I never enjoyed better health in any of my journeys, but this has been the most irksome, the most gloomy and melancholy I ever made. I cannot with all my philosophy and Christian resignation keep up my spirits. The dismal prospect before me, my family, and my country, is too much for my fortitude.
The day before yesterday a gentleman came and spoke to me, asked me to dine with him on Saturday; said he was very sorry I had not better lodgings in town; desired, if I came to town again, I would take a bed at his house and make his house my home; I should always be very welcome. I told him I had not the pleasure of knowing him. He said his name was Codman¹. I said I was very much obliged to him, but I was very well accommodated where I lodged. I had a clean bed and a very neat house, a chamber to myself, and everything I wanted.
Saturday, I dined with him, in company with Brigadier Preble, Major Freeman² and his son, etc., and a very genteel dinner we had. Salt fish and all its apparatus, roast chickens, bacon, pease, as fine a salad as ever was made, and a rich meat pie. Tarts and custards, etc., good wine, and as good punch as ever you made. A large, spacious, elegant house, yard, and garden; I thought I had got into the palace of a nobleman. After dinner, when I was obliged to come away, he renewed his invitation to me to make his house my home whenever I shall come to town again.
Friday I dined with Colonel, Sheriff, alias Bill Tyng.³ Mrs. Ross and her daughter Mrs. Tyng dined with us, and the court and clerk, and some of the bar. At table we were speaking about Captain MacCarty†, which led to the African trade. Judge Trowbridge said, “That was a very humane and Christian trade, to be sure, that of making slaves.” “Aye,” says I, “it makes no great odds; it is a trade that almost all mankind have been concerned in, all over the globe, since Adam, more or less, in one way or another.” This occasioned a laugh.
At another time Judge Trowbridge said, “It seems, by Colonel Barré’s speeches, that Mr. Otis has acquired honor by releasing his damages to Robinson.‡” “Yes,” says I, “he has acquired honor with all generations.” Trowbridge: “He did not make much profit, I think.” Adams: “True, but the less profit, the more honor. He was a man of honor and generosity, and those who think he was mistaken will pity him.”
Thus you see how foolish I am. I cannot avoid exposing myself before these high folks; my feelings will at times overcome my modesty and reserve, my prudence, policy, and discretion. I have a zeal at my heart for my country and her friends, which I cannot smother or conceal; it will burn out at times and in companies where it ought to be latent in my breast. This zeal will prove fatal to the fortune and felicity of my family, if it is not regulated by a cooler judgment than mine has hitherto been. Colonel Otis’s phrase* is, “The zeal-pot boils over.”
I am to wait upon brother Bradbury to meeting to-day, and to dine with brother Wyer. When I shall get home, I know not, but if possible, it shall be before next Saturday night. I long for that time to come, when my dear wife and my charming little prattlers will embrace me.
9 July 1774
* – John quotes a poem by Alexander Pope, “The Fourth Satire of Dr. John Donne Versified,” lines 184-187. Interestingly, John misremembered the first line. It should have read, “Bear me, some god! Oh quickly bear me hence,”.
‡ – Over the previous decade, Isaac Barré (1726-1802) had been a frequent speaker in the House of Commons, speaking up for the rights of the Americans. In a speech against the Stamp Act given in 1765, his use of the phrase “sons of liberty” to refer to the American patriots is one of the earliest known uses of that distinctive phrase.
James Otis Jr. had been assaulted on September 5, 1769, by John Robinson, a Crown Officer. John Adams represented Otis in his suit for damages. Despite winning £2,000, after receiving an apology, Otis refused to accept any damages beyond court costs, lawyer’s fees, and medical expenses.