Have you seen a list of the addressers of the late Governor*? There is one abroad, with the character, profession, or occupation of each person against his name. I have never seen it, but Judge Brown says against the name of Andrew Faneuil Phillips is “Nothing.” And that Andrew, when he first heard it, said, “Better be nothing with one side than everything with the other.”
This was witty and smart, whether Andrew said it or what is more likely, it was made for him. A notion prevails among all parties that is is politest and genteelest to be on the side of the administration; that the better sort, the wiser few, are on one side, and that the multitude, the vulgar, the herd, the rabble, the mob only, are on the other. So difficult is it for the frail, feeble mind of man to shake itself loose from all prejudice and habits. However, Andrew or his prompter is perfectly right in his judgment, and will finally be proved to be, so that the lowest on the Tory scale will make it more for his interest than the highest on the Whiggish. And as long as a man adheres immovably to his own interest and has understanding or luck enough to secure and promote it, he will have the character of a man of sense, and will be respected by a selfish world. I know of no better reason for it than this, that most men are conscious that they aim at their own interest only, and that if they fail it is owing to short sight or ill luck, and therefore they can’t blame, but secretly applaud, admire, and sometimes even envy those whose capacities have proved greater and fortunes more prosperous.
I am engaged in a famous cause,–the cause of King, of Scarborough¹, versus a mob that broke into his house and rifled his papers and terrified him, his wife, children and servants in the night. The terror and distress, the distraction and horror of his family cannot be described by words or painted upon canvas. It is enough to move a statue, to melt a heart of stone, to read the story. A mind susceptible of the feelings of humanity, a heart which can be touched with sensibility for human misery and wretchedness, must reluct, must burn with resentment and indignation at such outrageous injuries. These private mobs I do and will detest. If popular commotions can be justified in opposition to attacks upon the Constitution, it can be only when fundamentals are invaded, nor then unless for absolute necessity, and with great caution. But these tarrings and featherings, this breaking open houses by rude and insolent rabble in resentment for private wrongs, or in pursuance of private prejudices and passions, must be discountenanced. It cannot be even excused upon any principle which can be entertained by a good citizen, a worthy member of society.
Dined with Mr. Collector Francis Waldo, Esquire², in company with Mr. Winthrop, the two Quincys, and the two Sullivans³, all very social and cheerful–full of politics. S. Quincy’s tongue ran as fast as anybody’s. He was clear in it, that the House of Commons had no right to take money out of our pockets more than any foreign state; repeated large paragraphs from a publication of Mr. Burke’s in 1766, and large paragraphs from Junius Americanus†, etc. This is to talk and to shine before persons who have no capacity of judging, and who do not know that he is ignorant of every rope in the ship.
I shan’t be able to get away till next week. I am concerned only in two or three cases, and none of them are come on yet. Such an Eastern circuit I never made. I shall bring home as much as I brought from home, I hope, and not much more, I fear. I go mourning in my heart all the day long, though I say nothing. I am melancholy for the public and anxious for my family. As for myself, a frock and trousers, a hoe and a spade would for for my remaining days.
For God’s sake make your children hardy, active, and industrious; for strength, activity and industry will be their only resource and dependence.
7 July 1774
* – In the spring of 1774, General Thomas Gage removed Thomas Hutchinson as Governor. In response to this, many of Hutchinson’s friends and supporters signed a testimonial support, titled “Address from the Merchants and Traders of the Town of Boston, and others”, dated May 28, 1774. Soon enough, patriot printers quickly printed and circulated two pamphlets listing the names of each “addresser”, as they came to be known, including their occupations, addresses, as well as contemptuous descriptions of their character and aspirations. In subsequent letters, both John and Abigail adopt “addressers” as a kind of shorthand for Boston Tories in general.
¹ – Richard King was the largest creditor in Scarborough and was the treasurer of the parish. However, he supported the Stamp Act, which needless to say produced a great deal of resentment among many of his neighbors, including those who were in his debt. Some of these individuals ransacked King’s home on March 19, 1766.
³ – Even though these men have been referenced in previous letters, I thought I’d give their full names again, since it’s kinda hard to keep track of them all. They are Samuel Winthrop, Samuel Quincy, Josiah Quincy, James Sullivan, and John Sullivan. If you’d like to read more about them, check out their respective tags listed below.
† – Here John is referring to two different works; first, Edmund Burke’s 1766 “A Short Account of a Late Short Administration”; second, Arthur Lee’s collection of pro-American propaganda pieces, “The Political Detection: or, The Treachery and Tyranny of Administration Both at Home and Abroad; Displayed in a Series of Letters, Signed Junius Americanus”, published in London in 1770. Most historians agree, that’s one heckuva long name for a book. Total TL;DR!