1765. Jany. 24th. Thurdsday.2
Soon after I got to Boston, at Jany. Court Mr. Fitch came to me upon Change, and told me, that Mr. Gridley and he had something to communicate to me, that I should like, in Sacred Confidence however. I waited on Mr. Gridley, at his office, (after many Conjectures what the secret might be) and he told me, That He and Mr. Fitch had proposed a Law Clubb—a private Association, for the study of Law and oratory.—As to the Bar, he thought of them, as he did think of them— Otis, Thatcher, Auchmuty. He was considering, who was for the future to support the Honour and Dignity of the Bar. And he was determined to bring me into Practice, the first Practice, and Fitch too. He could easily do it, by recommending. And he was very desirous of forming a Junto, a small sodality, of himself and Fitch and me, and Dudley3 if he pleased might come, in order to read in Concert the Feudal Law and Tullies orations. And for this Purpose he lent me, the Corpus Juris Civilis in 4 Partes distinctum, eruditissimis Dionysii Gothofredi J.C. clarissimi notis illustratum, at the End of which are the Feudorum Consuetudines Partim ex Editione vulgata partim ex Cujaciana vulgata, appositae, as also the Epitome Feudorum Dionysio Gothofredo Authore.4
We accordingly agreed to meet the next Evening in one of Ballards back Chambers and determine upon Times, Places, and studies. We accordingly met the next Evening, Mr. Gridley, Fitch and I, and spent the whole Evening. Proposals were to read a Reign and the statutes of that Reign, to read Hurds Dialogues5 and any new Pieces. But at last we determined to read The Feudal Law and Cicero only, least we should loose sight of our main Object, by attending to too many. Thurdsday Nights were agreed on, and to meet first at Mr. Gridleys office. There we accordingly met on the Thurdsday Night following, and suffered our Conversation to ramble upon Hurds Dialogues, the Pandects, their Discovery in Italy by Lotharius in 1127, in the Reign of Stephen, upon Lambard de priscis Anglorum Legibus, in Saxon and Latin, upon Ld. Kaims , Mr. Blackstone &c. But we agreed to meet the next Thurdsday night at Mr. Fitch’s, and to read the Three first Titles of the feudal Law, and Tullies oration for Milo.
1. This heading, written in a very large hand, is on the inside front cover of “Paper book No. 10” (D/JA/10), suggesting that JA planned to keep a separate record of the proceedings of this lawyers’ study club. But after a few entries in Jan.–Feb. 1765 and some fragments of a first draft of his essay on canon and feudal law, written for the club, the record breaks off. Very likely the “sodality” itself did. A couple of extraneous entries made in Aug. 1765 follow in D/JA/10, but the last half of this booklet consists of nothing but blank leaves.
For the year 1764 there are no Diary entries at all. Lists of legal cases among his own papers indicate that JA continued to expand his practice; for example, a note from him to Samuel Quincy, 2 Jan. 1764 (MHi:Misc. Bound MSS), lists about forty cases JA wishes Quincy to enter for him in Boston. During the spring of 1764 he served on a town committee to report a plan for repairing the highways by a tax (Braintree Town Records description begins Samuel A. Bates, ed., Records of the Town of Braintree, 1640 to 1793, Randolph, Mass., 1886. description ends , p. 395–398). Most of April and part of May he spent with other patients at his uncle James Cunningham’s house in Boston undergoing the somewhat dangerous and extremely tedious process of inoculation against smallpox. His physician was Dr. Nathaniel Perkins, Harvard 1734, and JA’s letters during this period probably embody as detailed an account as exists of the preparatory regimen and actual process of smallpox inoculation in the 1760’s.
But the great event of 1764 was JA’s marriage to Abigail Smith of Weymouth. As early as February they were trying to fix a date; see Hannah (Storer) Green to JA, 20 Feb. 1764 (Samuel Abbott Green, An Account of Percival and Ellen Green and Some of Their Descendants, Groton, Mass., p. 56–57). They were married on 25 October.
2. This entry appears to be retrospective and should probably have an earlier date. The meeting of the sodality that actually occurred on 24 Jan. is recorded in the following entry, the second so dated.
3. Joseph Dudley, Harvard 1751; admitted attorney and barrister in the Superior Court, August term, 1762; died 1767 (Superior Court of Judicature, Minute Book 79; Harvard Quinquennial Cat. description begins Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1930, Cambridge, 1930. description ends ).
4. It is not possible to tell which of the numerous editions of Denis Godefroy’s Corpus Juris Civilis, first published in 1583, the club was using. As usual, JA’s quotations, even when copying directly from a printed text, are careless.
5. JA acquired his own copy of Richard Hurd’s Moral and Political Dialogues (3d edn., London, 1765; 3 vols.) in 1769, and it remains among his books in the Boston Public Library. JA made a partial marginal digest of the book when he read it, but he wrote only one marginal comment. This appears at 3:40–41, where Hurd describes the awkward manners of the typical young man who has “been well whipped through one of our public schools.” He is, says Hurd, “An absurd compound of abject sentiments, and bigoted notions, on the one hand; and of clownish, coarse, ungainly demeanour, on the other! In a word, both in mind and person the furthest in the world from any thing that is handsome, gentlemanlike, or of use and acceptance in good company!” Beside this JA wrote: “An exact description of a Dartmouth educated Schollar.”