own Avenger. The offended Parties must fall to fighting. Their Teeth, their Nails, their Feet or Fists, or perhaps the first Clubb or Stone that can be grasped, must decide the Contest, by finishing the Life of one. The Father, the Brother, or the Friend, begins then to espouse the Cause of the deceased; not indeed so much from any Love he bore him living, or from any Grief he suffers for him, dead, as from a Principle of Bravery and Honour, to shew himself able and willing to encounter the Man who had just before vanquished another.—Hence arises the Idea of an Avenger of Blood: and thus the Notions of Revenge, and the Appetite for it, grow apace. Every one must avenge his own Wrongs, when living, or else loose his Reputation: and his near Relation must avenge them for him, after he is dead, or forfeit his.—Indeed Nature has implanted in the human Heart, a Disposition to resent an Injury, when offered: And this Disposition is so strong, that even the Horse, treading by Accident on a gouty Toe, or a Brick-batt falling on the Shoulders, in the first Twinges of Pain, seem to excite the angry Passions, and we feel an Inclination to kill the Horse and to break the Brick-batt. Consideration, however, that the Horse and Brick were without Design, will cool us; whereas the Thought that any Mischief has been done, on Purpose to abuse, raises Revenge in all its Strength and Terrors: and the Man feels the sweetest, highest Gratification, when he inflicts the Punishment himself.—From this Source arises the ardent Desire in Men to judge for themselves, when and to what Degree they are injured, and to carve out their own Remedies, for themselves.—From the same Source arises that obstinate Disposition 74in barbarous Nations to continue barbarous; and the extreme Difficulty of introducing Civility and Christianity among them. For the great Distinction between Savage Nations and polite ones, lies in this, that among the former, every Individual is his own Judge and his own Executioner; but among the latter, all Pretensions to Judgment and Punishment, are resigned to Tribunals erected by the Public: a Resignation which Savages are not without infinite Difficulty, perswaded to make, as it is of a Right and Priviledge, extremely dear and tender to uncultivated Nature.1

To exterminate, from among Mankind, such revengeful Sentiments and Tempers, is one of the highest and most important Strains, of civil and humane Policy: Yet the Qualities which contribute most, to inspire and support them, may, under certain Regulations, be indulged and encouraged. Wrestling, Running, Leaping, Lifting, and other Exercises of Strength, Hardiness, Courage and Activity, may be promoted, among private Soldiers, common Sailors, Labourers, Manufacturers and Husbandmen, among whom they are most wanted, provided sufficient Precautions are taken, that no romantic cavalier-like Principles of Honor intermix with them, and render a Resignation of the Right of judging and the Power of executing, to the Public, shameful. But whenever such Notions spread, so inimical to the Peace of Society, that Boxing, Clubbs, Swords or Fire-Arms, are resorted to, for deciding every Quarrel, about a Girl, a Game at Cards, or any little Accident, that Wine, or Folly, or Jealoussy, may suspect to be an Affront; the whole Power of the Government should be exerted to suppress them.2

If a Time should ever come, when such Notions shall prevail in this Province to a Degree, that no Priviledges shall be able to exempt Men from Indignities and personal Attacks; not the Priviledge of a Councellor, not the Priviledge of an House of Representatives of “speaking freely in that Assembly, without Impeachment or Question in any Court or Place,” out of the General Court; when whole armed Mobs shall assault a Member of the House—when violent Attacks shall be made upon Counsellors—when no Place shall be sacred, not the very Walls of Legislation,—when no Personages shall over awe, not the whole General Court, added to all the other Gentlemen on Change—when the broad Noon-Day shall be chosen to display before the World such high, heroic Sentiments of Gallantry and Spirit—when such Assailants shall live unexpelled from the Legislature—when slight Censures and no Punishments shall be inflicted,—there will really be Danger of our becoming universally, ferocious, barbarous and 75brutal, worse than our Gothic Ancestors, before the Christian Aera.

The Doctrine that the Person assaulted “should act with Spirit,” “should defend himself, by drawing his Sword, and killing, or by wringing Noses and Boxing it out, with the Offender,” is the Tenet of a Coxcomb, and the Sentiment of a Brute.—The Fowl upon the Dung-Hill, to be sure, feels a most gallant and heroic Spirit, at the Crowing of another, and instantly spreads his Cloak, and prepares for Combat.—The Bulls Wrath inkindles into a noble Rage, and the Stallions immortal Spirit, can never forgive the Pawings, Neighings, and Defiances, of his Rival. But are Cocks, and Bulls and Horses, the proper Exemplars for the Imitation of Men, especially of Men of Sense, and even of the highest Personages in the Government!3

Such Ideas of Gallantry, have been said to be derived from the Army. But it was injuriously said, because not truly. For every Gentleman, every Man of Sense and Breeding in the Army, has a more delicate and manly Way of thinking; and from his Heart despises all such little, narrow, sordid Notions. It is true, that a Competition, and a mutual Affectation of Contempt, is apt to arise among the lower, more ignorant and despicable, of every Rank and Order in Society. This Sort of Men, (and some few such there are in every Profession) among Divines, Lawyers, Physicians, as well as Husbandmen, Manufacturers and Labourers, are prone from a certain Littleness of Mind, to imagine that their Labours alone, are of any Consequence in the World, and to affect, a Contempt for all others. It is not unlikely then, that the lowest and most despised Sort of Soldiers may have expressed a Contempt for all other Orders of Mankind, may have indulged a Disrespect to every Personage in a Civil Character, and have acted upon such Principles of Revenge, Rusticity, Barbarity and Brutality, as have been above described. And indeed it has been observed by the great Montesquieu, that “From a Manner of Thinking that prevails among Mankind (the most ignorant and despicable of Mankind, he means) they set an higher Value upon Courage than Timourousness, on Activity than Prudence, on Strength than Counsel. Hence the Army will ever despise a Senate, and respect their own Officers; they will naturally slight the Orders sent them by a Body of Men, whom they look upon as Cowards; and therefore unworthy to command them.”—This Respect to their own Officers, which produces a Contempt, of Senates and Counsels, and of all Laws, Orders, and Constitutions, but those of the Army, and their Superiour Officers, tho' it may have prevailed among some Soldiers of the illiberal Character, above described, is far from being universal. It is not found in one Gentleman 76of Sense and Breeding in the whole service. All of this Character know, that the Common Law of England, is Superiour to all other Laws Martial or Common, in every English Government; and has often asserted triumphantly, its own Preheminence against the insults and Encroachments of a giddy and unruly Soldiery. They know too, that Civil Officers in England hold a great Superiority to Military Officers; and that a frightful Despotism would be the speedy Consequence of the least Alteration in these Particulars.—And knowing this, these Gentlemen who have so often exposed their Lives in Defence of the Religion, the Liberties and Rights of Men and Englishmen, would feel the utmost Indignation at the Doctrine which should make the Civil Power give Place to the Military; which should make a Respect to their superior Officers destroy or diminish their Obedience to Civil Magistrates, or which should give any Man a Right, in Conscience, Honor, or even in Punctilio and Delicacy, to neglect the Institutions of the Public, and seek their own Remedy, for Wrongs and Injuries of any Kind.


Reprinted from the (Boston Gazette, 1 Aug. 1763); Dft among MSS docketed by CFA: “Original Draughts of Newspaper Articles, signed U. 1763” (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 343).


In the draft, the paragraph ends at this point also. The first sentence of the following paragraph in the Gazette text was composed on the last page of the draft and apparently inserted at this point during final revision of the essay.


In the draft, this paragraph is followed by the cryptic comment: “Rusticity, is not Barbarity, was the late instances, Rusticity, Barbarity, or Brutality.” Probably this comment is a reference to the altercation between Murray and Brattle (see Editorial Note, above). JA's notes on the legal case that resulted survive, erroneously endorsed by CFA: “Draught of part of an Article upon the attack made by Colonel Murray upon General Brattle” (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 343, filmed under conjectural date of Aug. 1763). These notes were probably made shortly before the hearing on 5 July 1763 in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Records of the case are found in Suffolk County Court House, Early Court Files, &c., Office of the Clerk, Mass. Superior Court of Judicature, 577:100740, and M-Ar: Executive Council Records, 1761–1765, p. 255–257.


In the draft, a rough version of this paragraph appears at the end of the MS.

VI. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 29 August 1763 JA U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)


VI. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 29 August 1763 Adams, John U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)
VI. “U” to the Boston Gazette
29 August 1763 To the PRINTERS.

My worthy and ingenious friend, Mr. J, having strutted and foamed his hour upon the stage and acquired as well as deserved a good reputation as a man of sense and learning, some time since made his exit, and now is heard no more.1


Soon after Mr. Js departure, your present correspondent made his appearance; but has not yet executed his intended plan.—Mr. J inlisted himself under the banners of a faction, and employed his agreable pen, in the propagation of the principles and prejudices of a party: and for this purpose he found himself obliged to exalt some characters and depress others, equally beyond the truth—The greatest and best of all mankind, deserve less admiration; and even the worst and vilest deserve more candour, than the world in general is willing to allow them.—The favourites of parties, altho' they have always some virtues, have always many imperfections. Many of the ablest tongues and pens, have in every age been employ'd in the foolish, deluded, and pernicious flattery of one set of partisans; and in furious, prostitute invectives against another: But such kinds of oratory never had any charms for me.—And if I must do one or the other, I would quarrel with both parties, and with every individual of each, before I would subjugate my understanding, or prostitute my tongue or pen to either.

To divert mens minds from subjects of vain curiosity or unprofitable science, to the useful as well as entertaining speculations of agriculture,—To eradicate the Gothic and pernicious principles of private revenge, that have been lately spread among my countrymen, to the debasement of their character, and to the frequent violation of the public peace,—and to recommend a careful attention to political measures, and a candid manner of reasoning about them; instead of abusive insolence, or uncharitable imputations upon men and characters, has, since I first undertook the employment of entertaining the Public, been my constant and invariable point of view. The difficulty or impracticability of succeeding in my enterprize, has often been objected to me, by my friends: but even this has not wholly disheartened me—I own it would be easier to depopulate a province, or subvert a monarchy; to transplant a nation, or enkindle a new war; and that I should have a fairer prospect of success, in such designs as those: But my consolation is this, that if I am unable by my writings to effect any good purpose I never will subserve a bad one. If engagements to a party, are necessary to make a fortune, I had rather make none at all, and spend the remainder of my days like my favourite author, that ancient and immortal husbandman, philosopher, politician and general, Xenophon, in his retreat; considering kings and princes as shepherds, and their people and subjects like flocks and herds, or as mere objects of contemplation and parts of a curious machine in which I had no interest; than to wound my own mind by engaging in any party, and spreading prejudices, vices or follies.—Notwithstanding this, 78I remember the Monkish maxim, fac officium taliter qualiter, sed sta benè cum priore.2 And it is impossible to stand well with the Abbot, without fighting for his cause thro' fas and nefas.3

Please to insert the foregoing and following, which is the last Deviation I purpose to make from my principal and favourite Views of writing on Husbandry and Mechanic Arts.


There is nothing in the science of human nature, more curious, or that deserves a critical attention from every order of men, so much, as that principle, which moral writers have distinguished by the name of self-deceit. This principle is the spurious offspring of self-love; and is perhaps the source of far the greatest, and worst part of the vices and calamities among mankind.

The most abandoned minds are ingenious in contriving excuses for their crimes, from constraint, necessity, the strength, or suddenness of temptation, or the violence of passion; which serves to soften the remordings of their own consciences, and to render them by degrees, insensible equally to the charms of virtue, and the turpitude of vice. What multitudes, in older countries, discover, even while they are suffering deservedly the most infamous and terrible of civil punishments a tranquility, and even a magnanimity, like that, which we may suppose in a real patriot, dying to preserve his country!—Happy would it be for the world, if the fruits of this pernicious principle were confined to such profligates. But if we look abroad, shall we not see the most modest, sensible and virtuous of the common people, almost every hour of their lives, warped and blinded, by the same disposition to flatter and deceive themselves! When they think themselves injured, by any foible or vice in others, is not this injury always seen thro' the magnifying end of the perspective: When reminded of any such imperfection in themselves, by which their neighbours or fellow citizens are sufferers, is not the perspective instantly reversed? Insensible of the beams in our own eyes, are we not quick in discerning motes in those of others?—Nay however melancholy it may be, and how humbling soever to the pride of the human heart, even the few favourites of nature, who have received from her clearer understandings, and more happy tempers than other men; who seem designed under providence to be the great conductors of the art and science, the war and peace, the laws and religion of this lower world, are often seduced by this unhappy disposition in their minds, to their own destruction, and the injury, nay often to the utter desolation of millions of their fellow-men.—Since truth and virtue, as the means of 79present and future happiness, are confessed to be the only objects that deserve to be pursued; to what imperfection in our nature or unaccountable folly in our conduct, excepting this of which we have been speaking, can mankind impute the multiply'd diversity of opinions, customs, laws and religions, that have prevailed, and is still triumphant, in direct opposition to both? From what other source can such fierce disputations arise concerning the two things which seem the most consonant to the entire frame of human nature?—Indeed it must be confessed, and it ought to be with much contrition lamented, that those eyes which have been given us to see, are willingly suffered by us to be obscured; and those consciences, which by the commission of God almighty have a rightful authority over us, to be deposed by prejudices, appetites and passions, which ought to hold a much inferior rank in the intellectual and moral system.—Such swarms of passions, avarice and ambition, servility and adulation, hopes, fears, jealousies, envy, revenge, malice and cruelty are continually buzzing in the world, and we are so extremely prone to mistake the impulses of these for the dictates of our consciences; that the greatest genius, united to the best disposition, will find it hard to hearken to the voice of reason, or even to be certain of the purity of his own intentions.

From this true but deplorable condition of mankind, it happens that no improvements in science or literature, no reformation in religion or morals, nor any rectification of mistaken measures in government can be made, without opposition from numbers, who, flattering themselves that their own intentions are pure (how sinister soever they may be in fact,) will reproach impure designs to others; or fearing a detriment to their interest, or a mortification to their passions from the innovation, will even think it lawful directly and knowingly to falsify the motives and characters of the innovators.

Vain ambition and other vicious motives, were charged by the sacred congregation, upon Gallilaei, as the causes of his hypothesis concerning the motion of the earth, and charged so often and with so many terms, as to render the old man at last suspicious, if not satisfy'd that the charge was true: tho' he had been led to this hypothesis by the light of a great genius, and deep researches into Astronomy.—Sedition, rebellion, pedantry, desire of fame, turbulence and malice, were always reproached to the great reformers, who delivered us from the worst chains that were ever forged by Monks or Devils, for the human mind.—Zozimus 4 and Julian could easily discover, or invent annecdotes, to dishonour the conversion of Constantine, and his establishment of Christianity, in the empire.


For these reasons, we can never be secure in a resignation of our understandings, or in confiding enormous power, either to the Bramble or the Cedar; no, nor to any mortal, however great or good: And for the same reasons, we should always be upon our guard against the epithets and reflections of writers and declaimers, whose constant art it is to falsify and blacken the characters and measures they are determined to discredit.

These reflections have been occasioned by the late controversies in our News-Papers, about certain measures in the political world.—Controversies that have this, in common with others of much greater figure and importance; and indeed with all others (in which numbers have been concerned) from the first invention of letters to the present hour: that more pains have been employed in charging “desire of popularity, restless turbulence of spirit, ambitious views, envy, revenge, malice, and jealousy,” on one side: and servility, adulation, tyranny, principles of arbitrary power, lust of dominion, avarice, desires of civil or military commissions on the other; or in fewer words, in attempts to blacken and discredit the motives of the disputants on both sides; than in rational enquiries into the merits of the cause, the truth and rectitude of the measures contested.

Let not writers nor statesmen deceive themselves. The springs of their own conduct and opinions are not always so clear and pure, nor are those of their antagonists in politics, always so polluted and corrupted as they believe, and would have the world believe too. Mere readers, and private persons, can see virtues and talents on each side: and to their sorrow they have not yet seen any side altogether free from atrocious vices, extreme ignorance, and most lamentable folly.—Nor will mere readers and private persons be less excuseable, if they should suffer themselves to be imposed on by others, who first impose upon themselves.—Every step in the public administration of government, concerns us nearly. Life and fortune, our own, and those of our posterity, are not trifles to be neglected or totally entrusted to other hands: And these, in the vicissitudes of human things, may be rendered in a few years, either totally uncertain, or as secure as fixed Laws and the British constitution well administered can make them, in consequence of measures that seem at present but trifles, and to many scarcely worth attention. Let us not be bubbled then out of our reverence and obedience to Government, on one hand; nor out of our right to think and act for ourselves, in our own departments, on the other. The steady management of a good government is the most anxious arduous and hazardous vocation on this side the grave: Let 81us not encumber those, therefore, who have spirit enough to embark in such an enterprize, with any kind of opposition, that the preservation or perfection of our mild, our happy, our most excellent constitution, does not soberly demand.

But on the other hand, as we know that ignorance, vanity, excessive ambition and venality, will in spight of all human precautions creep into government, and will ever be aspiring at extravagant and unconstitutional emoluments to individuals; let us never relax our attention, or our resolution to keep these unhappy imperfections in human nature, out of which material, frail as it is, all our rulers must be compounded, under a strict inspection, and a just controul.—We Electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands: We have a check upon two branches of the legislature, as each branch has upon the other two; the power I mean of electing, at stated periods, one branch, which branch has the power of electing another. It becomes necessary to every subject then, to be in some degree a statesman: and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine them with a sober, a manly, a British, and a Christian spirit. Let us neglect all party virulence and advert to facts. Let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government, any more than in religion: take no man's word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others, who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.


MS not found. Reprinted from the (Boston Gazette, 29 Aug. 1763). In JA, Works , 3:432–437, CFA reprinted the two “U” letters in this issue of the Boston Gazette as a single essay with the title “On Self-Delusion.” The first is a kind of preamble to the second and directly precedes it in the newspaper.


Jonathan Sewall's last article as “J” in 1763 was published in the Boston Evening-Post, 13 June.


Do what is required as it should be done, but stand well with the abbot.


Through fair means and foul.


Zosimus, Zosimi Com. Historiarum libri VI, Procopius [sic] De bell. Justiniani libri totidem . . . MDCV. Recensuit . . . D.D. [sic] 1736 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). Zosimus, a professed pagan, covered the history of Rome to the time of its fall before Alaric (The Cambridge Medieval History, N.Y., 1911, 1:passim).

VII. An Essay on Man’s Lust for Power, with the Author’s Comment in 1807 JA


VII. An Essay on Man’s Lust for Power, with the Author’s Comment in 1807 Adams, John
VII. An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, with the Author's Comment in 1807
All Men would be Tyrants if they could.
post 29 August 1763

My Brother J and my self have been very liberal of our Promises to the Publick and very Sparing of Performance: but I shall take the 82Liberty to suspend the Execution of my Plan of Essays upon Agriculture, and entertain my Readers with an Explanation in some greater Detail of the moral and political Principles, contained in my former Essay upon Self Decipt.—“Self Deceipt is perhaps the source of far the greatest and worst Part of the Vices and Calamities among Man kind.”—The Love of Pleasure and Aversion to Pain, our affections for all Things that have Power either in Reality or in our own Imaginations only to give us the former, and our Hatred of all Things that communicate the later, our Senses, our Appetites, our Passions, and all our Habits and Prejudices, nay even our very Virtues and useful Qualities, our Piety towards God and our Benevolence to Mankind, The Reverence for our Parents and Affection to our Children, our Desires of Fame and aspirations after Independence, have all of them in their Turns a Tendency, unless more cautiously watched than the Condition of Humanity will allow, to deceive us into Error.—This is the great and important and melancholy Truth that is conveyd to us by the old Maxim, that I have chosen for the Motto of this Paper, that all Men would be Tyrants if they could.—The Meaning of that Maxim is not so uncharitable, as to suppose that all the sons of Adam, are so many abandond Knaves regardless of all Morality and Right, who would violate their Consciences, and oppress, mangle, burn, butcher and destroy their fellow Men, in direct opposition to their Judgments. It means, in my opinion no more than this plain simple observation upon human Nature which every Man, who has ever read a Treatise upon Morality, or conversd with the World or endeavord to estimate the comparative strength of the different springs of Action in his own Mind, must have often made, vist. that the selfish Passions, are stronger than the social, and that the former would always prevail over the latter in any Man, left to the natural Emotions of his own Mind, unrestrained and uncheckd by other Power extrinsic to himself.—i. e. that any Man, the best, the wisest, the brightest you can find, would after all external awe, and Influence should be taken away i.e. after he should be intrusted with sufficient Power, would soon be brought to think, by the strong Effervescence of his selfish Passions against the weaker Efforts of his social in opposition to them, that he was more important, more deserving, knowing and necessary than he is, that he deserves more respect and Reverence Wealth and Power than he has, and that he was doing but his Duty in Punishing with great Cruelty those who should esteem him no higher and shew him no more Reverence and give him no more Money or Power than he deservd.


This which is no new Discovery, but has been many thousands of Years considered by thinking Men, seems to have given rise to the wisest and best of Governments which seems to be calculated on Purpose, to controul and counteract the Ruinous Tendency of this Imperfection in our Natures.

Power is a Thing of infinite Danger and Delicacy, and was never yet confided to any Man or any Body of Men without turning their Heads.—Was there ever, in any Nation or Country, since the fall, a standing Army that was not carefully watched and contrould by the State so as to keep them impotent, that did not, ravish, plunder, Massacre and ruin, and at last inextricably inslave the People,—Was there ever a Clergy, that have gained, by their Natural Ascendancy over private Consciences, any important Power in the State, that did not restlessly aspire by every Art, by Flattery and Intrigues, by Bribery and Corruption, by wresting from the People the Means of Knowledge, and by inspiring misterious and awful apprehensions of themselves by Promises of Heaven and by Threats of Damnation, to establish themselves in oppulence, Indolence and Magnificence, at the Expence of the Toil, and Industry, the Limbs, the Liberties and Lives of all the rest of Mankind.

Aware of this usurping and encroaching Nature of Power, our Constitution, has laid for its Basis, this Principle that, all such unnatural Powers, as those of Arms and those of Confessions and Absolution for sin, should always bow to the civil orders that Constitute the State.—Nor is this the only Precaution she has taken. She has been as sensible of the Danger from civil as from military or casuistical Power, and has wisely provided against all.

No simple Form of Government, can possibly secure Men against the Violences of Power. Simple Monarchy will soon mould itself into Despotism, Aristocracy will soon commence an Oligarchy, and Democracy, will soon degenerate into an Anarchy, such an Anarchy that every Man will do what is right in his own Eyes, and no Mans life or Property or Reputation or Liberty will be secure and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral Virtues, and Intellectual Abilities, all the Powers of Wealth, Beauty, Wit, and Science, to the wanton Pleasures, the capricious Will, and the execrable Cruelty of one or a very few.

This last Paragraph has been the Creed of my whole Life and is now March 27 1807 as much approved as it was when it was written by John Adams.


Dft (Adams Papers); docketed by JA, 27 March 1807: “Enthusiastic Remark upon long J. Some Sound Principles too.” JA clearly intended the essay as a successor piece to No. VI, above, or, as he here refers to it, the “Essay on Self Decipt.” Available sources permit no guess about why it was not published.

VIII. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 5 September 1763 JA U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)


VIII. “U” to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Gazette</hi>, 5 September 1763 Adams, John U. Boston Gazette (newspaper)
VIII. “U” to the Boston Gazette
5 September 1763 Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer Jura neget sibi nata; nihil non arrogat Armis. Hor. 1 Rebuke the Spearmen, and the Troops Of Bulls that mighty be.— Novang. 2

It seems to be necessary for me, (notwithstanding the declaration in my last)3 once more to digress from the road of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts; and to enter the list of disputation with a Brace of writers in the Evening Post, one of whom has subscribed himself, X, and the other, W. 4—I shall agree with the first of these Gentlemen, that “to preach up non resistance, with the zeal of a Fanatick,” would be as extraordinary as to employ a Bastile in support of the freedom of speech or the Press; or an inquisition, in favour of Liberty of conscience: But if he will leave his own imagination, and recur to what I have written he will not find a syllable against resistance—Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature, which I never surrendered to the public by the compact of society; and which, perhaps, I could not surrender if I would. Nor is there any thing in the common law of England (for which Mr. X supposes I have so great a fondness) inconsistent with that right—On the contrary, the dogmas of Plato, the maxims of the Law, and the precepts of Christianity, are precisely coincident, in relation to this subject.

Plato taught that revenge was unlawful, altho' he allowed of self-defence. The divine Author of our religion has taught us, that trivial provocations are to be over look'd; and that if a man should offer you an insult by boxing one Ear rather than indulge a furious passion, and return blow for blow, you ought even to turn the other also. This expression however, tho' it inculcates strongly the duty of moderation and self-government upon sudden provocations, imports nothing against the right of resistance or of self-defence. The sense of it seems 85to be no more than this: that little injuries and insults ought to be born patiently for the present rather than run the risque of violent consequences by retaliation.

Now the common law seems to me, to be founded on the same great principle of philosophy and religion.—It will allow of nothing as a justification of blows, but blows—Nor will it justify a furious beating, bruising and wounding, upon the provocation of a fillip of the finger, or a kick upon the shins: But if I am assaulted, I can justify nothing but laying my hands lightly upon the aggressor for my own defence; nothing but what was absolutely necessary for my preservation. I may parry, or ward off, any blow: But a blow received is no sufficient provocation for fifty times so severe a blow, in return.—When life, which is one of the three favourites of the law, comes into consideration we find a wise and humane provision is made for its preservation. If I am assaulted by another, sword in hand, and if I am even certain of his intention to murder me, the common law will not suffer me to defend myself by killing him, if I can avoid it—Nay, my behaviour must absolutely be what would be called cowardice, perhaps, by Messirs X and W, tho' it would be thought the truest bravery, not only by the greatest philosophers and legislators, but by the best generals of the world: I must run away from such an assailant, and avoid him, if I have room, rather than stand my ground and defend myself: But if I have no room to escape, or if I run and am pursued to the wall or into a corner, where I cannot elude his fury, and have no other way to preserve my own Life from his violence but by taking his, there, I have an indisputable right to do it, and should be justified in warding thro' the blood of an whole army, if I had power to shed it and had no other way to make my escape.

What is said by Mr. W, that “if a gentleman should be hurried by his Passions, so far as to take the life of another, the common law5 will not adjudge it murder or manslaughter, but justifiable homicide only,” by which he must mean, if in truth he had any meaning at all, that killing upon a sudden Provocation, is justifiable homicide, is a Position in comparison of which the observations of the grave-digger upon the death of the young lady in Shakespear's Hamlet ought to be ranked among the responsa prudentum.

Every chatechumen in law, nay every common man, and even every porter upon the dock, that ever attended a trial for murder, knows, that a sudden provocation, raising a violent passion, where there is no precedent malice, is in consideration of human frailty, allowed to 86soften killing, from murder down to manslaughter; but manslaughter is an heinous crime, and subjected to heavy Punishments.

Such is the wisdom and humanity of English law; upon so thorough a knowledge of human nature is it founded; and so well is it calculated to preserve the lives and limbs of men, and the interior tranquility of societies!—I shall not dispute with Mr. X. my affection for this law, in preference to all other systems of law, that have ever yet appeared in the world.—I have no connection with parishioners, nor patients, nor clients, nor any dependance upon either for business or bread; I study law as I do divinity and physick; and all of them as I do husbandry and mechanic arts, or the motions and revolutions of the heavenly bodies; or as I do magistracy and legislation, viz. as means and instruments of human happiness. It has been my amusement for many years past, as far as I have had leisure, to examine the systems of all the legislators, ancient and modern, fantastical and real, and to trace their effects in history upon the felicity of mankind: And the result of this long examination is a settled opinion that the liberty, the unalienable, indefeasable rights of men, the honor and dignity of human nature, the grandeur and glory of the public, and the universal happiness of individuals, was never so skilfully and successfully consulted, as in that most excellent monument of human art, the common law of England. A law that maintains a great superiority, not only to every other system of laws, martial, or cannon, or civil, but to all officers, and magistrates civil and military, even to majesty itself—It has a never sleeping jealousy of the cannon law, which in many countries, Spain in particular, has subjected all officers and orders, civil and military, to the avarice and ambition, the caprice and cruelty of a Clergy—And it is not less watchful over the martial law which in many cases, and in many countries, France in particular, is able to rescue men from the justice of the municipal laws of the kingdom.—And I will own that to revive in the minds of my countrymen a reverence for this law, and to prevent the growth of sentiments that seemed to me to be in their tendency destructive of it, especially to revive a jealousy of martial laws and cavelier like tempers, was the turn which I designed to serve for myself and my friends, in that Piece which has given offence to X and W.

A certain set of sentiments have been lately so fashionable, that you could go into few companies without hearing such smart sayings as these: “If a man should insult me, by kicking my shins, and I had a sword by my side, I would make the sun shine thro' him.”—“If any man, let him be as big as Goliah, shou'd take me by the nose, I would 87let his bowels out with my sword, if I had one; and if I had none, I would beat his brains out with the first club I could find.”—And such tempers have been animated by some inadvertent expressions that have fallen from persons of higher rank and better sentiments, some of these have been heard to say, that “should a man offer a sudden insult to them, they could not answer for themselves, but they should lay him prostrate at their feet in his own blood.”—Such expressions as these, which are to be supposed but modest expressions of the Speaker's diffidence of his own presence of mind and government of his passions, when suddenly assaulted, have been taken for a justification of such returns to an insult, and a determination to practice them, upon occasion. But such persons as are watching the lips of others for wise speeches, in order to utter them afterwards as their own sentiments, have generally as little of understanding, as they have of spirit, and most miserably spoil, in reporting, a good reflection.—Now what I have written upon this subject was intended to shew the inhumanity of taking away the life of a man, only for pulling my nose, or boxing my ear; and the folly of it too, because I should be guilty of an high crime, that of manslaughter at least, and forfeit all my goods, besides receiving a brand of infamy.

But I have not yet finished my history of sentiments. It has been said by others, that “no man ought to receive a blow, without returning it.”—“A man ought to be despised that receives a cuff, without giving another in return.”—This I have heard declared for a sober opinion by some men of figure, and office, and importance.—But I beg leave to repeat it; this is the tenet of a coxcomb, and the sentiment of a brute; and the horse, the bull and the cock, that I mentioned before, daily discover precisely the same temper and the same sense of honor and decency.—If in walking the streets of this town, I should be met by a negro, and that negro should lay me over the head, with his cudgell should I think myself bound in honor, or regard to reputation, to return the blow with another cudgell? to put myself on a level with that negro, and join with him in a competition which was most expert and skilful at cudgells?—If a mad dog shou'd meet me and bite me, should I think my self bound in honor (I mean before the poison had worked upon me enough to make me as mad as the dog himself) to fall down upon that dog and bite him again?—It is not possible for me to express that depth of contempt that I feel for such sentiments, and for every mortal that entertains them. And I should chuse to be “the butt, the jest, and contempt” of all companies that entertain such opinions, rather than to be in their admiration or esteem.—I would take some 88other way to preserve myself and other men from such insolence and violence for the future; but I would never place myself upon a level with such an animal for the present.

Far from aiming at a reputation for such qualities and accomplishments as those of boxing or cuffing, a man of sense would hold even the true martial qualities, courage, strength and skill in war, in a much lower estimation than the attributes of wisdom and virtue, skill in arts and sciences, and a true taste to what is right, what is fit, what is true, generous, manly, and noble in civil life. The competition between Ajax and Ulysses is well known: Tu vires sine mente geris, mihi cura futuri. Tu pugnare potes: Tu tantum corpore prodes; Nos animo. Pectora sunt potiora manu. Vigor omnis in illis.6 Ovid Met. and we know in whose favour the prize was deem'd.

I shall not be at the pains of remarking upon all the Rhodomontade, in the two pieces under consideration, and Mr. X and Mr. W. and the whole Alphabet of Writers may scribble as many volumes as the twenty-four letters are capable of variations, without the least further notice from me unless more reasoning and merit appears, in proportion to the quantity of lines, than is to be found in those two pieces.—But since I have made some remarks upon them it will perhaps, before I conclude be worth my while to mention one thing more in each.—Mr. X tells us “that cases frequently occur where a man's person or reputation suffer to the greatest degree, and yet 'tis impossible for the Law to make him any satisfaction.”

This is not strictly true, such cases but seldom occur; tho' it must be confessed, they sometimes do.—But it seldom happens very seldom indeed, where you know the man who has done you the injury, that you can get no satisfaction by law—And if such a case should happen nothing can be clearer than that you ought to sit down and bear it.—And for this plain reason, because it is necessary, and you cannot get satisfaction in any way.—The law by the supposition cannot redress you—And you cannot, if you consider it by any means redress yourself—A flagilation in the dark would be no reparation of the injury, no example to others, nor have any tendency to reform the subject of it, but rather a provocation to him to contrive some other way to injure you again; and of consequence would be no satisfaction at all to a man even of that false honour and delicacy of which I have been speaking; 89unless he will avow an appetite for mere revenge, which is not only worse than brutal, but the attribute of Devils—And to take satisfaction by a flagilation in public, would be only, in other words, taking a severe revenge upon yourself.— For this would be a trespass and a violation of the peace, for which you would expose yourself to the resentment of the magistrate, and the action of the party: and would be like running your sword thro' your own body, to revenge yourself on another for boxing your ears; or like the behaviour of the rattlesnake, that will snap and leap and bite at every stick that you put near him, and at last when provoked beyond all honourable bearing, will fix his sharp and poisonous teeth into his own body.

I have nothing more to add, excepting one word of advice to Mr. W, and all his readers, to have a care how they believe or practice his rule about “passion and killing” lest the halter and the gibbet should become their portion: for a killing that should happen by the hurry of passion would be much more likely to be adjudged murder, than justifiable homicide only.—Let me conclude by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Let them consider how extreamly addicted they are to magnify, and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others.—They ought therefore to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions, and prejudices, and interests are concerned, to desire to judge for themselves in their own causes, and to take their own satisfactions for wrongs and injuries of any kind.


MS not found. Reprinted from the (Boston Gazette, 5 Sept. 1763).


Tireless, quick to anger, inexorable, fierce, / Let him deny that laws are made for him; / Let him think that everything must yield to force of arms. (Horace, Ars Poetica, I. 121–122.)


The author of these lines has not been identified.


“U” letter, 29 Aug., above.


“X” and “W” were two otherwise unidentified writers who emphatically disagreed with JA's veiled criticism of Murray's attack on Brattle (see Editorial Note, above). “X” sneered that “U” wanted “to convince the world, that an injured person ought never to demand satisfaction but by a law-suit—a doctrine truly serviceable to lawyers, but not always so comfortable to the injured person,” and pointed to “the many and various salutary effects club-logick has produced in the world in every period of life” (Boston Evening-Post, 22 Aug.). “W,” on the other hand, argued that even if “U” were correct in saying that the law afforded a remedy for every wrong, nevertheless men of honor were not obliged to obtain satisfaction for personal insult or injury through legal channels, because “there are those of a different character, who know how to resent, and to punish men for ill usage, without troubling a magistrate or a court of justice” (Boston Evening-Post, 29 Aug.).

90 5.

Following “the common law,” JA omitted the qualifying phrase used by “W”: “as I am inform'd.”


You have strength without intelligence; I have concern for the future. / You are able to fight: / You are outstanding only in body; I am outstanding in intellect. / My mind is superior to my hand. All my force is in my mind. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 13:363–369, with some lines and parts of lines omitted.)

IX. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 5 September 1763 JA Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)


IX. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the <hi rendition="#italic">Boston Evening-Post</hi>, 5 September 1763 Adams, John Ploughjogger, Humphrey Boston Evening Post (newspaper)
IX. Humphrey Ploughjogger to the Boston Evening-Post
5 September 1763 To the Publishers of the Boston Evening-Post. Plese to print this in your next, Humphry Ploughjogger.

It is a pleasant Thing to see ones Works in print.—When I see the news, with my letter int about Hemp, I do say it made me feel as glad, as a glass full of West India rum, sweetned with loaf shugar, would.—But yet, even then I want so presumptious, as to hope hardly, that such a fine ellokent gentleman, as Mr. U. would stoop to take so much notice of me.—He is a noble, high flown riter, like Mr. Harvey, amost. I've red Mr. Harvey's meditations, our minister lent it to me.1—But tho' I will own Mr. U. is a wonderful, lofty, sublyme riter, yet I cant join with him, in a good many things. I hope his honor, wont be offended, if I tell him what they be.

1st. I dont like his advice to leeve off studying the decrees, and original sin.—for tho I cant hardly beleeve, that heathens and infants are all lost, for Adams first transgreshon, yet them doctrines are great misterees, that we ought to pry into, as far as the word can guide us.—I do declare I would not leeve off reeding Mr. Willard, Mr. Edwards, and Mr. Taylor, and Dr. Whitby2 about them points, for all my knowledge in farming, added to Mr. U's knowledge too.

2dly. Next comes one thing that I do like, that is the line of latin. I love to see, now and then, some latin, in the books I reed. I amost think I understand it sumtimes, especially when I see it in Mr. Flavels works,3 it comes in so natural.—I ask our ministur to conster it to me, and our schoolmaster sumtimes. But I find they dont understand every thing, they get plunged, now and then. I got our school-master to conster that line in Mr. U's piece. He made bungling work ont, but as well as I cou'd pick out it ment “that a man could not swim above water, that had poverty pulling him downwards at his heels.”—This is a queer picture, it made me laff, tho I tho't it was hard-hearted too for poverty to keep pulling a man down under water that try'd to keep 91up.—And I dont know, since my ritings have been taken so much notice off, but I should have been a great larnt man if it had not been for this cruel jade poverty, that has allways been striving mite and main to drown me.—Nevertheless it put me in mind of a rogue's trick, I used to play when I was a boy.—I used to catch a grate pout, and put a wyth in his gills, and then put him in the water.—He would swim and struggle about the top of the water, but could not dive down deep. Now seems to me, we mite as well conster that latin thus. “The pout can't dive to the bottom that has a wyth in his gills.”—Poverty can be signify'd by a wyth in his gills, keeping the pout at the top of the water, as well as by an old rinkled hagg at a man's heels, pulling him under. But conster it which way you will there is a deel of sense int.—Seems to me there's more sense in sum of these latin skraps, that I get our larnt men to conster, than in so much Inglish any where.—I wonder how tis! I allways rite best about what I dont understand.—Ive rit a deel about this latin, and it sounds very well too, seems to me, considering.

3dly. Next comes one thing that I cant bare, i.e. advising ministurs to study farming and work at it too.—Our ministurs are wordly-minded enuff, aready, and they dont give themselves haff enuff to reeding and study now—I'm sure, many of um dont make so good sarmons, as I could with my poor abilities, thof I say't.—But if they should take to farming they would not reed at all hardly.—they would not reed their bibles enuff, I'm afeard, and they would leeve off reeding of Mr. Dodridge's works, and Mr. Harvey's, and Sandyman's4 and such like wonderful works, and would do nothing but grind sarmons, in that sarmon-mill a Concordance.—Their duty is to provide food and cloathing for our souls not our bodies, to feed the spiritual sheep and lambs, not to spend time in taking care of the herds and flocks of the field—to sow the seed of the word, and pray for the preparation of the spiritual soil in mans hart to receeve it, not to till the carnal ground.—I do avouch it, this tho't of Mr. U's is worse than poperee, and I had rather ministurs should be as lazey as they do say monks are in other countries and unmarried like them, that they mite give themselves wholly to reeding and study and prayer, than have um careful about farming.

4thly. But I do like his advice to doctors wonderful well. I wonder how Mr. U. could think of all them sensible remarks he made about the doctors. They mite do a world of good by taking his advice. Yet I'm afeard they wont, for if they should they would cure or prevent a grate many destempurs, that now fetch um good fees,—Yet I do raly beleeve 92they would do more good to mens health, by making um drink good, cleer, well-made, well-kept cydur, and good currunt wine, and cherry wine, and such like, insteed of rum and brandy and wine made of haff rum and haff cydur, as they do now, than they can by all their pills and drops and rubub. And yet I beleeve they do a grate deel of good with these things, too.—Mr. U. does but just mention Lawyers, and indeed I dont know what bisness he had to mention them at all when riting about farming, or any thing else that is good, unless theyre grown better than they were when I was a young man. My great grandfather was one of Oliver Cromwell's men, and I've heard it, in our family by tradishon, that good, pious, larnt Mr. Hugh Peters5 us'd to say, it would never be good times, till the nation got rid of 150.—Sumbody asked what he ment by 150?—He said three L's.—and when he was asked what he ment by three L's? he said, the Lords, the Levites and the Lawyers.—About 30 years ago, when I us'd to go to court sumtimes, I used to be of Mr. Peters's mind amost about Lawyers, sumtimes.—But they do say, Lawyers are grown much better now, and stand up stoutly for liberty.—Indeed I've heard my grandfather say, his father told him, there was abundance of lawyers, that bawled out for liberty, and fought for it too, in his day, tho most of um went over o' t'other side to that calf the holy martir.

5thly. The next thing I dont altogether like.—Mr. U seems to run quite out of his way, to pick a quarrel with Mr. J.—I cant devise what his reason was.—I guess several things.—Sumtimes I think he has studied oratary, and oratary, our ministur says, is the art of gaining attenshon. And he mite think there was no way of gaining attenshon so shure, as to make fokes think him a party-man. For he would get the attenshon of one haff the world thro love, and of tother thro hatred.—Sumtimes I think he made a pass at Mr. J. to let fokes know his reason for signing himself U.—But upon the whole, I beleeve it most likely Mr. U. has been a deputy for sum town, and been made a justice by the Governor and then was dropt by his town, and so forsooth tho't his town was angry with him for taking a favour from the Governor, and now is turning about to tother side in order to get in again.—But I beleeve he is out in his pollyticks, for country fokes love to have their deputys in good understanding with the Governor, and I guess Mr. U's town turn'd him out for sumthing else.—Nevertheless I dont know but Mr. U is rite to quarrel a little, for there is sumthing in man that delites in fighting.—When I was a boy, I used to love to see boys box it, and cocks fight, and rams too.—I see two rams fight once, they would run back two or three rod, and then run head to 93head, till one of them split the skull rite in two, and down he dropp'd, as dead as a herring.—This was a dredful cruel fight, yet I do say, I lov'd to see it.—And they do say, that in other countries, grate gentelfokes keep dogs, and bares, and bulls, a purpose to see um fight. Now just so our grate fokes do seem to love to see newspaper fighting among us, deerly. And Mr. U. by fighting a little this way, might hope to make fokes take more notice about our fine plant Hemp.—So that his quarrelling may do sum good.—But if he rites again I hope he'll go farther—For I've alter'd my mind since I rit my tother letter, and I amost think, he and I may rite, in a good natur'd way, to all itarnity, about any thing to do good, and our works will never be read twice.—But there is one sartain way of making fokes reed and study our works as larnt men do latin books, and that is by drawing plaguy, black, ugly pictures of sum grate men, as the Governor, Lt. Governor, sum Counsellors or Judges, or of Bluster and Whackum,6 and Gamuts and Chaplains.—Let us pick out sum rite down clever man, no matter what side he is of, and tell a parcel of rouzing lies about him, and our ritings will be got by heart, and by this meens we may slide into mens minds sum knolledge about hemp.—My mind is alter'd by what I since see in good Mr. Flavell's works, that “man is more wrathful than grateful.”

6thly. I dont know what bissness he had to suspect me of bad designs in what I rote.—I'le take my corporal oath, I never went to meeting of a sabbath day, nor never followed a corps to the grave in my life, with less mallice in my heart, and less designs of doing hurt, than I had when I rote that lettur, let U, or J, or he, or they suspect or beleeve what they will.

But I dont never know when to stop, hardly, matter comes in to my noddle so fast.—I've read abundance in my day, but I did not begin to read a grate deel till I was matter of 35, and I cant larn to spell nicely. But since I married this second wife, that is a young woman, I dont love to go to bed so soon as she does, so I reed and rite a world now, and I do spell better and better.

I've rambled about so long that I've no room hardly to say any thing about hemp, and I'm resolved I wont never rite a piece without sum stroke or other about hemp.—Mr. U has convinced me more than ever of the worth ont, and I'm resolved to sow an acre or two out next May, and if I make it do pritty well I'le send you an account ont, for I do desine to reed and rite and study and work about hemp, till I get it into fashon.—Our deputy tells me that a ropemaker told him, the best hemp he uses all the year round, grows in this country. I wish 94I knew where it grows.—When I go to Boston I'le ask the ropemakers what town it is raised in, and then rite a lettur (not to be printed tho) to sumbody in that town, and ask him a few more questions about it, for Mr. U hant made every thing quite cleer to me.—I want to know whether they sow it in rows, and so plough amongst it, or whether they sprinkle it over all the land.—Whether they plough the land at first deep or shallow.—And how they brake and swingle and hatchel it.—It is such grate long trade I cant devise how they handle it. And I want to know whether they use such brakes and swingle boards and knives as we do about flax.—As for beeting with beetles or hammers I dont understand that very well.

They do say, they raise abundance ont, at Phyladelphy. I wish sum of our rich men would send there and hire a man that knows about it, and could do the labour to come here and teech us.—He would find his account int, and prove himself a grate paytrot.—But sum how or other I will find out how to manage it, if I spend a month in a year every year about it.—For it is a thing of grate value.—One thing I know, if we'd rais'd a little more ont for 20 years past, and made a proper use ont, I'll be hang'd with the first hemp I can raise, if we should have had so big rates to pay.

So no more at present, Cousin Fleets,7 from your lofing kinsman

Humphry Ploughjogger

MS not found. Reprinted from the (Boston Evening-Post, 5 Sept. 1763).


JA's library included the posthumous edition of A Collection of Letters of James Hervey, London, 1760, but the catalogue does not list that English devotional writer's more popular Meditations and Contemplations, London, 1746–1747 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


Samuel Willard (1640–1707), A Compleat Body of Divinity, Boston, 1726 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ); probably John Taylor (1694–1761), A Scheme of Scripture-Divinity, London, 1762 (a 1785 edn. in Catalogue of JA's Library ). Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Daniel Whitby (1638–1726), English divine who gained fame for anti-Catholic writings and notoriety for arguing in favor of concessions to nonconformists; author of A Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament, London, 1703 ( DNB ).


John Flavel (1630?–1691), a Presbyterian minister, author of many popular writings of evangelical character ( DNB ).


Philip Doddridge (1702–1751), English minister noted for his ability to unite nonconformists in common beliefs, author of On the Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, London, 1745, his most popular work, and a writer of hymns ( DNB ). Robert Sandeman (1718–1771), a follower of the independent Presbyterian preacher John Glas and a founder of Glassite churches in New England ( DNB ). See also Williston Walker, “The Sandemanians of New England,” Amer. Hist. Assoc., Ann. Rpt. for 1901, 1:131–162.


Or Hugh Peter (1598–1660) ( DNB ).


“Bluster” and “Whackum” were names “J” used for James Otis Jr. and Oxenbridge Thacher. JA himself appropriated “Bluster”; see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:243.


Thomas and John Fleet, publishers of the Boston Evening-Post after their father's death in 1758 (Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 9 [1907]:475).