Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - 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 WILLIAM TUDOR.
Quincy, 25 February, 1818.
As Mr. Wirt has filled my head with James Otis, and as I am well informed, that the honorable Mr. Benjamin Austin, alias Honestus, alias Old South,1 &c., roundly asserts, that Mr. Otis had no patriotism, and that “he acted only from revenge of his father’s disappointment of a seat on the Superior Bench,” I will tell you a story which may make you laugh, if it should not happen to melt you into tears.
Otis belonged to a club, who met on evenings, of which club William Molineux, whose character you know very well, was a member. Molineux had a petition before the legislature, which did not succeed to his wishes, and he became, for several evenings, sour, and wearied the company with his complaints of services, losses, sacrifices, &c., and said, “That a man who has behaved as I have, should be treated as I am, is intolerable,” &c. Otis had said nothing, but the company were disgusted and out of patience, when Otis rose from his seat, and said, “Come, come, Will, quit this subject, and let us enjoy ourselves. I also have a list of grievances; will you hear it?” The club expected some fun, and all cried out, “Aye! aye! let us hear your list.”
“Well, then, Will; in the first place I resigned the office of Advocate-General, which I held from the crown, which produced me—how much do you think?” “A great deal, no doubt,” said Molineux. “Shall we say two hundred sterling a year?” “Aye, more, I believe,” said Molineux. “Well, let it be two hundred; that for ten years is two thousand. In the next place, I have been obliged to relinquish the greatest part of my business at the bar. Will you set that at two hundred more?” “Oh! I believe it much more than that.” “Well, let it be two hundred. This, for ten years, makes two thousand. You allow, then, I have lost four thousand pounds sterling.” “Aye, and more too,” said Molineux.
“In the next place, I have lost a hundred friends, among whom were the men of the first rank, fortune, and power in the province. At what price will you estimate them?” “Damn them,” said Molineux, “at nothing. You are better without them than with them.” A loud laugh. “Be it so,” said Otis.
“In the next place, I have made a thousand enemies, amongst whom are the government of the province and the nation. What do you think of this item?” “That is as it may happen,” said Molineux.
“In the next place, you know I love pleasure. But I have renounced all amusement for ten years. What is that worth to a man of pleasure?” “No great matter,” said Molineux, “you have made politics your amusement.” A hearty laugh.
“In the next place, I have ruined as fine health and as good a constitution of body as nature ever gave to man.” “That is melancholy indeed,” said Molineux. “There is nothing to be said upon that point.”
“Once more,” said Otis, holding his head down before Molineux, “Look upon this head!” (where was a scar in which a man might bury his finger.) “What do you think of this? And what is worse, my friends think I have a monstrous crack in my skull.” This made all the company very grave, and look very solemn. But Otis, setting up a laugh, and with a gay countenance, said to Molineux, “Now, Willy, my advice to you is, to say no more about your grievances; for you and I had better put up our accounts of profit and loss in our pockets, and say no more about them, lest the world should laugh at us.”
This whimsical dialogue put all the company, and Molineux himself, into good humor, and they passed the rest of the evening in joyous conviviality.
It is provoking, it is astonishing, and it is mortifying, and it is humiliating, to see how calumny sticks, and is transmitted from age to age. Mr. Austin is one of the last men I should have expected to have swallowed that execrable lie, that Otis had no patriotism. The father was refused an office worth twelve hundred pounds old tenor, or about one hundred and twenty pounds sterling; and the refusal was no loss, for his practice at the bar was worth much more, for Colonel Otis was a lawyer in profitable practice, and his seat in the legislature gave him more power and more honor; for this refusal the son resigned an office which he held from the crown, worth twice the sum. The son must have been a most dutiful and affectionate child to the father; or rather, the most enthusiastically and frenzically affectionate.
I have been young, and now am old, and I solemnly say, I have never known a man whose love of his country was more ardent or sincere; never one, who suffered so much; never one, whose services for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country, as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.
The truth is, he was an honest man, and a thorough taught lawyer. He was called upon in his official capacity as Advocate-General by the custom-house officers, to argue their cause in favor of writs of assistance. These writs he knew to be illegal, unconstitutional, destructive of the liberties of his country, a base instrument of arbitrary power, and intended as an entering wedge to introduce unlimited taxation and legislation by authority of Parliament. He therefore scorned to prostitute his honor and his conscience, by becoming a tool. And he scorned to hold an office which could compel him or tempt him to be one. He therefore resigned it. He foresaw, as every other enlightened man foresaw, a tremendous storm coming upon his country, and determined to run all risks, and share the fate of the ship, after exerting all his energies to save her, if possible. At the solicitation of Boston and Salem, he accordingly embarked, and accepted the command. To attribute to such a character sinister or trivial motives, is ridiculous.
You and Mr. Wirt have “brought the old man out,” and, I fear, he will never be driven in again till he falls into the grave.
[1 ] Benjamin Austin was a voluminous writer under these signatures, in the Boston Chronicle, in the early part of the present century, and an active leader of the republican side in politics. He was known during the rest of his life as Honestus, or rather Hony Austin.