Thomas Boylston Adams to William Cranch
Braintree August 23d: 1791
My dear William
I have somewhere heard an observation of this kind, “that a person should not be too anxious to return a kindness.”1 Had I strictly adhered to this injunction, an Answer to your last favor would not so soon have followed;2 but as you expect shortly to be at Braintree in person, I must either remain in your Debt, or take this opportunity to discharge the obligation. I am happy to find that the novelty of your situation has not obliterated the remembrance of your now solitary companion, & when I tell you of the exertion which this poor scrap requires from me at present, you will think it of more consequence than otherwise it would deserve. Tomorrow will complete a fortnight since I was first seized with the Southern Plague, Viz. The Ague Fever;3 and regularly every other Day since, I have had a severe fit, which has reduced me at least four degrees in point of flesh; as to Spirits, hardly any thing this side an inflamitory Rheumatism, will greatly diminish them. My mother when she returnd we found had been very ill most of the time in her absence, but happily, has had no fever fit since she got home. But you have enough of this. Charles left us on Sunday for New York, but Mrs Smith still continues with us, otherwise I should lose a little of my jolity; and should be quite impatient for your company. Truly if I may judge by your letter, I shall think you something more than a sort of a Gallant. I fear the good Judge had designs upon you, when he gave you the office of Executor. The facetious young Lady whom you sett at defiance may ensnare, in a course of time. How many a charm is born to be adored, yet ne’er to be enjoyed by those who worship the possessor’s. This is all I have to say concerning one whom you have mentioned. Is it not possible for our heads together to invent a name for a cetain lady? I am not pleased with that she has at present. Your expedition to Exeter has at least made you acquainted with some impudent people. Above every thing I think the Judges of a Court of Justice should be treated with common respect, even if their learning will not entitle them to it. Much of the credit of a Layyer depends upon his manner of treating the Bench. Where the opinions of Judges are treated with contempt, the justice of a cause may as well be determined by the throw of a Dye, as the verdict of a Jury. A Gentleman Lawyer has many clients in esse.4
Betsey Smith is now at your father’s; she with the rest of your family are very well and will be as happy to see you next week as
Thomas B. Adams.
RC (OCHP:William Cranch Papers, Mss fC891c RM); addressed: “William Cranch Esqr: / Haverhill”; internal address: “William Cranch Esqr:”; endorsed: “T.B. Adams / Aug. 23d. 1791. / Answd. Aug. 27.—”
1. “He then that hasteth to restore and requite a kindness, hath not the mind of a grateful man, but of a debtor. And to conclude in few words, he that is desirous to pay over soon, doth owe unwillingly; he that unwillingly oweth, is ungrateful” (Seneca, On Benefits, transl. Thomas Lodge, London, 1899, Book IV, ch. xl, p. 178).
2. Not found.
3. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, ague—malaria—was seen in America as a southern disease because it appeared in northern latitudes only episodically but in southern ones continuously (Margaret Humphreys, Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States, Baltimore, 2001, p. 23–29).
4. In being, that is, actually existing. William Cranch apparently attended the Court of Common Pleas for Rockingham County, N.H., which convened in Exeter on 9 Aug. (The Laws of the State of New-Hampshire, Portsmouth, 1792, p. 70, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 24585).