Law, Love, and Liberty: 1759-1773

June 15, 1759

My friend Richard Cranch has introduced me to the Smith family today. I must say, I was not overly fond of Abigail Smith; she is “not fond, not frank, not candid.” I like a woman with the courage to say what she really means. However, Abigail is only 14. Perhaps she shall improve herself in the upcoming years. That being said, I have not been impressed today by this girl Abigail.

March 16, 1762

Ah, I have seen Abigail just now. Despite my first impression, she has grown into quite a beautiful young woman. She is now seventeen, and I believe myself to be in love with her. She is “a Friend…prudent, modest, delicate, soft, sensible, obliging, active.” I’m glad to hear that her first opinion of me has changed as well; she was not impressed with me because I am “talkative, argumentative” and opinionated. But now her heart has changed, and she loves me as well. How happy we are together!

February 24, 1763

I have chosen to be inoculated from smallpox because the dreaded disease has broken out all across Boston. The pre-inoculation purging has left me tired and weak. My brother and I undertook this process together and ate ipecacuanha (a root that grows in South America) to cleanse our bodies. We took “turns to be sick and to laugh. When my Companion was sick I laughed at him, and when I was sick he laughed at me. Once however and once only were we both sick together, and then all Laughter and good Humour deserted the room.”

I now have a scratch on my arm, with a piece of smallpox-infected thread placed inside the scratch. I am eating only milk and mercury, which caused “every tooth in my head [to become] so loose, that I believe I could have pulled them all with my thumb and forefinger.”

But the worst part of this inoculation is being so far removed from my lovely Abigail. She has written me a letter asking me to detail her faults. I responded and told her that she does not play cards well, she cannot sing, she hangs her head in public so that I cannot see the “sweet smiles of her Countenance and the bright sparkles of those eyes,” and she crosses her legs when she sits. I think that this last habit, especially, “ruins the figure and injures the Health.” My friends have informed me that she may be offended by such a candid listing of her flaws. But she has requested this list, and I shall not be shy in telling her my opinion.

October 25, 1764

Today I have married my beloved Abigail. She is my best friend and I love her so dearly. Although I may have been “very fond of the Society of Females” as a young lad, I now know the joy that can come by finding one’s true love.

November 14, 1765

King George III had the audacity to tax our colonies! Without our consent! He has passed the Stamp Act as a way of taxing our documents: college diplomas, marriage and death certificates, legal documents, and even playing cards and dice! The Seven Years War has taken place between the years of 1756-1763, and now England is greatly in debt for this expensive victory. Because the war has benefitted our colonies, King George decided to use our funds to pay for the costs.

But we have no representation in Parliament! No one represents our interests in England! This is a prime example of taxation without representation, for we had no say in the taxes levied against us. Simply accepting any taxes that the King chooses to inflict…this cannot be so! If we allow him to tax our papers, what else shall he tax? We cannot allow this.

This Stamp Act has effectively shut down my legal business. Those of us in Boston are particularly furious about this tax, and everyone has chosen to boycott the taxed documents. That means that no one will pay for legal documents, and so I have no work. For now, I am supporting my wife and my new daughter by working as a farmer. Ah, I was too busy to mention this important addition to our family! My baby girl was born on July 14, 1765. We named her Abigail (after her beautiful mother), but we call her “Nabby” for short. She has brought us so much joy, even in the midst of the brewing storm with England.

March 6, 1770

A most horrific incident – five Boston citizens were shot and killed last night by British soldiers. Two years ago, on October 1, 1768, regiments of soldiers entered the colonies. King George III was worried about the potential of rebellion, so these soldiers arrived to maintain order. Of course, I was furious. If the King would simply listen to our complaints, we would not be angry. And he would not need to send soldiers to babysit us!

Last night, Captain Thomas Preston led his regiment of soldiers into Boston, where he was met with furious citizens. Admittedly, the citizens’ behavior was terrible – they screamed insults, spit at, and threw rocks at the soldiers as they marched into town. According to Captain Preston, he yelled “don’t fire!” at his soldiers. However, this information was not understood as the soldiers opened fire on the citizens, killing three men and wounding two.

October 30, 1770

For some unknown reason, I was chosen to defend Thomas Preston in his trial for murder.  The trial has just ended today. I honestly do not know why I was chosen to defend Preston in his trial, since everyone knows that I have no love for these British redcoats who invade our privacy and inhibit our freedom. During the trial, I worked with Robert Auchmuty to defend the Captain. Somehow we must have successfully raised a reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds, for the Captain was acquitted of his murder charge.

Even though I defended a British captain, I still resent the redcoats’ presence in our colonies. Why does King George treat us like his children? He seems to believe that he is our benevolent, patient father, and we are his unruly children. Okay, I will admit that we can be slightly unruly. But I will say it again – if King George III has no right to tax us without accepting our representatives into Parliament. We have no voice in the King’s decisions, so he has no right to tax our people. It is that simple, and yet he continues to exacerbate the situation.

September 5, 1774

In the past four years, our colonies have grown and changed so much. I am now part of the first Continental Congress (which meets for the first time this afternoon), so I traveled from Boston to Philadelphia. This Congress is a meeting of delegates from the British colonies, and we meet to respond to these intolerable acts that have been imposed by King George III.

I have consistently complained (both in public and in this journal) about King George’s behavior toward the colonies. My fellow citizens shared this opinion and continued to express our disapproval in small ways. As King George piled on the taxes – he taxed smuggled molasses through the Sugar Act, documents through the Stamp Act, and tea through the Tea Act. However, the Tea Act was the last straw for us, and our smoldering rebellion boiled over. Many Boston citizens dressed up as Indians, boarded the British ships carrying tea, and threw all the tea into Boston Harbor.

In response to these Intolerable Acts that have been imposed by the king, we have organized this Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I must say, Philadelphia both impresses and disgusts me. Many of the buildings here are so beautiful, but if you go to the back streets, it is full of squalor and filth. However, I see great things in store for this city.

The assembly is meeting now – it is time for the first Continental Congress to begin. The fate of these colonies hangs on the decisions we make in the next few weeks.

Photo credits:

Picture of Abigail Adams:

Picture of John Adams:

Boston Tea Party:

Picture of Philadelphia:


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