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TO BENJAMIN WATERHOUSE. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO BENJAMIN WATERHOUSE.
Quincy, 5 June, 1813.
I read, within a few days, an address to General and Governor Gage, from the bar, and the name of Caleb Strong among the addressers. This, to be sure, is a characteristic trait. In former parts of my life I have known somewhat of the thing called a bar—a significant word, and an important thing.
By all that I remember of the history of England, the British Constitution has been preserved by the bar. In all civil contests and political struggles, the lawyers have been divided; some have advocated the prerogatives of the crown, and some the rights of the people. All, or at least a majority, have united, at last, in restoring and improving the Constitution.
The principles, the characters, and the views of the American bar at this time are unknown or incomprehensible to me. What is the American bar? Who are the men? What are their names? Has their education been alike? Are their principles the same? Are Tucker and Story united in theory? I might proceed with my questions for half an hour. But, I will conclude with an anecdote. When Governor Hutchinson was about to leave his government and embark for England, a meeting of the bar was summoned in Boston. We met. A motion was made to “address the Governor upon his departure from the government of his native province. It was peculiarly proper for the bar, who had served under him as Chief Justice of the province, and witnessed his great abilities and integrity, to express publicly their high esteem of his character, and approbation of his conduct as Chief Justice, as Lieutenant-Governor, and as Governor.”
No opposition was made, though father Dana, William Reed,1 Samuel Swift, and Josiah Quincy, Junior, Esquires, were present. All was going on swimmingly. After some time, John Adams, whose destiny has always been to mount breaches and lead the forlorn hope, arose from his seat and modestly inquired whether the proposed address was to be presented to the Governor, and go to the public, as the address of the bar as a body, to be signed by their president or secretary, or whether it was to be signed and presented as the act of individuals. The answer from all quarters was, “by the bar as a body, to be sure.” John Adams then said, it would be unfair to send out to the world an address, as an act of the whole bar, when some of them could not approve it. He had no desire to control any man in the expression of his sentiments, but was not willing to have his own suppressed. He had no objection to an address to be drawn, signed, and presented by those gentlemen who should approve it; but the bar was not a legal corporation, and had no public authority. The minority, therefore, however small, could not be controlled, and ought not to be restrained from expressing their opinions; and ought not to be involved in a general vote. This ought to have been sufficient, but it was not. Still the cry was, “the bar!” The address must be from the bar!
Poor John was obliged, at last, to rise once more and say, “To be sure, it is in the power of the majority to vote, and to address, and to present and publish their addresses as the act of the bar; but it was not in their power to prevent the minority from publishing their dissent. He knew not whether he should be joined or countenanced by any other; but he would attend, and when the address should be discussed, he would give his opinions and his reasons, and, if an address was finally adopted by the bar, as a bar, in which any thing should be inserted to which he could not agree, he would enter his protest against it, in writing, and assign his reasons. Whether any other gentlemen would join him, he knew not. But, if not, he would stand alone.” Josiah Quincy, Junior, Esquire, and Samuel Swift, Esquire, as if appalled and astonished, sat mute. John Lowell, Esquire, said, in a kind of hurry, “This declaration does great honor to Mr. Adams.” Daniel Leonard, Esquire, said: “If there is to be a protest, and reasons assigned, and all this to be published, the whole design will be defeated, and it would be better to have no address at all.”
John Adams then said, “he neither approved the administration of Mr. Hutchinson as Lieutenant-Governor, as Chief Justice, nor as Governor, and he would not suffer his opinion to be equivocal.” Your knowledge of human nature is deep enough to infer the character of Lowell, Leonard, and Quincy, from what they said or what they said not. The plan of an address from the bar, as a body, was laid aside.
Had John Adams been compelled to produce his protest, Richard Dana, William Reed, Samuel Swift, Benjamin Kent, and Josiah Quincy, Junior, would have signed it. Auchmuty, Sewall, Fitch, Samuel Quincy, Ben. Gridley, Blowers, Cazneau, &c., &c., would have been against them.1
You have, and ought to have, a tenderness for the memories of Hutchinson and Olivers. So have I, more than you suspect. Yet you must know the truth, and nothing but the truth, from
[1 ] The copy, which is quite defective, says John in one place and Joseph in the other, but John had been dead many years. Of William Reed, the only one of the name at the bar at this time, Mr. Washburn confesses his inability to gain any information. Judicial History of Massachusetts.
[1 ] Hutchinson speaks of the address, which was actually presented, as having been signed by “the gentlemen of the law, with three or four exceptions only.” None of the names of the persons placed in the first category are found attached to it. All those included in the second signed it.