Adams Papers



At about 9 this morning we left Haverhill, cross’d the river, and stopp’d first at Mr. Symmes’s, and afterwards at Mr. French’s, but a few minutes at each. After we had rode, about a mile beyond Mr. French’s house, we turn’d away from the road we came to Haverhill by, and took the Lincoln road: but I was very much surprised, to see that very few persons knew, any thing about Lincoln, although it is not more than 22 miles distant from Andover: I met a man whom I judg’d by his appearance to be turn’d of sixty: when I enquired of him the road to Lincoln; his answer was, that he knew of no such place: how many mortals,

On the self same spot,

Are born, take nurture, propagate, and rot,1

entirely ignorant of every thing that lies ten miles beyond it? But in this Country, where every man has an opportunity of displaying the talents he possesses; and where the education of the People, is so much more attended to, than in any part of Europe, or perhaps of the world, I did not expect to find beings of that sort.

 rich   poor     august

How great! how low! how abject! How sublime!

How wonderful! how complicate is man!2

We rode through about 8 miles of sand, and 4 of rocks, after which the road was better: at about 6 o’clock, we arrived at Lincoln, and immediately went to my aunt Smith’s.3 She has five children with her, and one at Mr. Shaw’s.4 Billy, Louisa, Polly, Isaac, and Charles are here. The eldest is not more than 14 years old: the youngest is about 6. Oh! it almost makes my heart, shrink within me; when I look on these fine Children; to think of the Prospects before them: entirely the effects of extravagance in a father: what a Lesson! Surely providence makes sometimes use of these means, to terrify those who can be actuated by no other principle, into the performance of their duty.

1“An Essay on Man,” Epistle II, line 63.

2“How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,/How complicate, how wonderful, is man!” (Edward Young, “The Complaint; Or, Night Thoughts,” Night I, lines [68–69], Poetical Works, 2 vols., Boston, 1854, 1:6).

3Catharine Louisa Salmon Smith (1749–1824), wife of William Smith Jr., the brother of AA. Smith (1746–1787), as the rest of JQA’s entry suggests, had burdened his wife and children with cares through his improvidence and neglect, though his precise activities have not been fully pieced together. He had settled his family on his father’s property in Lincoln before the Revolution and was undoubtedly engaged in trade during the years after the war. Smith had been absent from his family for the past two years and was seldom heard from, and his wife, in a letter to AA of 26 Oct. (Adams Papers), hoped “for his reformation and restoration to virtue and to his family.” According to other family members, Smith suffered from alcoholism. Besides having deserted his family, Smith was on trial in New York during these months on a charge of counterfeiting, of which he was later acquitted. When he died two years later, he was still separated from his family (Mary Smith Cranch to AA, 10 Dec. 1785; 22 March–9 April 1786, 21 Oct. 1787, Adams Papers; CFA, Diary description begins Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Cambridge, 1964- . Vols. 1-2, ed. Aida DiPace Donald and David Donald; vols. 3-6, ed. Marc Friedlaender and L. H. Butterfield. description ends , 5:143–144).

4This was Elizabeth (1771–1854), the oldest of the Smiths’ six children.

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