Obrazy na stronie

made aware of the opinions expressed among his people, for he is said, immediately after the marriage took place, to have replied to them by a sermon, the text of which, in evident allusion to the objection against lawyers, was drawn from Luke vii. 33; "For John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say, He hath a devil." }

Mrs. Adams was married on the 25th of October, 1764, having then nearly completed her twentieth year.

The ten years immediately following present little that is worthy of recording. She appears to have passed a quiet, and apparently very happy life, having her residence in Braintree, or in Boston, according as the state of her husband's health, then rather impaired, or that of his professional practice, made the change advisable. Within this period she became the mother of a daughter, and of three sons, whose names will frequently appear in her letters; and her domestic cares were reliev

1 As this anecdote rests entirely upon tradition, it has been differently told; and it is here admitted in this form rather as a characteristic feature of the age, and of the individual, than from any positive reliance upon its accuracy. There are yet transmitted, among the inhabitants of Weymouth and Hingham, many stories of Mr. Smith's application of texts, in a similar manner, to the events of the Revolution, which render the truth of this far from improbable.



ed by the presence of her husband, who was absent from home only upon those occasions, when he, with the other lawyers of his time, was compelled to follow the court in its circuits. During these times, he used to write regularly to his wife, an account of his adventures and of his professional success. These letters remain, and furnish a curious record of the manners and customs of the provincial times. She does not appear to have often replied to them. The only example is given in the present volume, and makes the fourth of the selection ; a letter, remarkable only for the picture it presents of peaceful domestic life, in contrast to the stormy period immediately succeeding.

It is said by Governor Hutchinson, in the third volume of his History, that neither the health of Mr. Adams, nor his business, admitted of his constant application to public affairs in the manner that distinguished his kinsman, Samuel Adams, during the years preceding the breaking out of the Revolution. If the sum of that application is to be measured by the frequency of his appearance before the public as an actor in an official character

upon the scene, the remark is true; for, up to the year 1774, he had served but once or twice as a representative in the General Court, and in no other situation. But this would furnish a very unfair

standard, by which to try the extent of his labors for the public. Very often, as much is done by beforehand preparing the public mind for action, as by the conduct of that action after it has been commenced ; although the visible amount of exertion, by which alone the world forms its judgments, is in the two cases widely different. From the time of his marriage, in 1764, perhaps still earlier, when he, as a young lawyer, in 1761, took notes of the argument in the celebrated cause of the Writs of Assistance, there is evidence constantly presented of his active interest in the Revolutionary struggle. There is hardly a year in the interval between the earliest of these dates, and 1774, that the traces of his hand are not visible in the newspapers of Boston, elaborately discussing the momentous questions, which preceded the crisis. It was during this period, that the “Essay on Canon and Feudal Law" was written. A long controversy with Major Brattle, upon the payment of the judges, and the papers of “ Novanglus,” were other, though by no means all, the results of his labors. He drafted several of the papers of Instructions to the Representatives to the General Court, both in Boston and in his native town, and also some of the most elaborate legal portions of the celebrated controversy between that body and Governor Hutchinson.

The tendency, which all these papers show, to seek for political truth in its fundamental principles and most abstract forms, whilst it takes off much from the interest with which the merely general reader would now consider them, is yet of historical importance, as establishing the fact, how little of mere impulse there was in his mode of action against the mother country. They also show the extent of the studies to which his mind applied itself, and the depth of the foundation laid by him for his subsequent career. Yet, during all this time, his professional labors were never intermitted, and ceased only with the catastrophe which shut up the courts of justice, and rendered exertion upon a different theatre absolutely necessary to the maintenance of the fabric of society.

Perhaps the preceding detail belongs more properly to a memoir of Mr. Adams, than to that of his wife. Yet it would be impossible to furnish any accurate idea of her character, without explaining the precise nature of the influences acting upon her, whilst still young, and when that character was taking its permanent form. There was no one, who witnessed his studies with greater interest, or who sympathized with him in the conclusions, to which his mind was forcing him, more deeply, than Mrs. Adams. And hence it was, that, as the day of trial came, and the hour for action drew near, she was found not unprepared to submit to the lot appointed her. Mr. Adams was elected one of the delegates on the part of Massachusetts, instructed to meet persons chosen in the same manner from the other colonies, for the purpose of consulting in common upon the course most advisable to be adopted by them. In the month of August, 1774, he left home, in company with Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine, to go to Philadelphia, at which place the proposed assembly was to be held. It is from this period, that the correspondence, Mrs. Adams's portion of which is now submitted to the public, becomes interesting. The letter of the 19th of August of this year' portrays her own feelings upon this, the first separation of importance from her husband, and the anxiety with which she was watching the course of events. Yet there is in it not a syllable of regret for the past, or of fear for the future; but, on the contrary, an acute perception of the obstacles in the


of an immediate return to peaceful times, and a deliberate preparation, by reading and reflection, for the worst. The Congress confined itself, in its first sessions, to consultation and remonstrance. It

[blocks in formation]
« PoprzedniaDalej »