Adams Papers

Decr. 27th. 1765. Fryday.
[from the Diary of John Adams]

Decr. 27th. 1765. Fryday.

In unforeseen Cases, i.e. when the State of things is found such as the Author of the Disposition has not foreseen, and could not have thought of, we should rather follow his Intention than his Words, and interpret the Act as he himself would have interpreted it, had he been present, or conformably to what he would have done if he had foreseen the Things that happened. This Rule is of great Use to Judges. Vattell. Page 230. B. 2. C. 17. §. 297. If a Case be presented, in which one cannot absolutely apply the well known Reason of a Law or a Promise, this Case ought to be excepted. B. 2. C. 17. §. 292. Every Interpretation that leads to an Absurdity, ought to be rejected. Page 222 B. 2. C. 17. §. 282. Every Impossibility, physical and moral is an Absurdity.

At Home all day. Mr. Shute call’d in the Evening, and gave us a Number of Anecdotes, about Governor Rogers and Secretary Potter, their Persecution in Boston, their flight to Rhode Island, their sufferings there; their Deliverance from Goal, and Voyage to Antigua, and Ireland without Money, their Reception in Ireland, and Voyage to England, their Distresses in England till they borrowed Money to get Rogers’s Journal printed, and present it to his Majesty; which procured Each of them his Appointment at Michilimachana.1—Shute is a jolly, merry, droll, social Christian. He loves to laugh—tells a Story with a good Grace—delights in Banter. But yet reasons well, is inquisitive and judicious. Has an Eye that plays its Lightnings—sly, and waggish, and roguish. Is for sinking every Person who either favours the Stamps or Trims about them, into private Station—expects a great Mortality among the Councillors next May. In this I think he is right. If there is any Man, who, from wild Ideas of Power and Authority, from a Contempt of that Equality in Knowledge, Worth, and Power, which has prevailed in this Country, or from any other Cause, who can upon Principle, desire the Execution of the Stamp Act, those Principles are a total Forfeiture of the Confidence of the People.

If there is any one, who cannot see the Tendency of that Act to reduce the Body of the People to Ignorance, Poverty, Dependance, his Want of Eyesight is a Disqualification for public Employment. Let the Towns and the Representatives, therefore renounce every Stamp man and every Trimmer next May.

1Maj. Robert Rogers, the famous frontiersman, had recently gone to England seeking preferment and had been appointed commandant at Fort Michillimackinac, the farthest British outpost on the Lakes. He was not a “Governor,” though he would like to have been one. There was a spectacular sequel to the episode that JA records here. In the summer of 1767 Rogers and his literary factotum, the former Brookline clergyman Nathaniel Potter (see first entry of 18 Dec. 1760 and note), had a bitter quarrel. According to a deposition Potter made and signed at Quebec that fall, Rogers unfolded a plan for a separate Province of Michillimackinac, over which he would preside as governor. He warmly urged Potter to go to England to promote this scheme, and declared that if it was unsuccessful he would go over to the French, who he had reason to believe would give him “better encouragement” than he had had from the British. Potter virtuously declined the mission and raised questions about the pay Rogers had promised but never given him. Rogers then threatened Potter’s life with “an Indian Spear” that was handy. There were more arguments and scuffles before Potter escaped from the remote post over which Rogers tyrannized. General Gage ordered the arrest of Rogers, who was brought in irons to Montreal, court-martialed, and eventually acquitted, but perhaps only because Potter, who had sailed for England with his budget of charges and woes, died in the English Channel before reaching port. (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends , under Rogers; Gage, Corr. description begins The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage with the Secretaries of State, 1763–1775, ed. Clarence E. Carter, New Haven, 1931–1933; 2 vols. description ends , passim, especially 1:161–162; 2:55–56; Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Albany, 1856–1887, 7:988–992.)

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