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Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0012

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-12


Mr. Howe, preached us two Sermons from John III. 3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. The text did not please me at first, and the tenets held forth, were pretty much such as I should have expected from this beginning. In the morning he said he would have us suppose, that we all wish'd and desired our own Destruction. In the afternoon we were told, that without grace, we could not believe, and without believing, we could not be saved; and that we could not acquire grace of ourselves; nor if we obtained it, was it owing to merit in us. An Impious System in my opinion. He said that an unregenerate man, supposing even he was admitted into heaven, could not be happy. This was quite a new Idea, to me. He illustrated it by a simile saying, a Swine, could never be happy, was he put into a Palace, elegantly furnish'd. He carried on this elegant simile for ten minutes. Another he made use of was still more ludicrous. A man could no more obtain grace, by works, than he could walk to get himself feet. At another time he said Adam's original sin, was imputed to all his Posterity. I know added he, this point is much contested, but my business is not to prove it here, and I shall therefore, take it for granted. This is a short way to prove anything, but, although he maintained a doctrine { 404 } which appeared to me, opposite to common sense, as well as injurious to the supreme being; yet sometimes he would speak for a quarter of an hour at a time, with a great degree of energy and Propriety. Some parts were excellent, but the, whole, was but indifferent at best. Spent the Evening with Mr. Thaxter. Eliza, was unwell in the afternoon.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0013

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-13


Mr. and Mrs. Allen, came over and dined here. They carried away my Cousin with them. She purposes spending a week at Bradford.
Finished the second Book of the Iliad, the latter part of which is a tedious enumeration of the Ships, which might I think as well have been omitted. Pope's Translation of this, is surely an excellent Poem; but the Ideas, are often very different. There is indeed a simplicity in some Passages of Homer, which in a modern language would be ridiculous. At the description of a Sacrifice and an Entertainment Homer says, of the victim, they knock'd out its brains, cut its throat, and thrust a spit through it. How different from this, Pope's paraphrase is, may be seen in his Iliad II. verse 202 &c.1 There are few of this Poet's original Pieces, in which it is not as plain to see imitation, as in the Homer.
1. JQA wrote 202 for 502:
Their Pray'rs perform'd, the chiefs the rite pursue,
The barley sprinkled, and the victim slew.
The limbs they sever from th'inclosing hyde,
The thighs, selected to the Gods, divide.
On these, in double cauls involv'd with art,
The choicest morsels lie from ev'ry part.
From the cleft wood the crackling flames aspire,
While the fat victims feed the sacred fire.
The thighs thus sacrific'd, and entrails drest,
Th'assistants part, transfix, and roast the rest.
(The Iliad of Homer, transl. Alexander Pope, 4 vols., London, 1759, 1:99; this edition, in JA's Library at MB, contains JQA's earliest bookplate, which is inscribed with the date 1781).

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0014

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-14


Snow'd all the morning. Young Mr. Willis arrived from Boston, and informed us that a vessel will sail from Boston for London, in the Course of this Week. I wrote all the Evening, and closed a Letter to my Sister.1 Began the third book of the Iliad, and the Acts in the Testament.
1. Letter not found.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0015

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-15


The weather, very mild; it thaw'd all day. Spent the Evening at Dr. Saltonstall's; the first time I have been at his house, since I came to Town. The Doctor is a very Sensible man and an able Physician; but has a very disagreeable voice; a person accustomed to it, may not take notice of it, but at first it is almost intolerable. Finished my Latin Studies with the Andrian of Terence1. The Play is interesting, and many of the Sentiments are fine; but the unravelling of the Plot, is not very probable; indeed I might say it fails highly against the probability: not only in the Circumstance of the discovery itself which poets have often taken, and as it may well happen, is justifiable: but would a man, whose daughter had been shipwreckd sat silent without seeking for her. And why did not Phania, after being saved from a wreck at Andros, write to his brother, an account, of his Situation or if he could not write, inform him some other way, for Andros was not at a great distance from Athens, and probably there were often opportunities of sending from one place to another. <Many> other Circumstances, increase this improbability; but the Critic can never find Perfection, and the person that is willing to be pleased with what he reads, is happier than he who is always looking for faults.
1. Terence's Andria:JQA probably used the Brindley edition of Terence's Comoediae Sex, London, 1744, p. 1–42 (at MQA), which he had purchased the previous April in Paris.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0016

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-16


Mr. Thaxter and Miss Nancy dined here. The latter appeared very different from when she lived here. She seem'd to feel under restraint, and obliged to behave with propriety, I cannot see, how persons think that provided they behave well in Company, it is of no Consequence, how they behave at home. I believe I never knew a young Lady, of whom I thought so differently at different times; and as my present disposition of mind is not much in her favour, I will say nothing.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0017

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-17


Began the 4th. Book of the Iliad. Here again the despicable beings, the Heathens made of their Gods appears very plainly. In { 406 } a Counsel of the Gods, Jupiter begins with a bitter sarcasm, on purpose, as the Poet says, to raise the spleen of his wife. She raves like a fury, and then to appease her, he gives her the permission to destroy his favourite City, which of all others, had been the most pious to him. But he grants the favour, only upon condition that if he should take it into his head to destroy one of her beloved Cities, she should have no objection, and to this she readily assents. Enthusiasts in favour of the Ancients perhaps will say, that Religion is to be excepted, from what they admire them for and do not all relations from man to man, all our duties towards one another, and all the customs of Nations, flow from, Religion. And though it may be confessed that mankind in General, do not behave agreeable to the admirable Precepts, contained in the Christian System, yet they universally approve of them, and there are numbers of People who really follow them. A Man at this day, will not glory in avenging a trifling injury, by the slaughter of thousands. Nine men, in ten would heartily execrate the Idea. But the Reason, why such Complaints of the world's growing worse, have been made in all ages, I take to be this. Few men live long in the world without having suffered from baseness, and wickedness in others. They immediately lay to the whole race, those evil qualities they perceive in Individuals; but as they have received no personal injury from men that lived before them they form no antipathy against the race. They are prejudiced when they form the Comparison, and cannot therefore judge impartially.
Mr. Evans came to stay till Monday, and will preach for Mr. Shaw on Sunday.
Went down in the Evening to Mr. White's. There was a large Company of young ladies, and gentlemen there; for which Reason I stay'd but a little while there.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0018

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-18


All day within; the weather uncommonly mild. Mr. Thaxter spent the Evening and supped here. Began the 2d. volume of the Essay upon the human Understanding. There are many things, somewhat abstruse, in this book, and I have not at present time to read them with sufficient attention, but there is one thing, which I never heard of, and which surprized me. He seems to adopt the opinion of the transmigration of souls; and in a very { 407 } long note, where he defends himself, against the bishop of Worcester, he rather enlarges upon it. All this is upon the subject of identity, which takes up a considerable part of the book.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0019

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-19


Mr. Evans preach'd in the forenoon from Luke XV. 18. 19. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy Son: make me as one of thy hired Servants. In the afternoon the two ensuing verses. And he arose, and came to his father: but when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son. There is not perhaps in the whole Bible, a subject upon which a clergyman, can employ his talents more usefully. This Story naturally leads to the encouragement of all the virtues that adorn human Nature, and shows, in a striking light the terrible consequences of Vice. Mr. Evans had two good Sermons upon it; there was an apparent imitation of Yorick's,1 but I did not like them the less for that. He did not take certain heads to his discourse, as is a general custom among our Clergymen; but I think like Mr. Osgood, who said he did not see what good a parcel of heads without any bodies, could do. The discourses were moral, and practical; and I prefer hearing none at all, to hearing those of any other kind. Mr. Redington, and Judge Blodget were here in the Evening.
1. Laurence Sterne, Sermons of Mr. Yorick.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0020

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-20


Snow'd almost all day. In the evening I went over to Bradford, with my brother. Eliza, thought to be sure somebody was sick, that we came in such weather; stay'd a couple of hours: as I return'd I stopp'd in half an hour at Mr. White's.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0021

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-21


The weather cleared up in the Night; somewhat cold, and very windy. Mr. Evans set off in the afternoon for Portsmouth.
Finished the 4th. and began the 5th. Book of the Iliad. The 200 { 408 } last lines in the 4th. are much more difficult than any thing I have met with in Greek as yet.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0022

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-22


Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and Eliza, stopp'd here on their way to Kittery, at about half after 8. I was not up. I cannot study in the morning, because there is always so much stirring; but when every body else in the house is in bed, I have nothing to interrupt me, so that I seldom retire before 1 in the morning, and rise, between 8 and 9. I have endeavoured to sleep less but have not been able.
The weather mild all day. Looks something like rain; which would make very bad travelling, and the Town less lively: Finished the second Volume of the Essay upon the human Understanding. There is much said in the latter end of the Book, concerning the real essence of things. He may be right in his conjectures, but I know not how far upon those Principles, Pyrrhonism,1 might be carried; and perhaps, it is not a question of great Consequence, whether we know the real essence of things or not.
1. The philosophical doctrine which claims the impossibility of attaining certainty of knowledge, first taught by Pyrrho of Elis, ca. 300 B.C. (OED).

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0023

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-23


Mr. Shaw went to the funeral of Mr. Wingate, formerly a Minister at Boxford. A Mr. and Mrs. Swift from Andover dined here. Mr. True, came home with Mr. Shaw, and will lodge here tonight. Read Guthrie's Grammar in the Evening. This is to me, at present a more entertaining study, than Locke; and does not require so close application.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0024

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-24


Another Snow storm; almost all day. Closed the Acts, in the Testament, and began the Romans. In the last Chapter of Acts, there is a Story, which, shows how far ignorance and prejudice, mislead the judgment of men. A Viper sticks upon St. Paul's hand, and the People, immediately suppose him to be a murderer, but as soon as they find he receives no hurt from it, they conclude he is a God. Eventus Stultorum magister,1 says Livy, { 409 } but if all those who judge of most things from the Event, are to be comprehended under that denomination, who would escape the charge of folly. But I think it the duty of Every one, to endeavour to be, as little as possible influenced by Events. As men, and their Actions, are really, either good or bad in themselves, and not according to their success; it is unjust to judge them upon any other Principles.
1. “Nec eventus mode hoc docet, (stultorum iste magister est),” Livy, The History of Rome, Bk. 22, chap. 39 [line 10] (Titus Livius Historiarum Libri qui Supersunt Omnes, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1769, 1:742, at MQA with JQA's bookplate and inscription): “nor does the event only, that instructor of fools, demonstrate it” (Titus Livius, The History of Rome, transl. D. Spillan and Cyrus Edmonds, 4 vols., N.Y., 1892, 2:809).

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0025

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-25


Very pleasant, all day. A curious Event happened, at the last Assembly: a misfortune befel one of the Ladies; and a few days after, an scandalous Advertisement, was fastened upon a sign post. I have as yet heard no more, but I much suspect it will be attended in the End with some disagreeable Circumstances. Some persons can be taught prudence and Caution only by bitter experience. We expected Mr. Allen, with the Ladies back this Night, but yesterdays storm, probably prevented them. Mr. Thaxter was here, about an hour in the Evening.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0026

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-26


We had this day two very good Sermons, from II. Kings XXII. 20th. Behold therefore I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place and from Romans XII. 15. Rejoice, with them that do rejoyce, and weep with them that weep. The former, was an occasional discourse; the other was practical, and properly inculcated the virtue of participating, in the happiness and the griefs of others.
Spent the Evening with Mr. Thaxter. He has been unwell all day.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0027

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-27


Finished the 5th book of the Iliad; containing, the gallant actions of Diomed[es], who drives all before him; wounds two { 410 } Gods, and pursues a third very closely. This part of the story is very interesting. Went in the evening, down to Mr. White's. Peggy, and Nancy Hazen, went to Salem this afternoon; to attend the Assembly there to-morrow, and return again on Wednesday.
Went in to Mr. Bartlett's, a few minutes. Found Eliza return'd when I came home. I Was much chagrined, at something I perceiv'd.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0002-0028

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-02-28


Company to dine. Assembly Night. Went, with Eliza, but did not dance. There were 27 Ladies present, and about 20 Gentlemen. There were a number of strangers among the Gentlemen; I might make a number of sarcastic reflections, upon the manner of dancing, and appearance of several persons there; but I do not think it is a matter of sufficient importance to induce one, to laugh, at a person who cannot show the elegance of a dancing master; and if it is; as I did not dance myself, it would be unfair to laugh at those, who had they had the opportunity might have laugh'd equally at me. It is base to ridicule a person for any failing that is owing to no mental vice or foible.
There was one Lady present (Mrs. Payson) for whom I was anxious all the Evening: I feared she would; while she was throwing herself about, be taken with a different kind of throes. It is exceedingly imprudent for a Lady in that Situation to frequent such places. We returned home, at a little after 1. in the morning. I drank a dish of Coffee which kept me awake almost all Night. In the Evening I had some conversation with Mr. Larieu, and I was told, the Ladies, laugh'd at us, for the contrast, that we appeared to make. He is exceeding thin. This is an advantage in dancing. He did not miss once; and except, about an hour of interval, he was up, all the while I was there. I ask'd him, if he was not fatigued and warm; he said j'ai un peu chaud, et je suis un peu fatigué, mais il n'y a pas une goutte de sueur dans mon corps.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0001

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-01

Wednesday March 1st. 1786.

At home all day: Eliza, dined and passed the afternoon, at Mr. Duncan's. Mr. Thaxter went to Portsmouth upon business. Felt { 411 } quite fatigued all day, though, I did not sit up, later than common last night. Retired at about 11.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0002

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-02


Finished, the sixth book of Homer's Iliad in the forenoon, and shall go no further in it here. I admire this Poem, more, and more, though it must be confess'd the author now and then nods. It has however more, and more confirmed me, in the opinion that the world has vastly improved, even as, to sentiments since that time. In the last book, an instance occurs where a young warrior entreats Menelaüs to spare his life, but Agamemnon, kills him immediately, and old Nestor, highly approves the cruelty. Whenever the Greeks are exhorted by their chiefs, the arguments made use of, are, that if they are conquerors the wives, daughters, and fortunes of the Trojans, will be at their disposition. Now I will own, that in modern times there are examples of great Barbarity in War. But there are also many of humanity which among the ancients was thought inconsistent with war. But I will say no more, on this subject.
Mr. Thaxter return'd this Evening, though it has been either snowing or raining all day. He was not to come home till to-morrow; but gave two reasons for coming so soon: he did not mention a third, which I fancy, was as strong, as either of the others.
Storm'd hard in the night: was up after 1. in the morning.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0003

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-03


I have often wish'd to hear the following Question discussed by persons well acquainted with the human heart. Whether any Person can at the same time, Love, and despise, another, of a different sex? I think the two sentiments not only can be, but very often are united: but I may mistake. No Love can be permanent, but what is founded on esteem; but there may be a temporary attachment to a person, who<m> we are sensible is wholly unworthy of it, and such must be I imagine, all the Conquests of a Coquette who though she may be beloved by many, can be esteemed by none. This Character is so contemptible; that one would think no being blessed with any share of Reason ever could assume it. Vanity it is true, may be flattered for a Time; but it is soon doubly mortified, and when once the flower of { 412 } Beauty is gone, they have nothing left to recommend them: but so much must suffice for the present.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0004

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-04


Eliza, spent the day at Mr. White's. Mr. Thaxter was here in the Evening. The weather very mild: a farmer, who was here in the Course of the day, said the river was very ticklish.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0005

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-05


Snow'd all the morning, but the air so mild, that it melted generally as it fell to the ground. Two Sermons from I. Corinthians X. 31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. The text in itself is good, but like most other texts of Scripture, has been shamefully abused. There was in this Sermon, as in many I have heard since I have been here, little, that I admired, and little, that I disliked. Liberality of Sentiment, cannot be expected from a Pulpit, on religious points. If a Clergyman ventures, not to be quite illiberal, it is the most he can do. While they exclaim against the Palpable absurdities of the Romish Church: they themselves fall into others equally ridiculous, and the never failing resource of texts from Scripture, is continually produced. There is a new System which carries the depravity of human Nature further, than, any I ever heard of, all arising from the text which Mr. Howe, who has adopted the plan, preach'd on three Sundays agone. I have several times discovered my abhorrence, of any Idea, of a divinity who should condemn men to everlasting torments, for what they could not in any measure help or prevent. I was perhaps too zealous; and a person who I suspect is inclined to the same uncharitable way of thinking, though he does not profess to be, used this Argument. Did I think it was possible I might be wrong? I did. Well; who of two Persons was most probably right, one who was merely a youth, who had not studied those things; or a man who had made them his chief (he might have said only) study for many years? But this proves nothing. Should a man, who for 50 years had studied nothing but the Proprieties and differences of colours, tell me that ebony and alabaster, were of the same colour I should think the assertion absurd, though I judge of colours only as they strike my Senses. I desire never to have an Idea, of a god, who is not infinitely good, and merciful, as well as powerful.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0006

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-06


Mrs. Saltonstall, Mrs. Harrod,1 and Betsey Duncan drank tea here. Mr. Thaxter remained part of the Evening. He is I think as much attached as I ever saw any body: and is an instance, of what has often been observed that men, free from any passion, can reason, upon them, much better than they can practice, when called to. Many times have I heard him declare his disgust at fondness shown by Husbands and Wives before Company: but now, he is behind hand to no person I am acquainted with. He cannot bear to see Parents indulgent to little children: perhaps, in three or four years I shall see him do like most other People in the same Situation.
1. Anna Treat Harrod (ca. 1752–1832), mother of Ann Harrod, who later married TBA.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0007

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-07


Fine Weather, all day and very mild, yet the river is not so weak but what Teems and slays cross'd it.
This day Week, I am, to go to Cambridge. The nearer any Circumstance approaches; the greater is our Impatience of it. What two months ago, I did not think of once in a week; now comes to my mind almost every hour. Studied Watts in the Night.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0008

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-08


Mr. White's family, and Miss Sally McKinstry, drank tea here. This young Lady has been all the Winter at Boston; she is very genteel, and was it not for a little twist in the Position of her eyes, would be uncommonly handsome. Notwithstanding this blemish her Countenance, is pleasing, and frequently dimpled with a smile. She is sociable, but unfortunately I cannot be so with a stranger, and had not much Conversation with her.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0009

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-09


Mr. Shaw went over to Bradford, to Mr. Allen's Lecture. The river still remains in a dangerous situation; but freezes so much in the night, that the mildness of the day is not sufficient to break up the Ice.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0010

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-10


Clear, but cold Weather. Went, and took a walk with Eliza, just before dusk, as far as the ship yard, we pass'd the Evening, at Mr. White's. Mrs. Moody and Miss Codman were there. The Latter is a Lady from Boston; not handsome, and appears to be in a poor State of Health. Mrs. Moody, is a widow, who, is fond of appearing young, and is what the french call une jeune femme de 20 à 60 ans. Miss Priscy McKinstry, and Nancy Hazen came in too in the course of the Evening. Nancy was very formal, and ceremonious to me, as she has been, uniformly, since she left this house. I was not displeased at it, and return'd it as much as I could. Where a person will not be upon terms of friendly intimacy; I wish never to be behind hand with him in Ceremony.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0011

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-11


Dined at Dr. Saltonstall's, with Mr. Shaw, Mr. Thaxter and Master Parker. Spent the Afternoon at Mr. White's. Mr. Thaxter was here in the Evening.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0012

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-12


Went all day to hear Mr. Smith. I had never heard him before. His text for the whole day was from Solomon's song II. 14. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see, thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. The discourse in the forenoon, was entirely taken up in a description of the Properties of the Dove, and how they Coincided with those of the Church of Christ. Its Innocence, it's Beauty chastity and cleanliness, and Swiftness, were all taken notice of, and some good practical observations were drawn from the subject in the afternoon. The remainder of the text was considered, but as he commonly is said to do, towards the latter end of the discourse he grew extremely vociferous, and it was a continued strain of declamation. As he preaches without notes, and with very little previous studying, his sermons do not shine in the disposition of his arguments. He often starts from his subject; and when embarassed with any contested point, screaming, is his only resource.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0013

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-13


The Day was employ'd in paying visits, and packing up my trunks. I went to Mr. White's, Major Bartlett's, Mr. Osgood's, Mr. Duncan's, and Mr. Dodge's. The weather very mild.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0003-0014

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-03-14


At 7 in the morning, we mounted our horses, and went about half a mile up the River where a passage for a Boat was cut through, yesterday, as the Ice was so much weaken'd as made it dangerous to cross over it. We went in to Mr. Allen's, for about half an hour, and then proceeded before dinner as far as Wilmington. We arrived at Cambridge, a little after Sun set, much fatigued as the roads were but indifferent. The weather was mild.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.