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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 4

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0221

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Ward, Joseph
Date: 1776-08-20

To Joseph Ward

[salute] Sir

Your Favours of 28th. July and 8. August are before me. I have a Favour to ask of you, that is to Send me, an exact Account of the Number of Continental Cruizers fitted out, in the Massachusetts, the Tonnage of the Vessells the Number of Guns belonging to each, the Weight of Metal, the Number of Men, the Names of the Vessells and the Names of all the Officers, that is to say, the Captains and Lieutenants, the Sailing Masters and Mates, and the Officers of Marines.
You complain that there has not been a Sufficient Number of Promotions among the Massachusetts Officers. Perhaps with Justice. But what is the Cause of the Disinclination in Massachusetts Gentlemen to the service. Ward, Fry, and Whitcomb have resigned. If We go out of the Line of Succession among the Collonells, to make a Brigadier General, We give Discontent. And can you lay your Hand upon your Heart and recommend the ablest Collonells for Generals as they Stand upon the Line. We have now made Nixon, a General. I know neither him nor his Qualifications. Prescott would have been a General long ago. Nay there is no Advancement to which he would not have been pushed, for his Conduct and Intrepidity on Charlestown Heights. But you know there is a fatal objection.1
You ask if it was not in Contemplation to send two southern Generals to command you, in Defence of yourselves? I answer it was, and that, at the earnest Solicitation of the principal Gentlemen, in the Province, who in their Letters pressed for it. They had two Reasons for this, one was that a Stranger would be likely to have more Au• { 479 } thority among the People there than a Native. Another was that a southern Gentleman, would be likely to give more Satisfaction to the middle and Southern Colonies. I will tell you a plain, frank Truth Mr. Ward, the People of our own Province, have not much Confidence in their own Generals. I am extremely Sorry for it—nothing has made me more unhappy, but so the fact is, and I cannot alter it.
You Speak of a General Mifflin who was young in Experience, and in the Service. I wish our Massachusetts Collonels, old as they are, had as much Activity, and as extensive Capacities and Accomplishments as that young General. However he is not so very young. He is old in Merit in the American Cause. He has the utmost Spirit and Activity, and the best Education and Abilities. He is of one of the best Families and has an handsome Future in his Country. He has been long a Member of the Legislature here, and of Congress. He was long the most indefatigable and successfull Supporter of the American Cause in this Province, where it has laboured more than any where else. He was the prime Conductor, and the Center of Motion to that association, which has compleated the Reduction of this Province to the American Union, and has infused a martial Spirit into a People who never felt any Thing like it before. You can Scarcely name a Man, any where who has more Signal Merit.
There is a Number of young Gentlemen, of our Province, whom I wish promoted. But to advance them over the Heads of a long Line of Colonells, would ruin the service. And I wish you would tell me, which of our Collonells you think most fit for Generals. I wish you Promotion with all my Heart, because I think, your military and literary Qualifications would do Honour to your Country. But you know, that to shoot you up into high Command, over the Heads of a hundred Officers, would destroy the Army.
Since the foregoing was written Congress has requested General Ward to continue in Command.2 I hope he will. The Fortifications in Boston Harbour must be compleated, otherwise the two gratefull Brothers may seek Winter Quarters there.
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “Sent.”
1. See the judgment given by Gen. Parsons to JA, 15 Aug. (above).
2. See Joseph Ward to JA, 23 March, note 1 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0222

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Mason, Jonathan Jr.
Date: 1776-08-21

To Jonathan Mason Jr.

[salute] Dear sir

I had by Yesterdays Post, the Pleasure of your Letter of the 12. instant. The Account you give me of the Books you have read and { 480 } Studied is very agreable to me. Let me request you, to pursue my Lord Coke. The first Institute You Say you have diligently Studied. Let me Advise you to study the second, third and fourth Institutes with equal Diligence. My Lord Coke is justly Styled the oracle of the Law, and whoever is Master of his Writings is Master of the Laws of England. I should not have forgotten his Reports or his Entries. These, equally with his Institutes demand and deserve the Attention of the student.
It is a Matter of Curiosity rather than Use, of Speculation rather than Practice, to contemplate what Mr. Selden calls the Antiqua Legis Facies. Yet I know a young Mind as active and inquisitive as yours, will not be easy without it. Horne, Bracton, Briton, Fleta, Thornton, Glanville, and Fortesque,1 will exhibit to you this ancient Face, and there you may contemplate all its Beauties.
The Year Books, are also a great Curiosity. You must make yourself sufficiently acquainted with Law French, and with the abbreviated Law Hand, to read and understand the Cases reported in these Books when you have occasion to search a Point.2
The French Language will not only be necessary for you as a Lawyer, but if I mistake not, it will become every day more and more a necessary Accomplishment of a Gentleman in America.
There is another Science, my dear sir, that I must recommend to your most attentive Consideration, and that is the civil Law. You will find it so interspersed with History, Oratory, Law, Politicks, and War, and Commerce, that you will find Advantages in it, every day. Wood, Domat, Ayliff, Taylor ought to be read but these should not suffice.3 You should go to the Fountain Head, and drink deep of the Pierian Spring. Justinians Institutes and all the Commentators upon them, that you can find you ought to read.
The civil Law will come as fast into Fashion in America as the french Language, and from the same Causes.
I think myself much obliged to Mr. Morton for his Politeness to you, and should Advise you to accept of his kind Offer, provided you dont find the Practice of his office interferes too much with your studies, which I dont think it will.
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “Sent. Aug. 24.”
1. For identification of Horne, Bracton, Britton, Fleta, and Fortesque and JA's use of these authorities, see JA, Papers, 1:261–262, 267, note 1, 277–286, notes 3, 8, 9. Ranulf de Glanville, Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie tempore Regis Henrici secundi compositus . . . , [London,] 1604. Thornton has not been identified.
2. “Year Books” was the familiar term for the books of reports published yearly at crown expense and written by court scribes. The series runs from Edward I through Henry VIII (Black, Law Dictionary). Law French was the Norman French used in these reports, and Law { 481 } Hand probably refers to the abbreviations that the scribes commonly used.
3. Thomas Wood, A New Institute of the Imperial or Civil Law . . . , London, 1704; Jean Domat, Civil Law in Its Natural Order . . . , transl. W. Strahan, 2 vols., London, 1722; John Ayliff, New Pandect of the Roman Civil Law, London, 1734; John Taylor, The Elements of Civil Law, Cambridge, 1755. The Catalogue of JA's Library lists Domat in a French edition of 1777.
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.