J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

John Adams Contemplates His Birthday

John Adams was born in Braintree on 19 Oct 1735, Old Style, which was 30 October, New Style. That shift was the result of the British Empire’s belated adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

Adams adopted the new date, but he remembered the old one, as shown by his diary entry for 19 Oct 1772:
The Day of the Month reminds me of my Birth day, which will be on the 30th. I was born Octr. 19. 1735. Thirty Seven Years, more than half the Life of Man, are run out.—What an Atom, an Animalcule I am!—The Remainder of my Days I shall rather decline, in Sense, Spirit, and Activity. My Season for acquiring Knowledge is past. And Yet I have my own and my Childrens Fortunes to make. My boyish Habits, and Airs are not yet worn off.
At thirty-seven Adams thought he’d lived half his life, and had a little crisis about it. In the preceding year he’d actually suffered a breakdown of his health or spirits. Following a very busy 1770 in Boston, he’d decided to retire from politics and move the family back to Braintree. He even felt bad enough to take some time off work for a trip all the way to the medicinal springs at Stafford, Connecticut.

But within a month after that birthday in 1772, Adams was resolving:
I shall remove my Family to Boston, after residing in Braintree about 19 Months. I have recovered a Degree of Health by this Excursion into the Country, tho I am an infirm Man yet. I hope I have profited by Retirement and Reflection!—and learned in what manner to live in Boston! How long I shall be able to stay in the City, I know not; if my Health should again decline, I must return to Braintree and renounce the Town entirely. I hope however to be able to stay there many Years!
He had more than half a century ahead of him.

1 comment:

Doug Hudson said...

And of course he had no idea that in three years he would begin the transformation from local notable to American legend.

Not that he would have been surprised, of course--aside from a few 'down' moments like the one here recounted, Adams certainly had a sense of destiny.

I like to think of Adams as "the last of the Romans". He would have fit right in with the Brothers Gracchi, or Cicero. (Ooh, there's a match-up--who was more 'obnoxious and disliked', Adams or Cicero?)