16 October 1816
adams-john10 Neal Millikan American Revolution

16. VI:15. My wife went to London with Ellen Nicholas to look out for a house. I lost some time in making a Copy of my Ode, which no longer pleases me so well as it did yesterday. Could I have chosen my own Genius and Condition I should have made myself a great Poet— As it is, I have wasted much of my life in writing verses; spell-bound in the circle of mediocrity. In my walk this day, I endeavoured to strike out a Subject, upon which to undertake a work of Patience and Perseverance; but in vain— My time was utterly lost— Mr John Reeves called and paid me a visit. I promised to call upon him, and apologized to him for not having done it before.— I explained to him, what I meant, on board the Lord Mayor’s Barge by the different principles on the doctrine of allegiance, which would lead to conclusions different from his. I shewed him the passage in his pamphlet p. 27. of virulent abuse against the United States, and told him I had three objections to it. 1. That it was incorrect in point of fact— It charged the United States with an inconsistency which did not belong to them, and imputed to them upon erroneous premises, bad motives— 2, It was not in good taste— It was incongruous with the rest of the book; which was cool, moderate and argumentative— That passage alone was angry and intemperate. 3. It disqualified us for a cool and friendly discussion of the principle— For it manifested a temper, with which it must be useless, and might be unsafe to reason upon that topic— He certainly did not relish these remarks; and was aukward and ungracious in his attempts to parry them— At first he said Oh! that’s only my mobbing of the pamphleteer. It is not an attack upon the American Government— If you will read the passage attentively you will find it so— I did not allow him the benefit of this subterfuge— I told him I had read that passage, and his whole pamphlet very attentively and could assure him it was a very pointed attack upon the policy of the United States— Mr Hay’s pamphlet with which I was also well acquainted would not bear him out in these charges.—and said I, in the next edition of your work, I expect you will strike out that passage.— But said he, if all the rest is cool and moderate, and logical, with only the exception of that half page, I shall yet come well off. Ay, but said I, that is precisely the point which we should have to discuss; so that the temperance of all the rest is of no avail— But as to your principle itself said I, you acknowledge that you have your authorities against you—Woodeson, and Gwyllim in his Edition of Bacon’s Abridgement—“All Nonsense,[”] said he— The Lawyers all talk nonsense as well as others— But let it come to Westminster Hall—there it would not last five minutes— I doubted whether the Judges in Westminster Hall would be exactly of his opinion, and told him of the case of Crosby of New-York, whose Estate had escheated in the Island of Jamaica, and then granted to distant collaterals— He had no reply ready for this. I asked him where he got his principle. He appeared to me to have drawn it altogether from Lord Coke’s report of Calvin’s case. But what analogy could there be between the consequences of a king of Scotland’s coming to the crown of England, and those of a Revolution by which the People of North America were separated from the British Empire?— He said he did not want Calvin’s case at all. He took his principle from the definition of the term Alien, in all the Books—“a person born out of the King’s allegiance.”— I asked him if he took a Hanoverian to be a British Subject—entitled to the rights and privileges of an Englishman— At first he said that might be a question— But afterwards he said no— Because the King was Sovereign of Hanover by another title, and not as king of England— I told him that the Common Law was made before England had Colonies— There was nothing like Colonies in it— He said there were the Provinces in France— He had Ladies waiting for him at the gate, which shortened our conversation— He asked me to come some day and dine with him— He always dined, not at those newfangled hours; but at four O’clock; he drank tea at half past five; and at six was seated at his books; to put down these pamphleteers— When he had got half way to the gate, he came back to congratulate me, upon the re-election of our friend the Lord Mayor— That’s what I told him said he, when the Ministers did not go to his dinner. The way for you, said I, is to be the best Magistrate that the City ever had— And that is what they have rechosen him for— Politics would not have done it— He had also talked much about the good-fortune of Lord Exmouth— He had finished a War, in a single day— He had been completely successful— The object was the abolition of Christian Slavery in Africa—and now it was finished, every body was of his side— Nothing could be more fortunate— On this article I fully agreed with Mr Reeves, but I expected he was going to take to himself the merit of Lord Exmouth’s success, as he seemed to ascribe to himself, the re-election of the Lord Mayor— I do see the bottom of this Justice Shallow. Mr Reeves is a lawyer, of a contracted 88understanding, active industry and stubborn temper; always a useful instrument in the hands of the Government, but sometimes troublesome by his obstinacy, and sense of his own importance— For he imagines himself to be the main Spring of the Universe— This doctrine of his that Americans born before the Revolution, are not Aliens in England is as crafty, as it is absurd— The absurdity is in the pretended common Law principle of unalienable allegiance; but the craft is his own. He knows that by pushing the Tory principle to its consequences, while he flatters the passions, prejudices, and mortified vanity of the Government and People, they will take special care that it shall never practically operate otherwise than as it shall suit themselves; and that they will take all the advantage of his argument when it operates in their favour. This pamphlet indeed displaced him from the alien Office; but the Government have always good hold of him and he of them. I told him that the charge he had brought against us of seducing foreigners from their allegiance, might be retorted much more forcibly upon his own doctrine; but he said he only reasoned from the Law as it is— He advanced no new doctrine— He only adhered to the old established maxims of the Law of England— The Ladies returned from London before six. The Evening was fine— I finished reading the Chances; and began the Road to Ruin.— Received a Letter from J. A. Smith, asking for a paper; and one from W. and J. Brown at Liverpool; complaining of extra Tonnage duties for Light-Money and Pilotage still levied upon American Vessels. Observed the Stars, from my windows, and with Ellen Nicholas in the Garden.