July 5

July Fifth

Opinion, let me alone: I am not thine.
Prim creed, with categoric point, forbear
To feature me my Lord by rule and line.
Thou canst not measure Mistress Nature's hair,
Not one sweet inch: nay, if thy sight is sharp,
Wouldst count the strings upon an angel's harp?
Forbear, forbear.
Sidney Lanier

 

 

July 5, 1863

Sunday. Something wrong with the pay rolls, and I have been all day trying to find out what it is.

Captain Gifford, of Company A, who was captured when the Slaughter buildings were burned, came in to-day. He escaped last night, swimming the river and getting here about naked. He says from all he was able to discover, the bulk of the enemy's forces are in front of us, here on the left. Where is that storming party? Somewhere on the right, I suppose, unwinding red tape. I'll bet, if every officer in Banks' army, and General Banks with them, was tied up in a bag and dumped in the river, the privates could take Port Hudson in the next twenty-four hours.

Quite comfortable all day. Lieut. G. E. Davis has completed the Muster and Pay rolls, but I've not felt very well and have been abed all day. Captain G. W. Burnell, formerly Second Lieutenant, Tenth Vermont, has been with us to-day; he's about the same old chap, but I don't think he has a very high opinion of colored troops, either. It's reported the enemy is making a raid into Maryland with General Jubal A. Early in command. I have been expecting this. They will doubtless make us much trouble, but they can't checkmate Grant in that way; he has too many men. He won't budge from here—never —until he takes Petersburg which means Richmond, too. Up to this time our First Brigade has lost in killed, wounded, etc., over eight hundred men since we broke winter camp.

July 5

July 5, 1880.--There are some words which have still a magical virtue with the mass of the people: those of State, Republic, Country, Nation, Flag, and even, I think, Church. Our skeptical and mocking culture knows nothing of the emotion, the exaltation, the delirium, which these words awaken in simple people. The blasés of the world have no idea how the popular mind vibrates to these appeals, by which they themselves are untouched. It is their punishment; it is also their infirmity. Their temper is satirical and separatist; they live in isolation and sterility.

I feel again what I felt at the time of the Rousseau centenary; my feeling and imagination are chilled and repelled by those Pharisaical people who think themselves too good to associate with the crowd.

At the same time, I suffer from an inward contradiction, from a two-fold, instinctive repugnance--an aesthetic repugnance toward vulgarity of every kind, a moral repugnance toward barrenness and coldness of heart.

So that personally I am only attracted by the individuals of cultivation and eminence, while on the other hand nothing is sweeter to me than to feel myself vibrating in sympathy with the national spirit, with the feeling of the masses. I only care for the two extremes, and it is this which separates me from each of them.

Our everyday life, split up as it is into clashing parties and opposed opinions, and harassed by perpetual disorder and discussion, is painful and almost hateful to me. A thousand things irritate and provoke me. But perhaps it would be the same elsewhere. Very likely it is the inevitable way of the world which displeases me--the sight of what succeeds, of what men approve or blame, of what they excuse or accuse. I need to admire, to feel myself in sympathy and in harmony with my neighbor, with the march of things, and the tendencies of those around me, and almost always I have had to give up the hope of it. I take refuge in retreat, to avoid discord. But solitude is only a pis-aller.

49. Abigail Adams

5 July, 1775.

I have received a good deal of paper from you. I wish it had been more covered; the writing is very scant, yet I must not grumble. I know your time is not yours nor mine. Your labors must be great and your mouth closed; but all you may communicate, I beg you would. There is a pleasure, I know not whence it arises, nor can I stop now to find it out, but I say there is a degree of pleasure in being able to tell news, especially any that so nearly concerns us, as all your proceedings do.

I should have been more particular, but I thought you knew everything that passed here. The present state of the inhabitants of Boston is that of the most abject slaves, under the most cruel and despotic of tyrants. Among many instances I could mention, let me relate one. Upon the 17th of June, printed handbills were posted up at the corners of the streets, and upon houses, forbidding any inhabitants to go upon their houses, or upon any eminence, on pain of death; the inhabitants dared not to look out of their houses, nor to be heard or seen to ask a question. Our prisoners were brought over to the Long Wharf, and there lay all night, without any care of their wounds, or any resting-place but the pavements, until the next day, when they exchanged it for the jail, since which we hear they are civilly treated. Their living cannot be good, as they can have no fresh provisions; their beef, we hear, is all gone, and their wounded men die very fast, so that they have a report that the bullets were poisoned. Fish they cannot have, they have rendered it so difficult to procure; and the admiral is such a villain as to oblige every fishing schooner to pay a dollar every time it goes out. The money that has been paid for passes is incredible. Some have given ten, twenty, thirty, and forty dollars, to get out with a small proportion of their things. It is reported and believed that they have taken up a number of persons and committed them to jail, we know not for what in particular. Master Lovell is confined in the dungeon; a son of Mr. Edes is in jail, and one Wiburt, a ship-carpenter, is now upon trial for his life. God alone knows to what length these wretches will go, and will, I hope, restrain their malice.

I would not have you be distressed about me. Danger, they say, makes people valiant. Hitherto I have been distressed, but not dismayed. I have felt for my country and her sons. I have bled with them and for them. Not all the havoc and devastation they have made has wounded me like the death of Warren. We want him in the Senate; we want him in his profession; we want him in the field. We mourn for the citizen, the senator, the physician, and the warrior. May we have others raised up in his room.

I have had a very kind and friendly visit from our dear friends Colonel Warren, lady, and son. Mrs. Warren spent almost a week with me, and he came and met her here, and kept Sabbath with me. I suppose she will write to you, though she says you are in her debt.

You scarcely make mention of Dr. Franklin. Surely he must be a valuable member. Pray what is become of your Judas? I see he is not with you upon the list of delegates. I wish I could come and see you. I never suffer myself to think you are about returning soon. Can it, will it be? May I ask, may I wish for it? When once I expect you, the time will crawl till I see you. But hush! Do you know it is eleven o'clock at night? We have had some very fine rains since I wrote you last. I hope we shall not now have famine added to war. Grain, grain is what we want here. Meat we have enough, and to spare. Pray don't let Bass forget my pins. Hardwick has applied to me for Mr. Bass to get him a hundred of needles, number six, to carry on his stocking weaving. We shall very soon have no coffee, nor sugar, nor pepper, here; but whortleberries and milk we are not obliged to commerce for. I saw a letter of yours to Colonel Palmer, by General Washington. I hope I have one too. Good night. With thoughts of thee do I close my eyes. Angels guard and protect thee; and may a safe return erelong bless thy

Portia.

7. John Adams

Falmouth, 5 July, 1774.

I can't be easy without my pen in my hand, yet I know not what to write.

I have this morning heard a dialogue between Will Gardiner and a Captain Pote, of Falmouth. Gardiner says he can't subscribe the non-consumption agreement because he has a hundred men coming from England to settle upon Kennebeck River, and he must supply them, which he can't do without English goods. That agreement he says may do at Boston, but not in the Eastern country. Pote said he never would sign it, and railed away at Boston mobs, drowning tea, and tarring Malcom.

James Sullivan at dinner told us a story or two. One member of the General Court, he said, as they came down stairs after their dissolution at Salem said to him, "Though we are killed, we died scrabbling, did not we?"

This is not very witty, I think.

Another story was of a piece of wit of brother Porter, of Salem. He came upon the floor and asked a member, "What state are you in now?" The member answered, "In a state of nature." "Aye," says Porter, "and you will be damned before you will get into a state of grace."

6 July.

I spent an hour last evening at Mr. Wyer's, with Judge Cushing. Wyer's father, who has a little place in the customs, came in. He began upon politics, and told us that Mr. Smith had a fast last week which he attended. Mr. Gilman preached, he said, part of the day, and told them that the judgments of God upon the land were in consequence of the mobs and riots which had prevailed in the country; and then turning to me old Wyer said, "What do you think of that, Mr. Adams?"

I answered, "I can't say but mobs and violence may have been one cause of our calamities. I am inclined to think that they do come in for a share; but there are many other causes. Did not Mr. Gilman mention bribery and corruption as another cause? He ought to have been impartial, and pointed out the venality which prevails in the land as a cause, as well as tumults." "I think he did," says Wyer. I might have pursued my inquiry, whether he did not mention universal pilfering, robbery, and picking of pockets which prevails in the land,—as every man's pocket upon the continent is picked every day by taking from him duties without his consent. I might have inquired whether he mentioned the universal spirit of debauchery, dissipation, luxury, effeminacy, and gaming, which the late ministerial measures are introducing, etc., etc., etc., but I forbore.

How much profaneness, lewdness, intemperance, etc., have been introduced by the army and navy and revenue; how much servility, venality, artifice, and hypocrisy have been introduced among the ambitious and avaricious by the British politics of the last ten years. In short the original faulty causes of all the vices which have been introduced are the political innovations of the last ten years. This is no justification and a poor excuse for the girls who have been debauched, and for the injustice which has been committed in some riots; but surely the soldiers, sailors, and excisemen who have occasioned these vices ought not to reproach those they have corrupted. These Tories act the part of the devil. They tempt the women into sin and then reproach them for it, and become soon their tormentors for it. A tempter and tormentor is the character of the devil. Hutchinson, Oliver, and others of their circle, who for their own ends of ambition and avarice have pursued, promoted, encouraged, counseled, aided, and abetted the taxation of America, have been the real tempters of their countrymen and women into all the vices, sins, crimes, and follies which that taxation has occasioned. And now by themselves and their friends, dependents, and votaries, they are reproaching those very men and women with those vices and follies, sins and crimes.

There is not a sin which prevails more universally and has prevailed longer than prodigality in furniture, equipage, apparel, and diet. And I believe that this vice, this sin, has as large a share in drawing down the judgments of Heaven as any. And perhaps the punishment that is inflicted may work medicinally and cure the disease.