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testimony of witnesses to inform us. The living streams which afterwards flowed from their own lips and pens, are the best witnesses that can be called, of their youthful studies. They were, indeed, of that gifted order of minds, to which early instruction is of little other use than to inform them of their own powers, and to indicate the objects of human knowledge. Education was not with them, as with minor characters, an attempt to plant new talents and new qualities in a strange and reluctant soil. It was the developement, merely, of those which already existed. Thus, the pure and disinterested patriotism of Aristides, the firmness of Cato, and the devotion of Curtius, only awakened the principles that were sleeping in their young hearts, and touched the responding chords with which Heaven had attuned them. The statesman-like vigor of Pericles, and the spirit-stirring energy of Demosthenes, only roused their own lion powers, and informed them of their strength. Aristotle, and Bacon, and Sidney, and Locke, could do little more than to disclose to them their native capacity for the profound investigation and ascertainment of truth; and Newton taught their power to range among the stars. In short, every model to which they looked, and every great master to whom they appealed, only moved into life the scarcely dormant energies with which Heaven had endued them; and they came forth from the discipline, not decorated for pomp, but armed for battle.
From this first coincidence in the character of their minds and studies, let us proceed to another. They both turned their attention to the same profession, the profession of the law; and they both took up the study of this profession on the same enlarged scale which was so conspicuous in all their other intellectual operations. They had been taught by Hooker to look with reverence upon the science of the law: for, he had told them that “ her seat was the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world." Pursued in the spirit, on the extended plan, and with the noble aim, with which they pursued it, may it not be said, without
the hazard of illiberal construction, that there was no profession in this country to which Heaven could have directed their choice, so well fitted to prepare them for the eventful struggle which was coming on.
Mr. Adams, we are told, commenced his legal studies, and passed through the initiatory course, under William Putnam of Worcester: but, the crown of preparation was placed on his head by Jeremiah Gridley.* Gridley was a man of first rate learning and vigor, and as good a judge of character as he was of law. He had been the legal preceptor, also, some years before, of the celebrated James Otis; and, proud of his two pupils, he was wont to say of them at the bar, with playful affection, that “ he had raised two young eagles who were one day or other to peck out his eyes.'t The two young eagles were never known to treat their professional father with irreverence; but how well they fulfilled his prediction of their future eminence, has been already well told by the elegant biographer of one, and remains to furnish a rich theme for that of the other.
It was in the commencement of his legal studies, and when he was yet but a boy, that Mr. Adams wrote that letter from Worcester which has been recently given to the world. Considering the age of the writer, and the point of time at which it was written, that letter may be pronounced, without hyperbole, a mental phenomenon, and far better entitled to the character of a prophecy, than the celebrated passage from the Medea of Seneca, which Bacon has quoted as a prophecy of the discovery of America.
Before I call your attention more particularly to this letter, it is proper to remark, that Mr. Adams lived at a time and among men, well fitted to evoke his youthful powers. Massachusetts had been, from its earliest
* Mr. Samuel L. Knapp's Address on the Death of Adams and Jefferson.
† Mr. Knapp's Life of Gridley. VOL. v.
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settlement, a theatre of almost constant political contention. The spirit of liberty, which had prompted the pilgrims to bid adieu to the land and tombs of their fathers, and to brave the horrors of an exile to the wilds of America, accompanied them to the forests which they came to subdue; and questions of political right and power, between the parent country and the colony, were continually arising, to call that spirit into action, and to keep it bright and strong. These were a peculiar People, a stern and hardy race, the children of the storm; inured from the cradle to the most frightful hardships which they came to regard as their daily pastime, their minds, as well as their bodies, gathered new strength from the fearful elements that were warring around them, and whatever they dared to meditate as right, that they dared and never failed to accomplish. The robust character of the fathers descended upon their children, and with it, also, came the same invigorating contests. Violations of their charters, unconstitutional restraints upon their trade, and perpetual collisions with the royal Governors sent over to bend or to break them, had converted that province into an arena, in which the strength of mind had been tried against mind, for a century, before the tug of the Revolution came. And these were no puerile sports. They were the stern struggle of intellectual force, for power on the one hand, and liberty on the other. And from that discipline there came forth such men as such a struggle only seems capable of generating; rough, and strong, and bold, and daring; meeting their adversaries, foot to foot, on the field of argument, and beating them off that field by the superior vigor of their blows.
Præcipitemque Daren, ardens agit æquore toto :
From this school issued those men so well formed for the sturdy business of life, and who shine so brightly in the annals of Massachusetts-Mayhew and Hawley and Thacher, and Otis, and Hancock, and a host of others, of the same strong stamp of character: men as stout of heart as of mind, and breathing around them an atmosphere of patriotic energy, which it was impossible to inhale without partaking of their spirit.
Such was the atmosphere which it was the fortune of John Adams to breathe, even from his infancy. Such were the high examples before him. From this proud eyry it was, that this young eagle first opened his eyes upon the sun and the ocean, and learned to plume his own wings for the daring flight.
His letter from Worcester bears date on the 12th of October, 1755. He was consequently then only in his twentieth year. At that time, remember, that no thought of a separation from the parent country had ever touched these shores. The conversations to which he alludes, were upon the topics of the day, and went no farther than to a discussion of the rights of the colony, considered as a colony of the British empire. These were the hints which set his young mind in motion, and this is the letter which they produced :
6 WORCESTER, October 12, 1755. “Soon after the Reformation, a few people came over into this New World for conscience sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me, if we can remove the turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to the exactest computations, will, in another century, become more numerous than England herself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain the mastery of the seas; and then the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. [Here we see the first germ of the American Navy.] The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves, is to disunite us. Divide et impera. Keep us in distinct colonies, and then some great men in each colony, desiring the monarchy of
the whole, they will destroy each other's influence, and keep the country in equilibrio. Be not surprised that I am turned politician; the whole town is immersed in politics. The interests of nations, and all the dira of war, make the subject of every conversation. I sit and hear, and, after having been led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire, and, by laying things together, form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read above." .
Here we mark the political dawn of the mind of this great man. His country, her resources, her independence, her glory, were the first objects of his thoughts, as they were the last. Here, too, we see the earliest proof of that bold and adventurous turn for speculation, that sagacious flashing into futurity, and that sanguine anticipation, which became so conspicuous in his after life. He calls this letter a reverie; but, connecting it with his ardent character and his future career, there is reason to believe, that it was a reverie which produced in him all the effect of a prophetic vision, and opened to him a perspective which was never afterwards closed.
An incident soon occurred to give brighter tinting and stronger consistency to this dream of his youth; and this may be considered as among the most efficient of those means, devised by the wisdom of Providence, to shape the character and point the energies of this high-minded young man to the advancement of the great destiny that awaited his country.
The famous question of writs of assistance was argued, in his presence, in Boston, in February, 1761. These writs were a kind of general search-warrants, transferrable by manual delivery from one low tool of power to another, and without any return; which put at the mercy of these vulgar wretches, for an indefinite period, the domestic privacy, the peace and comfort, of the most respectable inhabitants in the colony; and even the sanctuary of female delicacy and devotion. The authority of the British tribunals in the