AN ODYSSEY OF AMERICA ON THE BRINK OF REVOLUTION
Josiah Quincy Jr.’s Voyage to the South (1773)*
Daniel R. Coquillette
I. THE SOUTHERN JOURNAL
All of Josiah Quincy Jr.’s adventures were those of a young man. The cruel tuberculosis that cut off his life at age 31 in 1775 saw to that. The spirit of youthful daring and exuberance, of titillation and risk, and of new discovery and awakening fill the pages of even his most serious work. But not all was positive. The young Quincy knew that he lived at the edge of divides and violence inconceivable to the generation behind him, and he saw clearly the horrors and dangers as well. To everything, he brought the candor of youth.
No writing of Quincy was more filled with the daring and contradictions of youth than his Journal of his journey to the South in 1773. (Hereafter, for convenience, “Southern Journal” to distinguish it from his later, and equally fascinating London Journal of his voyage to England in 1774–1775, edited by my able colleague Neil L. York and set out in volume 1 of this series, Quincy Papers, at pp. 219–269.) The Southern Journal recounted a great adventure, which included a near fatal sea voyage, introductions to the beauty and elegance of Southern society—and womanhood—and a political “Grand Tour” of the colonies from South Carolina to Rhode Island, including notes about every conceivable topic, from apple cider to the grim realities of slavery. Quincy himself drew the analogy to the “Grand Tour” of Italy that marked the “coming-of-age” of his aristocratic English contemporaries, the trip that replaced, at least in theory, the blinders of childhood with a full appreciation of the “world” as it is.1
But Quincy was already no child, and the trip had a most serious agenda. Quincy’s family was split politically. His brother Samuel (1734–1789) was made Solicitor General of Massachusetts in 1771 and would be proscribed as a loyalist in 1778.2 Quincy had firmly allied himself with the patriot cause. Nevertheless, like many of his contemporary patriots, including Benjamin Franklin, Quincy was a moderate.3 He was fearful of what war would bring, and even more fearful of the fragmented state of the colonies. Could such a “grab bag” of vastly differing societies make a common cause, particularly if the British proved cunning and resourceful? While Quincy was careful of what he would put down in writing, there is no doubt that this “Southern Journey” was, in part, to assist committees of correspondence and to improve communications between likeminded patriots. As will be discussed below, Quincy worked assiduously at this task, and many an elegant dinner party had another, more serious, agenda.
But for Quincy there was an even more profound purpose for this difficult, if exhilarating adventure. Quincy wanted to find out what America was really like. Exceptionally sensitive, particularly given the times, Quincy was interested in different political systems, in geography, in religious differences, in what we today call “gender issues,” particularly the role of educated women, in race and in slavery, and in the difference in regional cultures. And, of course, as a young lawyer he was interested in the law. He was an astute and frank observer of all these things, partly because of the deeply troubling questions always at the back of his mind. In particular, there was always the question of whether, from this diversity, Americans could make a true nation. In short, the Southern Journal is no simple snapshot of a tourist, but a deeply reflective portrait of the character of America on the brink of the Revolution.
This is a complex portrait, and it is not possible to discuss all its aspects with thoroughness. But I have chosen certain categories of particular importance, and of particular interest to Quincy, to discuss below. For the rest of this fascinating and nuanced account, I will let the Southern Journal speak for itself.
Quincy’s Southern Journal was, first and foremost, a travel book. The fact that it was an expression of political and philosophical views on the great subjects of time, including slavery and colonial independence, should not obscure its additional importance as a detailed account of how Americans traveled before the Revolution. Of course, travel, in turn, had direct political and historical consequences in the colonies. When Quincy addressed “[T]hou therefore into Whose hand this Journal, either before or after my death, may chance to fall,” he noted that it contained “trifles and impertinencies.” Southern Journal, p. 1. (All citations to the Southern Journal refer to Quincy’s original pagination, preserved in this edition.) But it is these very details that make the account so readable; the trip, so human; and the travelogue, so significant.
Class mattered in colonial America, and Quincy saw himself as a gentleman. He was accompanied by a servant, Randall, and was not short of money or, equally important, social connections. And he was not an explorer traveling in the wilderness.4 His journey lay along the primary communication and trade routes between the major American cities of the day: Charleston, Wilmington, Williamsburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Newport and Boston. Further, the timing was designed to be auspicious, a direct voyage to Charleston and then, by horse, through the spring countryside of the Carolinas and Virginia, to Philadelphia. It would be peach blossom time, and the seasonal weather in the South would be mild. The plan was clearly to follow the spring north, avoiding both extreme heat and cold. [A similar idea lay behind Edwin Way Teale’s famous journey, chronicled in his North With the Spring (New York, 1951).] Nevertheless, despite these careful plans, the travel turned out to be hard.
Quincy set sail on a “Bristol Packett,” a fast boat designed to carry mail.5 The trip began on February 8, 1773 but he did not enter Charleston harbor until February 28. From the outset he was terribly seasick, and so was his servant, who had originally laughed at Quincy’s plight. “But when in calling for my servant I was told he had taken to his bed, my revenge was satisfied, tho’ if I would have moved he should have seen my sides shake his turn.” Id., p. 7. Even the cabin-boy, who had been at sea for three years, “was exercised with strains and throws more violent than my own.” Id., p. 8. Quincy’s constitution was weak from tuberculosis, but it was the seasickness that caused “fainting turns” and confined him to a “sultry and hot” cabin. “A more disagreeable time can hardly be conceived, than the season of my first days and nights. Exhausted to the last degree, I was too weak to rise, and in too exquisite pain to lie in bed.” Id., p. 9. What food he could eat was foul.
Yet this was normal seafaring. The real trouble began when the ship encountered a major storm off the coast of North Carolina, “in the latitude of the Bermudas,” on February 21st, nearly two weeks out. Quincy’s eldest brother Edmund had died in a storm in those latitudes in 1768, on a voyage to Barbados, and Quincy could not help but reflect on his brother’s fate. “We were now in that latitude in which the remains of my Elder Brother lay deposited in the Ocean; and probably very near the spot where Mr. John Apthorp and lady were foundred.” Id., pp. 28–29. Indeed, it is a comment on eighteenth-century sea travel that, eventually, Quincy, and his other older brother, Samuel, would both die on sea voyages. See Neil L. York’s fine introduction “The Making of a Patriot” to Quincy Papers, supra, vol. 1, p. 13ff. (Hereafter, “York Introduction.”) It is worth noting that the cause of both these deaths was not shipwreck, but the ordeal of the voyage itself.
But Quincy’s ship was nearly wrecked. The captain himself observed that the storm was the worst he had ever seen. “Mr. Quincy] come and see here: you may now say you have seen a storm at sea. I never saw so dismal a time in my life.” Id., pp. 24–25. Quincy had to tie himself to his bunk, observing, “In short horror was all around Us.” Id., p. 26. “I believe every soul on board expected to perish.” Id., p. 28. Navigation was impossible. There was no “sight of the sun” for “upwards of an 100-hour,” and no way to calculate longitude astronomically. (A chronometer would have been highly unlikely on Quincy’s ship in 1773.)6 When the ship began to approach land, Quincy observed that “whether this land was off the Barr of Carolina, off Roman Shoals or the Bahama Sands was altogether uncertain to every person on board.” Id., p. 34. Finally, after six days, the storm abated, on February 27, and the ship was found to be south of Charleston. After meeting another nearly wrecked ship, it crossed the Charleston-Bar. Even then, because the wind was head on the ship, it took “the whole day beating up” to the port. Id., p. 41.
Despite the danger, by sea was still the fastest way to travel long distances.7 Charleston was full of shipping, with nearly “350 sail” laying off the port, “far surpassing” what Quincy had seen in Boston. Id., p. 41. The journey, though terrifying, was only half the usual time of a passage to England which, in Quincy’s case, would take 41 days each way, while this voyage, even with the storm, was only 20 days.8
B. Lodging and Overland Travel
Several commentators have observed that the shortage of decent inns made for a culture of hospitality, particularly among gentlefolk.9 This was certainly true for Quincy. On arrival in Charleston, he found “very great difficulty” in obtaining lodgings.10 The problem was solved by “Mr. Lavinus Clarkson to whom I had Letters,” who in turn “politely attended me to introduce me to those to whom I had Letters of recommendation.” Id., p. 42. Though Quincy stayed in lodgings in Charleston, arranged by Clarkson, he more frequently was a guest in private homes, to which he either had letters, or to whom he was introduced by others to whom he had letters. Often Quincy would be invited to dinner, musical soirees, church services, horse races, and other social occasions. When riding north, he was often accompanied by his host to the next destination.
Quincy set out “Northward” on March 20th, 1773, accompanied by Thomas Lynch (1727–1776), who represented South Carolina in the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, staying the night at Lynch’s plantation on the Santee River. While the riding and weather “were agreeable,” crossing the rivers was difficult. “Had a three hour tedious passage, Santee-river.” Id., p. 81. Quincy moved from plantation to plantation, usually with local guides provided by his hosts. “This Gentleman [Joseph Allston] sent his servant as our guide between 30 and 40 miles much to our preservation from very vexation difficulties. Lodged the last night at the Plantation of Mr. Johnston [Allston’s brother-in-law]. Mr. Withers … [another Allston brother-in-law] … came as our guide about 10 miles.” Id., p. 83. Sometimes the countryside was filled with blossoming peach trees and lovely weather. Other times, “a most barren, dreary rode; 9 cows and oxen had perish within a week for want of sustenance: great difficulty to get food for man or beast.” Id., p. 83.
Quincy’s observation confirmed that of other early travelers. Roads varied greatly, with the best being in Pennsylvania.11 One stretch could be highly difficult, the next a delight. “As soon as you enter Pennsylvania …” Quincy observed, “the regularity, goodness, and the strait, advantageous disposition of Public Roads are evidence of the good policy and laws of this well regulated province.” Id., p. 143. “My Journey for this several days has not only been delightful from the gratification of the Eye, but the exquisite scent from blooming orchards gave a rich perfume …” Id., p. 144. On the other hand, the roads between Boston and New York were notorious. In 1793, Quincy’s son Josiah, the future Mayor of Boston and President of Harvard, observed that it took “a week’s hard traveling” to go from Boston to New York.12 “[W]hether it snowed or rained, the traveler must rise and make ready, by help of a horn lantern and a farthing candle, and proceed on his way over bad roads, sometimes getting out to help the coachman life the coach out of a quagmire …”13 Bridges were frequently in bad repair and dangerous.14 In 1796, the stage trip from Philadelphia to Baltimore took five days, and Ann Wards, traveling in 1795, observed two overturned stage wagons between Philadelphia and New York.15
In any event, Quincy reached New York on May 11, 1773 having traveled 52 days from Charleston. Id., p. 173. His prior experience with Connecticut roads was so bad that he elected to sail “down the Sound for Newport” Rhode Island instead, “with some other polite company.” “Was the rather induced to this tour by water than thro’ Connecticut, having before gone thro’ that Colony and by horses being so fatigued with their journey as to render it doubtful whether they could reach home by Land.” Even so, Quincy’s ship had to ride out a storm for a day “laying at Anchor.” Id., p. 180.
In concluding his Southern Journal, Quincy observed, “Where [sic] I to lament any thing, it would be the prevalent and extended ignorance of one colony of the concerns of another.” Id., p. 184. He had traveled the most beaten paths between the colonies, by both land and sea. He had no shortage of money or friends. Yet the journey took nearly four months. Most of it was hard traveling, and the sea passage south was terrifying. Charleston was easier to reach than London, but it was still weeks at sea, in dangerous latitudes. The only way to really see the land and converse with the people was to ride for months.
Quincy feared that the great economic and social difference between the colonies, and the difficulty of secure communication between them, would permit the British to divide and manipulate.16 After all, they controlled the sea lanes. Quincy’s journey to the South had a political agenda, and his membership since November 1772 in the Boston Committee of Correspondence, made him a good person to establish contact with like-minded patriots in other colonies.17 He was deeply interested in the geography of America, and how easy it was to move and communicate for strategic purposes. In the end, he discovered some important obstacles, both philosophically and physically. Yet, typical of Quincy, he was determined to prove they could be overcome.
Quincy was ranked at Harvard College by his social standing, as were all students. He was ranked fifth in a class of forty-one.18 Quincy believed in gentility. He observed that “[t]aste, like philosophy, falls to the lot of only a small select number of privileged souls …”19 He saw himself a gentleman, and expected recognition by his peers and subordinates alike. Those he admired, such as “the Farmer,” John Dickinson (1732–1808), enjoyed “otium cum dignitate,” “leisure with dignity.”20 Indeed, Quincy’s trip itself demonstrated that the young man had the freedom from mundane cares that marked a gentleman. True, Quincy was a practicing lawyer, but everyone knew the difference between the gentleman barrister and the solicitor or “pettifogger,” and Quincy was a barrister in spirit, if not in fact.21
As a matter of society and travel hospitality, Quincy’s class superficially trumped any political differences. As Gordon Wood has observed: “Despite the fact that most of colonial society was vertically organized, there was one great horizontal division that cut through it with a significance we today can scarcely comprehend—that between extraordinary and ordinary people, gentleman and commoners.”22 The difficulties of travel and communication between the colonies, just discussed, provided the vertical divisions. As Richard Beeman has demonstrated, each colony had its own political and social culture, and its own ideologies.23 Indeed, Quincy remarked constantly throughout his Southern Journal how the people of the colonies differed as much as the soil, the vegetation, and the climate. But one thing cut through horizontally: class.
Quincy thought nothing of sitting at dinner with a group of wealthy slaveholders in Charleston, many of loyalist sympathy (“hot sensible flaming tories”), admiring the silver, the china, the wine and the women.24 He was careful not to be rude, or to interject his own beliefs, even his passionate opposition to slavery, in an inappropriate way.25 Among Quincy’s favorite new friends was the Commander of Fort Johnston, Colonel Robert Howe, “[a] most happy compound of the man of sense, sentiment and dignity, with the man of the world, the sword, the Senate and the Bucks.”26 Although Howe was a crown officer, Quincy approved of Howe’s “staunch Whig sentiments,” and praised Howe’s plan “to keep a regular Journal … of the Conduct of every Public Character,” thus encouraging good governance!27 Likewise, Quincy was greatly taken with Daniel Dulany, Attorney General of Maryland, “a Diamond of the first water:—a gem that may grace the cap of a patriot or the turban of a Sultan,” even though Dulany was eventually deprived of his property as a Loyalist.28 But lack of gentility brought instant criticism. “[T]he middling order in the Capital [Charlestown] are odious characters.”29
Quincy’s respect for Commander Howe and for Daniel Dulany illustrated how gentility merged, in this crucial political period, with what Gordon Wood describes as “classical republican values.”30 As Wood has demonstrated, these values were a direct result of the Enlightenment and, far from necessarily rejecting the monarch, “[m]onarchial and republican values existed sided by side in the culture, and many good monarchists and many good English tories adopted republican ideals and principles without realizing the long-term political implications of what they were doing.”31 Throughout the Southern Journal, Quincy critiqued the communities he observed, not in terms of loyalty to, or against, the British Crown, but rather whether the governments were honest and responsible, encouraging individual merit, virtue, and learning, or whether they were corrupt, lazy, and indifferent to the public welfare. As Wood observed, “educated people of varying political persuasions celebrated republicanism for its spirit, its morality, its freedom, its sense of friendship and duty, and its vision of society.”32 “Republicanism as a set of values and a form of life was much too pervasive, comprehensive, and involved with being liberal and enlightened to be seen as subversive or as anti-monarchical.”33
In the same notebook that contained his Southern Journal, Quincy carefully copied down passages from William Shenstone’s (1714–1763) Essays on Men and Manner (London, 1769). See P347, Reel 4, QPG1 pp. 255–259. There he focused on elements of gentility, labeled “Of reserve,” “Of the World,” “Of Hypocrisy & a Censorious Temper,” “Of Government,” “Popularity,” “Resistance to Reigning Powers,” and “Of Mankind.” The emphasis was on patriotic resolve, tempered with concern for the less well off. See M. Drabble, ed., Oxford Companion to English Literature (5th ed.) p. 896. See also Compact Edition, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 1975), vol. 2, p. 910.
It was too early for men like Quincy to see themselves as enemies of a British Crown or as something other than English. But Quincy certainly did see himself as a member of an educated colonial gentility, committed to very specific republican values and autonomy of colonial government. He despised corrupt placemen, both English and colonial, and particularly despised colonial elites that failed to meet their civic duties, such as, in his opinion, those of South Carolina. “What will become of Carolinian freedom? The luxury, dissipation, life, sentiments and manners of the leading people naturally tend to make them neglect, dispise, and be careless of the true interests of mankind in general.”34 Republican values reflected a good classical education and a good upbringing, that reflected the model of Cicero (106–43 b.c.) and the other classical heroes.35 They emphasized advancement through merit, but were also the mark of true gentility.36 Wealth and leisure were wasted without learning and the resulting sense of civic responsibility. Quincy certainly knew who the “gentlemen” were, wherever he went. He had letters to many of them, but class consciousness brought with it Quincy’s sense of the responsibility of class. His greatest condemnation of Carolinian gentry was just this. “Political enquiries and philosophie disquisitions are too laborious for them: they have no great passion to shine and blaze in the forum or Senate.” It was a matter of education and merit, and a matter of responsible effort. But it was, in Quincy’s mind, a class issue, too.
Both Quincy’s Reports and his Law Commonplace Book focused, in key areas, on the rights of women. There were three important issues: 1) whether the male entail, the bane of daughters, would be presumed in the absence of correct wording in the will, even if the intent were clear; 2) how liable married women would be for their husbands’ debts; and 3) how readily the harsh statutory punishments would fall on women for gender-based crimes—such as execution for the unexplained death of an infant.37 The issue of the “entail male” sounds esoteric, but surely not to any readers of Jane Austen.38 Massachusetts had long rejected the English doctrine of primogeniture, or inheritance of all lands by the eldest son, adopting instead coparcenage, in which all children inherited equally.39 The Massachusetts courts debated whether wills restricting inheritance to male heirs as an “entail male” under English law were valid if the exact legal wording was not used—despite clear testator intent.40 Quincy’s Reports appear to disfavor the male entail. Quincy’s Law Commonplace was quite concerned with the legal powers of married women, which were sharply curtailed.41 Finally, his Reports recounted the terrifying story of a young woman who could have been executed under a Massachusetts law that presumed that an unmarried mother murdered a stillborn baby—unless there was a witness or she could prove she was in fact married.42
Quincy’s Southern Journal was not as explicit in its interest in gender issues, but it still reveals Quincy as a man whose sensitivity was in advance of his day. When he arrived in Charleston, he had just turned 29. He had been happily married for four years, since 1769, to Abigail, the daughter of William Phillips of Boston. She is referred to as “E” or “Eugenia” in the Southern Journal according, as Mark Antony deWolfe Howe would say, to “the affectation of the day.”43 His love and his respect for her lasted to the hour of his death on that ill-fated voyage home from London in 1775. The wrenching letter he dictated to a sailor on his death bed gives eternal testimony to this love.44 But her love for him lasted far longer, through a long, lonely widowhood. She died and was laid next to him by her son at midnight, on a moonlit night in March 1798, 23 years later.45 Although she never knew her grandfather, the deep devotion of Quincy’s granddaughter and biographer, Eliza Susan Quincy (1798–1884), provides compelling evidence of how the man was loved by the women of his family.
But Quincy was interested in other women, particularly intelligent women. On arrival in Charleston, he was invited to the St. Cecilia Concert, March 3, 1773.
Here was upwards of 250 ladies, and it was called no great show. I took a view of them, but I saw no E-. [No women the equal of his wife, “Eugenia” or Abigail.] However I saw ‘Beauty in a Brow of Egypt, to be sure not a Helen’s.
The last phrase is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Sc. 1, line 7. “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact: One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic, see Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.” This was certainly one of Quincy’s more cryptic comments. Was there a racial overtone?46 Later, he would remark on “[t]he enjoyment of a negro or mulatto woman” as “spoken of as quite a common thing: no reluctance, delicacy or shame is made about the matter.”47
Quincy noticed women’s fashions.
In loftiness of head-dress these ladies stoop to the daughters of the North: in richness of dress surpass them: in health and floridity of countenance veil to them: in taciturnity during the performances greatly before our ladies; in noise and flirtations after the musick is every pretty much on par.48
But, intellectually, Quincy preferred Northern women. “If Our Women have any advantage, it is in White and red, vivacity and fire.”49 Quincy blamed slavery for the degradation of the subordinate classes in South Carolina, and for the laziness and intellectual torpor of the elites.50 In his view, this doubtless extended to the status of women. “The ladies of Charleston want much of the fire and vivacity of the North, or I want taste and discernment,” he repeated.51
Quincy rarely mentioned the women he met by name. Mrs. McKenzie of Charleston was an exception, not because of her personality, but because she was an immensely wealthy widow of only twenty, and a daughter of a prominent man.
In company dined on Mr. Thomas Bee, a planter of considerable opulence. A gentleman of sense, improvement, and politeness; and one of the members of the house;—just upon the point of marrying Mrs. McKenzie, a young widow of about 20 with 8000 or 9000 guineas independant fortune in specie, and daughter to Mr. Thomas Smith.52
Even a happily married man like Quincy would notice Mr. Bee’s good fortune. Women could be a source of wealth and lineage, and racial purity, too.
Quincy reflected the paternal views of his day, described by Gordon Wood as “patriarchal dependence.”53 Women were loved and even respected, but their place was narrowly defined, by both law and custom. “Women of the planter class never questioned the traditional notion of female subordination, even as they assumed the crucial task of deputy whenever the need arose.”54 This was not to mean that women did not carry authority, or lacked social, and even political importance, but that this occurred, with very rare exception, in carefully limited ways.55 As Elizabeth Ann Dexter observed: “The attempt to visualize the work of women in colonial times is somewhat like watching a play by occasional flashes of lightning.”56
In the Southern Journal there were some flashes of lightning. One was “Mrs. Reed the Daughter of the late Dennis Debert, Esq.” of Philadelphia, another rare mention of a woman by name. She greatly impressed Quincy as “an ornament of her own sex, and the Delight of Ours.”57 Quincy was also impressed by actresses, such as Elizabeth Morris (1753–1826),58 Sarah Hallam, “queen of the American stage,”59 and Maria Storer, all of whom he saw in New York and carefully noted. Occasionally an amateur, such as Col. William Bayard’s daughter, Mrs. Johnson, also deserved special note.
Dined with Col. William Bayard at his seat on North River. His seat, table, and all around him in the highest elegance and taste. His daughter, Mrs. Johnson sung 3 or 4 songs with more voice, judgment, and execution than I ever heard any lady. Several of the Company who heard the best singers in London said she surpassed them: All agreed she equaled the celebrated Mrs. Brent [Charlotte Brent, d. 1802], but Dr. Middleton said his complaisance did not lead him to say he had never heard better singing in England, but he had met with nothing like it in America.60
Far more common, however, was the treatment given to Mrs. John Broome, “Drank tea with Mr. Broom and lady; she appeared in her usual goodness; he is endowed with much civility, understanding and politeness.”61
Handicrafts were another way for a woman to get noted. Quincy saw slavery as removing the incentive for work and skills by free yeomen and women alike. Those who were nevertheless skilled craftsmen and women earned his admiration, even if they were the wives and sisters of wealthy men like Thomas Loughton Smith (1741–1773).62
Mrs. Smith shewed me a most beautiful White Sattin and very richly embroidered Lady’s work bag, designed as a present for a lady in London. Miss Catherine Ingliss, her Sister, a still more finely embroidered festoon (as they called it) of flowers. Both their own work; and surpassing anything of the kind I ever saw.63
One social ritual particularly impressed Quincy, the toasts given by women as part of the ceremony of dining. This gave women a relatively rare chance to be creative, even daring, and intellectually clever. All this was before the women had to withdraw at the dinner’s conclusion. Quincy complimented David Deis’ daughters, aged “about 16 and 10,” who were “called upon [to give a toast] for a Gentleman and gave one with ease. The ladies withdrew after the first round of [of toasts]—the father seemed displeased at it.”64 Quincy sometimes recorded a woman’s toast in full.
1st Toast, Our Boston—friends and their Good health Sir:—the Unmarried Lady (of 19) at my right “your good health and best affections Sir!” Miss__ your toast madam. “Love and friendship and they who feel them!” Toasts called for from the Guests, etc. till Coffee etc.65
Quincy was even concerned about where women sat at the table. He observed that, “Very few ladies in Philadelphia head their tables on days of entertainments of several gentlemen.”66 Quincy was uncertain whether this deference was a good thing. “At first I was not pleased with this custom …” but on second thought, “on reflection and further consideration, I approve it—However I prophesy that it will be laid aside here in a very few years.”67
Toasts aside, there was not a single record of what any woman actually said in the entire Southern Journal, which is otherwise packed with economic, legal and political discourse. When we recall how much Quincy cared about legal issues affecting women, as evidenced by his Law Commonplace and Reports,68 this is a striking testimony to the world of paternalism described by Gordon Wood.69 Quincy found slavery repellant, described it graphically, and spoke out against it repeatedly in the Southern Journal. Gender was different. There were, as Elizabeth Dexter said, “occasional flashes of lightning,” but, in general, we are left in the dark.70 One thing is certain, however. As Laurel Ulrich observed, referring to the study of early New England, “gender is as important a category as race, wealth, geography, or religion.”71 There were many sociological barriers to communication evidenced by Quincy’s Journal, but gender could have been the biggest one of all.
V. RACE AND SLAVERY
Slavery was common in Quincy’s Massachusetts, and Quincy’s Reports contained two slave cases, a dispute about the sale of two mulattoes as slaves in Oliver v. Sale72 and “Trover for a Negro” [“trover” being the cause of action to recover the value of goods against another] in Allison v. Cockran.73 In addition, the brigantine Peggy involved in Scollay v. Dunn74 may have been a slaver. The actions of the court in all of these cases assumed the legality of slavery.75 Quincy did add a marginal note to the report of Allison v. Cockran, “Qu. [querie] If this Action is well brought, for Trover lies not for a Negro,” citing English authorities.76 But as his great-grandson, Samuel, observed in a lengthy note, the English authorities did not apply to colonial cases. “At the time of the trial of the case  here reported by Quincy, negro slaves were held and sold as property in Massachusetts.”77
Thus the institution of slavery itself could not have been strange to Quincy, and his family may well have held slaves.78 In addition, by nature Quincy was a relatively calm and factual observer. As we shall see in the next section, he was quite tolerant in the case of religious differences, and always respectful to his hosts. But his reaction to the slavery he saw in South Carolina was passionate. “Slavery may truly be said to be the peculiar curse of this land …”79 “There is much among this people of what the world call hospitality and politeness, it may be questioned what proportion there is of true humanity, Christian charity and love.”80
Quincy’s views on slavery set him apart from many of his “enlightened” contemporaries. Today, we are so familiar with the passion of abolitionism that we take strong words for granted in confronting such an evil. But as Gordon Wood has observed:
By the middle of the eighteenth century black slavery had existed in the colonies for several generations or more without substantial questioning or criticism. The few conscience-stricken Quakers who issued isolated outcries against the institution hardly represented general colonial opinion.81
In addition, Quincy was very familiar with indentured servitude, which could be so cruel that Thomas Hutchinson saw little to distinguish it, in moral terms, from slavery.82
By modern standards it was a cruel and brutal age, and the life of the lowly seemed cheap. Slavery could be regarded, therefore, as merely the most base and degraded status in a society of several degrees of unfreedom, and most colonies felt little need as yet either to attack or defend slavery in any more than other forms of dependency and debasement.83
But, without disagreeing with Gordon Wood’s characterization, Quincy’s Southern Voyage either tells a different story or, more likely, reflects a very different kind of man. Here was no “conscience-stricken Quaker.” Quincy was a mainstream, entitled aristocrat, yet he hated slavery, and feared its long-term consequences.
It is useful to divide his account into three categories: 1) his factual observations of slavery and racism as a social and economic force, 2) his ideological reasons for opposing slavery, and 3) his concerns about the political impact of slavery and racism on the future of the American colonies.
Quincy was a close factual observer. “Having blended with every order of men as much as was possible and convenient I had considerable opportunity to learn their manners, genius, taste, etc.”84 Nowhere was this more true than his careful attention to the lives of blacks in the colonial South. He was interested in everything. How many slaves were there on a large plantation? (“Mr. Joseph Allston had 5 plantations with 100 slaves on each.”)85 What games did blacks play? (“pawpaw, huzzle-cap, push penny.”)86 What did blacks wear? (“their kind of breeches, scarce sufficient for covering.”)87 What did blacks do on Sunday when they were free from labor for their masters? (“[A]ll kinds of work for themselves on hire.”)88 What laws affected blacks?89 What were the sexual relations between the races?90 What were the cultural and linguistic cross-influences?91 Quincy asked all the questions, both easy and hard.
Quincy’s careful observation led him to hate the slavery that he witnessed. More importantly, it led him to the realization that slavery was not a “property” or a “contract” issue, such as indentured servitude or even marriage, but was based on an unmitigated evil, racism. This clear recognition, in itself, set Quincy apart from most of his contemporaries.
Quincy also observed that free blacks suffered severe restrictions on their rights in a predominantly slave society, and that the habits of slavery made the life of all blacks worse. When he referred to the “herds of Negroes and tawny slaves”92 and the “enjoyment of a negro or mulatto woman,”93 he did not distinguish between the hardship of free blacks and slaves, and when he attacked the summary execution law of South Carolina he observed that “[t]his law too was for free as well as slave—Negroes and mulattos.”94 While many arguments for slavery used ownership and property rights language, Quincy saw the underlying issue of race clearly.95
Quincy did not believe some of what he was told in South Carolina, and did his own assessments. To start, he did not believe the numbers reported to him.
A few years ago; it is allowed, that the Blacks exceeded the Whites as 17 to 1. There are those who now tell you, that the Slave are not more than 3 to 1, some pretend not so many. But they who talk thus are afraid that the Slaves should by some means discover their superiority: many people express great fears of an insurrection, others treat the idea as chimerical. I took great pains finding much contrariety of opinion to find out the true proportion the best information I could obtain fixes it at about 7 to 1, my own observation leads me to think it much greater.96
Modern scholarship has confirmed Quincy’s view. “[T]he low-country South Carolina planters [were] surrounded and outnumbered by slaves—in some regions by as much as seven or eight to one …”97
Quincy was one of the first to observe that slavery had a bad effect on the white population.98 Where there were fewer slaves, and they were better treated—as in North Carolina—they “are of consequence better servants.” The effect was also beneficial to the entire economy, with direct improvements in agriculture and a better work ethic for laborers of both races.99
The number of Negroes and slaves are vastly less in No[rth] than So[uth] C[arolina]. Their staple-commodity is not so valuable, being not in so great demand, as the Rice, Indigo, etc. of the South. Hence labor becomes more necessary, and he who has an interest of his own to serve is laborer in the field. Husbandmen and agriculture increase in number and improvement. Industry is up in the woods, at tar, pitch, and turpentine—in the fields plowing, planting, or clearing and fencing the land. Herds and flocks become more numerous, and they resemble not Pharoah’s lean kine, so much as thos of the Prov[ince] I had just left. You see husbandmen, yeomen and white laborers scattered thro’ country, instead of herds of Negroes and tawny slaves. Healthful countenances and numerous families become more common as you advance North.100
Quincy was also one of the first to recognize that cultural and linguistic influences went both ways, that black culture and language had a direct influence on whites—in part because many white children were raised by black nannies and household servants. He was not, however, advanced enough to see that this could be a cultural enrichment.
By reason of this Slavery; the children are early impressed with infamous and destructive ideas, and become extremely vitiated in their manners—they contract a negroish kind of accent, pronunciation, and dialect, as well as ridiculous kind of behavior:—even many of the grown people, and especially the women, are vastly infected with the same disorder. Parents instead of talking to their very young children in the unmeaning way with us, converse to them as tho’ they were speaking—to a new imported African.101
Quincy also made the link between slavery and the status of women. Abuse of power relationships between white masters and black slaves exploited both inequalities, and the ban on interracial marriage produced corrosive results.102 “The enjoyment of a negro or mulatto woman is spoken of as quite a common thing; no reluctance, delicacy or shame is made about the matter.”103
But Quincy’s most perceptive observation was how slavery generally brutalized the master class. “Applicable indeed to this people and their slaves are the words of Our Milton—Too perfect in their misery, Not one perceive their foul disfigurement.’”104
The brutality used towards the slaves has a very bad tendency with reference to the manners of the people, but a much worse with regard to the youth. They will plead in their excuse—“this severity is necessary.” But whence did or does this necessity arise? From the necessity of having vast multitudes sunk in barbarism, ignorance and the basest and most servile employ!105
The sophistication, wealth, and outward gentility of the Southern elite did not, in the end, escape this vicious and degrading influence.
In Charlestown and so thro’ the Southern prov[inces] I saw much apparent hospitality, much of what is called good-breeding and politeness, and great barbarity. In Brunswick, Willmington, Newbern Edenton, and so thro’ the North prov[inces] there is real hospitality, less of what is called politeness and good-breeding and less inhumanity.106
B. The Ideology of Quincy’s Opposition to Slavery
Quincy’s opposition to slavery could have been based on what, today, we would call utilitarian grounds. He had observed that slavery, while “generally thought and called by the people its [this land’s] blessing,” actually had severe economic drawbacks, and also, in Quincy’s view, degraded the quality of life for both races in demonstrable and objective ways.107 But this was not the primary basis for Quincy’s passionate objection. His primary objection grew from his political and legal ideology.
First, Quincy rejected the doctrine of racial inferiority. “The Africans are said to be inferior in point of sense and understanding, sentiment and feeling, to the Europeans and other white nations. Hence the one infer a right to enslave the other.”108 But this was a “contradiction of human character” that violated the will of God.109 “[T]hey would do well to remember that no laws of the (little) creature supercede the laws of the (great) creator. Can the institutions of man make void the decree of GOD!”110 This natural law argument was supplemented by a practical observation, which convinced Quincy that claims of racial superiority were manifestly bogus. There was so much “intercourse between the whites and blacks,” specifically between white male masters and black slaves, that racial distinctions were becoming a myth anyway. The “inferior” race could be the master’s own children! Indeed, on two occasions Quincy was shocked to see that the master’s son was waiting on table, as a slave!
A mischief incident to both these prov[inces] [South and North Carolina] is very observable, and very natural to be expected:—the intercourse between the whites and blacks … It is far from being uncommon to see a gentleman at dinner, and his reputed off-spring a slave to the master of the table. I myself saw two instances of this, and the company very facetiously would trace the lines, Lineaments and features of the father and mother in the Child, and very accurately point out the more characteristick resemblances. The fathers of neither of them blushed or seem disconcerted.111
Since this interracial “intercourse” was widely the fact, Quincy asked how—by any reasoning—slavery could be justified. It meant seeing your own offspring “in bondage and misery.”
An African Black labors night and day to collect a small pittance to purchase the freedom of his child: the American or European White man begets his likeness, and with much indifference and dignity of soul sees his progeny in bondage and misery, and makes not one effort to redeem his own blood.—Choice food for Satire—wide field for burlesque—and noble game for wit!—unless the enkindled blood inflame resentment, wrath and rage; and vent itself in execrations.112
From the same cause have their Legislators enacted laws touching negroes, mulattoes and masters which savor more of the policy of Pandemonium than the English constitution:—laws which will stand eternal records of the depravity and contradiction of the human character: laws which would disgrace the tribunal of Scythian, Aral, Hottentot and Barbarian are appealed to in decisions upon life limb and liberty by those who assume the name of Englishmen, freemen and Christians:—the place of trial no doubt is called a Court of Justice and equity—but the Judges have forgot a maxim of English law—Jura naturalia sunt immutabilian113 [“The laws of nature are unchangeable.”]
The worst example, in Quincy’s view, was the harsh summary laws of execution for both free blacks and slaves, without the guarantees of due process and jury trial afforded even the lowest person by English Common law.114 This was despite the London legal education, in the Inns of Court, enjoyed by several of the South Carolina bar.
A young lawyer Mr. Pinckney, a gentleman educated at the temple [Inner or Middle Temple of the Inns of Court] and of eminence dined with us. From him and the rest of the Company I was assured, that by the provincial laws of the place any two justices and 3 freeholders might and very often did instanter [“immediately”] upon view or complaint try a negro for any crime, and might and did often award execution of death—issue their warrant and it was done forthwith. Two Gentlemen present said they had issued each warrants several times. This law too was for free as well as slave—Negroes and molattoes. They further informed me, that neither Negroes or molattoes could have a Jury;—that for killing a negro, ever so wantonly, as without any provocation; they gave a late instance of this; that (further) to steal a negro was death, but to kill him was only fineable. Curious laws and policy! I exclaimed. Very true cried the Company but this is the case.115
Quincy did not expect that the law would ensure equality. His Law Commonplace carefully described a legal system where women, apprentices, and indentured servants, as well as slaves, enjoyed only limited rights.116 But there were some rights, both procedural and substantive, that were fundamental to the unwritten English constitution, and these attached to every human being. Quincy, as a good common lawyer, could not abide the laws of slavery, “laws which will stand eternal records of the depravity and contradiction of the human character.”117 And as a natural lawyer and a Christian, he could not abide what slavery did to corrupt our common humanity.
Mr. Lynch told me, that he knew several Negroes who had refused to implore a forgiveness when under sentence of death, tho’ a pardon was insured on this easy term. Preferring death to their deplorable state, they died with a temper deserving a better fate. There is much among this people of what the world call hospitality and politeness, it may be questioned what proportion there is of true humanity, Christian charity and love.118
C. The Politics of Slavery
Quincy did not oppose slavery because of its politics. He hated it for core ideological reasons that were quite independent of its political significance. But he understood that slavery also presented both immediate and long-term problems for his political agenda. As discussed before, Quincy was a product of the republican sentiment of the Enlightenment, so well described by Gordon Wood.119 This did not, in itself, make him a revolutionary, or even opposed to the monarchy, but it did establish ideals of civic virtue.120 It was these ideals that justified resistance to British colonial policies that encouraged cronyism and corruption in government, while evading political accountability.
Quincy was no egalitarian, but he understood that some inequalities directly influenced the political character of civil societies. While comparing North and South Carolina, Quincy observed that, “[p]roperty is much more equally diffused in one prov[ince] than the other, and this may account, for some, if not all, the differences of Character of the inhabitants.”121 Of course, slavery existed in both North and South Carolina. Indeed, it existed in Massachusetts.122 But in South Carolina the extent and invasive influence of slavery had changed the character of the people for the worse, even compared to North Carolina.
For this, and other reasons of concentrated wealth and agricultural economics, South Carolina’s leaders might be more vulnerable to manipulation by the British, at least in the short term. As Quincy observed:
The planter (like the fox) prides himself in saying the grapes are sower [sour]: his fortune inclines and makes him look with contempt on the official grandee.—Thus the rights and liberties of the State are in some measure safe—but from a very unstable cause. This government is composed of two aristocratic parts and one monarchical body: the aristocratic parts mutually dislike each other.—Let us suppose a change in British policy. Compose the Council of the first planters, fill all the Public offices with them—give them the honour of the State, and tho’ they don’t want them, give them it and emoluments also:—introduce Baronies and Lordships—their enormous estates will bear it. What will become of Carolinian freedom? The luxury, disipation, life, sentiments and manners, of the leading people naturally tend to make them neglect, dispise, and be careless of the true interests of mankind in general.—Hence we may suppose, that when a different policy is gone into with regard to this people, there will be a very calamitous alteration in the views and conduct of the Planters and therefore also with regard to the true interests of the province. State, magnificence and ostentation, the natural attendants of riches, are conspicuous among this people: the number and subjection of their slaves tend this way.123
And this was not just Quincy’s intuition. Political opponents to Quincy’s vision of a unified colonial resistance to British abuses seized on these differences to promote distrust of other colonies, Massachusetts in particular.124 Thus Thomas Shirley, “a hot sensible flaming tory … (a native of Britain),”
—Strongly urged that the Massachusetts were aiming at sovereignty over the other provinces; that they now took the lead, were assuming, dictatorial etc. “You may depend upon it (added he) that if G[reat]B[ritain] should renounce the Sovereignty of this Continent or if the Colonies shake themselves clear of her authority that you all (meaning the Carolinas and the other provinces) will have Governors sent you from Boston; Boston aims at Nothing less than the sovereignty of the whole continent; I know it.”125
When Quincy smoothly replied that Massachusetts “paid a very great respect to all the Sister provinces, that she revered, almost, the leaders in Virginia and much respected those of Carolina,”126 Shirley was unconvinced.
Mr. Shirley replied, when it comes to the test Boston will give the other provinces the shell and the shadow and keep the substance. Take away the power and superintendency of Britain, and the Colonies must submit to the next power. Boston would soon have that—power rules all things—they might allow the other a paltry representation, but that would be all.127
It would have been unfair to ask Quincy to look beyond the immediate threats that slavery presented to his mission of correspondence and unity, to the greater threat slavery would pose to a young republic after independence. As we will see in the section on Quincy’s politics, he—like Benjamin Franklin and most colonial advocates—was still seeking a political solution to colonial autonomy. But Quincy saw clearly the fault lines that slavery created between North and South. And he understood the terrible danger slavery presented in any long-term future for America. Having recounted the serious evils of slavery for the present, he uttered deeply prophetic words for the future. “These are but a small part of the mischief of Slavery—new ones are every day arising—futurity will produce more and greater.”128
Quincy had a great interest in different colonial religions and religious practices. Both Charleston and Philadelphia had a policy of toleration, including toward Jews and Catholics, but Quincy also encountered some bitter religious controversies, particularly in Maryland.129 Part of Quincy’s interest was the natural curiosity of an orthodox New England Congregationalist. He was genuinely interested in the practices of Anglicans, Catholics, Moravians, and Quakers, all of whose services he visited.130 But, as a son of the Enlightenment, Quincy was also well aware of the potential for divisiveness. The differences between the colonies were not just about the religions represented, but, perhaps more importantly, about the proper relationship between the state and religion. These differences could threaten colonial unity, as anyone with a sense of history would understand. As Frank Lambert observed:
Before the War of Independence, predictions abounded on both sides of the Atlantic that Americans could not form a lasting union. Among the reasons for the gloomy prognosis was the region’s religious diversity. The centrifugal forces of myriad sectarian interests, it was feared, would render futile any attempt at defining a common faith.131
Quincy understood this risk perfectly well. He was interested in religious differences for the same reason that he was interested in slavery, partly as a matter of principle, partly as matter of curiosity and partly as the basis for a hard-headed assessment about the likelihood of a united colonial front on key issues. Quincy had a low opinion of British cleverness in exploiting the differences between the colonies, but feared “a change in British policy” that would make it more effective.132
At present, the house of Assembly are staunch Colonists. But what is it owing to? Bad policy on the other side of the water.133
Slavery and religion were the sociological fault lines dividing the colonies, areas of dangerous practical vulnerability. So were the differing economic interests, and different standards of civic virtue. The lax state of the establishment religion in Charleston, mixed with slavery and an aristocracy of planters, made it subject to British bribery and manipulation.134 On the other hand, the god-fearing Quaker leadership of Philadelphia had high civic standards, but was unreliable on defense.135 These were not just theoretical issues to Quincy in 1773.
Quincy had a fine analytical mind, but the value of the Southern Journal always begins with his keen eye for detail and for the facts. When Quincy visits St. Phillip’s Church in Charleston, the famous Anglican citadel of the Rev. Robert Smith, he misses nothing. How was attendance? (“[V]ery few …”)136 How were the prayers read? (“[W]ith the most gay, indifferent and gallant air imaginable.”)137 Does the congregation bother to stand while singing hymns? (“[v]ery few men and no women …”)138 How long was the sermon? (Very short for Quincy’s time, 17 ½ minutes, on Job 22.21). And “it was very common in prayer as well as sermon-time to see gentlemen conversing together.”139 There were a lot of marble monuments and “a majority of both sexes … appear in mourning.”140 “I have seen and have been told, that mourning apparel at funerals is greatly in fashion.”141
Quincy had a low opinion of the established Anglican church in the South. This was partly due to the casual attitude of the congregation, “I could not help remarking the time of it, that here was not, certainly ‘solemn mockery,’”142 and also to the superficial content of the sermons.
This divine after shewing that avocations, business etc. precluded a certain species of acquaintance with GOD, very sagely said “I come now to show that there is a certain allowable acquaintance with GOD.” Qu. What kind of acquaintance can the Creature have with the Creator which is not allowable? [left margin, ll. 5–16]143
Observation of the Sabbath, a tenet of good Congregationalism strictly observed even by the grandmother of this author, was in sad disarray.
The Sabbath is a day of visiting & mirth with the Rich, and of license, pastime and frolic for the negroes. The blacks I saw in great numbers playing pawpaw, huzzle-cap, push penny, and quarrelling round the doors of the Churches in service time—and as to their priests—Voltaire says—“always speak well of the prior.”—The slaves who don’t frolic on the Sabbath, do all kinds of work for themselves on hire.144
The bottom line was that the state of religion was, to Quincy, a farce in South Carolina, and hardly better in North Carolina. In general, Quincy preferred the moral climate of North Carolina, something he attributed to it having fewer slaves.145 But there was no “Great Awakening” of religion there, either.
However, in one respect, I find a pretty near resemblance between the two Colonies: I mean the State of Religion. At a low ebb indeed in both Provinces. ’Tis certainly high time to repeal the Laws relative to religion and the observation of the Sabbath, or to see them better executed.146
Quincy, as a good lawyer, hated to see a law that was honored in the breach and would rather repeal the Sabbath laws than have them mocked. As to the religious differences between Congregationalism and Anglicanism, these concerned him far less than secular indifference to any religious values.
The situation in Virginia was hardly better. The missing pages 125 and 126 in the Southern Journal occur when Quincy begins to describe crimes with which an active clergyman was charged.147
The State of Religion here is a little better than to the South; tho I hear the most shocking accounts of the depravity and abominable wickedness of their established Clergy, several of whom keeping public taverns and open gaming houses: Other crimes of which one them (who now officiates) is charged and
[pages 125 and 126 are cut out]148
But it was the situation in Maryland that really interested Quincy.
The clergy and people of this prov:[ince] are ingaged in a very bitter, important contest, and if we may judge by their public papers ’tis like to prove a very wordy war. Til this controversy begun, which is not of very long standing, the clergy received from all taxables, which are all men, black and white, and all women, except white women, from sixteen to sixty, unless exempted for age or infirmity by the County-Court according to positive law, forty pounds of tobacco a year: and this tax is payable by all Religious sects and denominations without exception.149
If there was one thing that concerned Quincy more than religious indifference, it was an unreasonable sponsorship by the state of religion, backed by the taxing power of the state. Of course, Massachusetts certainly had, by today’s standards, an established religion.150 But the Maryland tax went too far. Quincy exclaimed:
Curious Craft!—Jesuitical policy! Rare sport for the genius of Voltaire! The clergy tell us with immaculate truth and still more unhypocritical solemnity, “the religion and kingdom of CHRIST and his followers are not of this world.” ’Tis certainly happy for mankind, that these assay-masters of religion and the faithful are inducted into their office by nothing more than temporary State-power, and their commissions are only durante hâc vita: [“during this life”] ’tis well well for the Cloth, that no express positive institution is in force and use, limiting their authority, revenue and office quam diu se bene & christianâ fide gesserint. [“As long as they shall behave themselves with Christian loyalty”]151
Despite the history of established Congregationalism in his native province, Quincy linked religious indifference to established religion. His concern was not about too much religion, but about degraded religion. Ironically, this led Quincy to admire a political order that protected religious diversity.
Thus, it was religion in Pennsylvania that most fascinated Quincy. It was almost like Quincy’s experience with the theater in New York, where he protested that he would never support such a thing in his colony, while attending performances almost every night!152 During his time in Philadelphia, Quincy attended Catholic masses, Episcopalian services, Quaker meetings and even received accounts “of Bethlem and it’s Inhabitants, who are all Moravians, … truly singular and surprising.”153 Nothing escaped him.
Of particular interest to Quincy was Catholicism. Philadelphia sheltered one of the oldest Catholic parishes in the English colonies, St. Joseph’s. It dated from 1733. St. Mary’s Church, across the street, was completed in 1763. They formed one parish.154 The parish was protected by William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, as were all Christian religions in Pennsylvania (Jews were also tolerated). At the time of Quincy’s visit the pastor was Father Robert Molyneux (1738–1808), a Jesuit, who, despite the official suppression of the order in 1773, continued his allegiance to the order.155
Quincy was fascinated. Nevertheless, he resisted, as a good Congregationalist “should,” “the force of superstition and priestcraft.”156
Went to the Public worship of a Romish Church. Such ceremony, pomp, and solemnity were surprising, entertaining and instructive. The Devotion of priest and people were evidences of the force of superstition and priestcraft. The deepest solemnity of worship and musick: the greatest sanctity of countenance and gesture.
While external forms and appearances made a deep impression on my own mind, I could easily conceive how much deeper they must impress others. While attention held me mute, reason lost part of her influence, and left subsequent reflection to lead me to a better judgment.
In the words of the NEW England psalms—“In me the fire enkindled is.”157
Quincy later visited both Father Molineux and another Jesuit, Father Ferdinand Farmer (1720–1786). His description of the visit remains one of the most important accounts of a Jesuit mission during the suppression. Father Farmer was from a Swabian family. He ministered to the German-Catholic congregation in Philadelphia, and founded the first Catholic congregation in New York in 1778. He also ministered to the Hessian regiments, but bravely refused to assist the British effort to raise a company of Catholic “volunteers” in 1777.158 Quincy described every detail of the visit, including the paintings in the Old Chapel at St. Joseph’s.
Mr. Molineux told us very freely that he and Mr. Farmer were both of the order of the Jesuits. He and the Sexton (a Dutchman) on entering the Chapel sprinkled themselves with holy water and crossed themselves: on approaching the Communion-table bowed the knee very low, and on entering within performed the same ceremony, and the like at their departure.159
Quincy then sought out a Moravian worship, and was less impressed.
Attended the Moravian—worship: the softest kind of vocal and instrumental musick made some compensation to the Ear for the gross affronts offered the understanding. (More incoherent, fulsome, absurd and almost impious nonsense I never heard.) The prayers, addresses and worship of this sect seem very much confined to the 2d person in the Trinity.160
Freedom of religion for both Moravians and Quakers presented a practical problem, as Quincy clearly recognized. Both groups had pacifist principles, and Benjamin Franklin had already experienced great difficulty in defending the colony against the French and Indians.161 Quincy was hopeful that they could be persuaded to support a defensive war.
There is no militia in the prov:[ince] and of course no seeking after petty commissions, etc.—The advantages and disadvantages of this is a topick of doubtful disputation:—we shall never all think alike on this head.—Many of the Quakers and all of the Moravians hold defensive war lawful; offensive otherwise.162
The Quakers were politically powerful, and nursed an “antipathy against New England” because of “severities used toward their ancestors in that province.”163 Quincy regarded these stories as “exaggerated,” although four Quakers had been executed in Massachusetts, including Mary Dyer.164 Despite their commitment to toleration, Quaker political power could be a threat to real religious diversity as well. “[B]y their union they defeat the operation of all other sects in question which any way relate to or may in the end affect religious concerns.”165 Quincy respected Quakers, “they are very public spirited,” but he clearly worried about this influence in the centrally important colony of Pennsylvania.166
Despite these daring experiments with what to Quincy were exotic religions, he did not neglect the more mainline churches in Philadelphia. There were detailed observations about St. Peter’s, the Episcopalian parish, and its Loyalist rector, Thomas Coombe (1744–1822). Quincy found Coombe “a little affected.” He used “look and gesture … not conformable to his subject, station and language.”167
Philadelphia, despite or perhaps because of its extraordinary religious diversity, had a remarkably secular leadership. Franklin, for example, was affiliated with no religious group.168 Quincy found him typical:
All sects of religionists compose this city; and the most influential, opulent and first characters scarce ever attend Public worship anywhere. This is amazingly general and arises partly from policy, partly from other causes. A man is sure to be less exceptionable to the many, more likely to carry his point in this prov:[ince] by neglecting all religious parties in general, than adhereing to any on[e] in particular. And they who call themselves Christians much sooner encourage and vote for a deist or an Infidel, than one who appears under a religious persuasion different from their own. “Tantum religio potuit suadere.” [“To such (evils) could religion urge people.”]169
B. Religion as Politics
Quincy’s descriptions of the diverse religious practices in the colonies were written on the eve of one of the great religious settlements in world history, the federal constitutional guarantees of 1787. As Frank Lambert has pointed out, all of the colonies, with the exception of those founded by William Penn and Roger Williams, “had organized church-state relations around the central idea of religious uniformity.”170 Yet, within a few years, a new political order would be established “believing that a free, competitive religious market would both ensure religious vitality and prevent religious wars.”171
But it was years before the first amendment would apply to the states. As Richard Beeman has observed, “[even] after the Revolution, the course … toward liberal democracy did not run straight and true.”172 This was so even in Quincy’s own Massachusetts. “Remaining true to the vision of a republican society founded upon the virtue of its citizens, Massachusetts also continued to endorse the connection between church and state, proclaiming in its constitution that “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality.”173
Quincy was a good enlightened republican, but at no point in his travels did he condemn a province for imposing piety by law. The only challenge was to South Carolina’s Sabbath laws, not because they were imposed, but because they were not enforced.174 Yet he saw clearly, as a policy matter, the evil of an established religion, particularly one that was imposed as a major financial burden on all sects, as in Maryland.175 In Quincy’s eyes, the evil of establishment was hardly too much piety, but too little, as a population became resentful and the leadership unobservant, cynical, or both. This Quincy found to be the case in South Carolina and Virginia.176
Pennsylvania offered another model, under the umbrella of Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. But it was no utopia. How much risk did powerful pacifist sects, like the Quakers and the Moravians, present to state security? More importantly, given a proliferation of competing sects, the ruling elites “scarce ever attend Public worship anywhere” because “[a] man is sure to be less exceptionable to the many, more likely to carry his point in this province, by neglecting all religious parties in general, than adhering to any one in particular.”177 Benjamin Franklin saw little wrong in this “nonsectarian virtue,” and it was his life-long political strategy in Pennsylvania.178 Quincy valued piety more, as part of republican civil virtue. He did not welcome its atrophy among the elites for any reason.
Yet the need to unite the colonies certainly spoke against the extension of established religion, and its inherent evils, to anything bigger than a province. While Quincy could, in 1773, hardly envision a true United States, he clearly opposed a continental religion. The model of tolerance, which he found both fascinating and problematic as a state policy in Pennsylvania, could be the only choice for any power beyond the colony itself. Thus Quincy balanced his “Enlightenment belief in liberty of conscience,”179 his suspicion of “superstition and priestcraft,”180 with his conviction that civic virtue included piety. As Gordon Wood has pointed out, the next generation of American leaders would learn the wisdom of this compromise. “Although some of the enlightened gentry remained immune to what was happening and like Jefferson and young John C. Calhoun … enthusiastically predicted that the whole country was rapidly on its way to believing Jesus was just a good man without any divinity, other liberal gentry knew better: Some of them, rational and enlightened as they had been, even came to find in old-fashioned supernatural Christianity a source of salvation for both their own despairing souls and the shattered soul of the country.”181
VII. LAWS AND LAWYERS
Quincy defined himself as a gentleman, a lawyer, and a patriot. He saw all three as, not only consistent, but corollaries. When those who defined themselves as lawyers did not behave as gentlemen, Quincy’s disapproval was evident, and a lawyer who did not love civic virtue and his country was a menace.182 Quincy was not as great a snob as John Adams when it came to professional elites, but Quincy did believe in an elite legal profession.183
Many of Quincy’s views on law and lawyers are to be found in other sections of this series, most obviously his Law Commonplace and his Reports. There are also some revealing letters, such as his famous reply to his father as to why he was representing British defendants, including Captain Preston, in the Boston Massacre case.184 But the Southern Journal offers us yet another perspective on Quincy’s professionalism, a comparative perspective.
Quincy and his contemporary “brethren” at the bar defined their professionalism by three criteria. First there was education. The law was a “learned” profession defined by both the general liberal knowledge expected of any gentleman and a specialized, or “artificial,” knowledge expected of an elite lawyer. The Southern Journal predated by eleven years the founding of America’s first professional law school, the celebrated Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut,185 and by a generation the founding of the oldest surviving American law school, the Harvard Law School, in 1817, a school in which Quincy’s son would play a major role. In Quincy’s day, the specialized knowledge required by lawyers was taught by apprenticeship and building commonplace books.186 But this did not excuse technical sloppiness, or ignorance of the English and the Roman legal heritage, at least not in Quincy’s view. Quincy, together with John Adams, James Otis Jr., Robert Treat Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Joseph Story, and many others went to no formal law school, but they saw themselves as lawyers with a serious legal education.187
Quincy also took seriously the formal organization of the Massachusetts bar, and he studied the structure, or lack thereof, in other colonies. Although Quincy himself was never formally admitted as a barrister, he certainly regarded himself as one.188 The bench, curiously enough, was not legally trained in Massachusetts, at least not until the appointment of Edmund Trowbridge (1709–1793) in 1765.189 (Chief Justice Thomas Hutchinson [1711–1780] regarded himself as a merchant.) But Quincy had strong ideas of professional structure here, as well. Judges should be appointed for life, pending good behavior, and should be independent from outside influence. They should be free of British salaries and not be British placeholders. They should also not mix being a judge with other political offices—particularly executive ones.190 Hutchinson was Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor simultaneously. In Quincy’s view, this would lead to serious trouble.191
Quincy also recognized that a true professional culture required a professional literature. This was not just a question of education, but of authority. To what could lawyers, litigants, and judges look for guidance if there were no law reports, no treatises, or no printed colonial statutes? If the only published authorities were English reports and statutes, the American Courts were being bound by the law they did not make or, worse, by no legal authority.192 Wherever he went, Quincy tried to buy law books, and asked about sources of law. While in South Carolina, he painstakingly copied a set of law reports.193 While in Virginia, he took care to obtain the latest treatise.194 He constantly re-supplied his own library.195
Finally, and most importantly, Quincy defined legal professionalism with a belief in a rule of law. Resort to illegal conduct, whether in the Stamp Act riots, the Boston Massacre, or the Tea Party, could rarely be justified, even given extreme provocation.196 Quincy defined his patriotism as a defense of the rights of Englishmen against tyranny, or law against corruption.
A. South Carolina
As discussed before, Quincy was appalled by the slavery laws of South Carolina, which he saw as antithetical to true rule of law, and also by the corrosive effect of planter society on civic virtue.197 This did not stop him from enjoying the gilded life of this society, with particular appreciation of the wine, silver, and china, or from making careful inquiry about the legal community in Charleston.198 He “[r]eceived complimentary visits” from several of the leading “Gentlemen of the Bar.” Several of these, such as Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Esq., had been educated in the Inns of Court in London. Pinckney had matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford, and the Middle Temple, which was a favorite with young men from South Carolina.199 Quincy said that he “[w]as much entertained by Mr. Pinckney’s conversation, who appeared a man of bright natural power, and impressed by a British education at the Temple.”200
Unlike Quincy’s Boston, it was common for young gentlemen in Charleston to have an English education. “[F]ew of the prosperous inhabitants … of Charleston had not crossed the Atlantic before the American Revolution and … sons of successful planters, merchants and professional men were sent to England for their education and general culture.”201 But “general culture” was a good term for the educational environment in the Inns of Court at the time, where serious legal study was ignored by many of the students, who instead enjoyed the good life of London.
Quincy quickly learned that Charleston legal culture was actually not very sophisticated, despite these English sojourns. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney presented him with “the only digest of the laws of the province,” William Simpson’s The Practical Justice of the Peace, and Parish-officer of … South Carolina (Charleston, printed by Robert Wells, 1761), which was already 12 years out of date.202 What was worse, there were no up-to-date printed collections of the statutes. “[T]here is no collections of the Laws of this Province in a book to be had …”203 This absence of any serious legal literature was outrageous. “No wonder their lawyers make from £2000 to £3000 sterling a year!”204
The bar seemed ignorant of even the most fundamental principles of the common law, the forms of action.205 These traditional categories, based on the old system of writs, defined wrongs that had legal remedies in the king’s courts, and remained a dominant force in American legal theory until the establishment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which abolished the traditional causes of action on September 16, 1938.206 But, as Quincy observed, “[t]he rule of Action altogether unknown to the people” in South Carolina.207
Modern scholarship has confirmed Quincy’s observation. According to Gordon Wood, “[L]ocal social superiority, and not any professional legal expertise, was what gave the justices the extraordinary discretionary authority they exercised.208
Law at times seemed to be pretty much what they said it was. For their judgments they scarcely worried about English practices or collections of ancient cases; they instead relied on their own untrained but ritualized sense of justice. Sometimes they even interpreted provincial Statutes to fit their local needs.209
It was easy to do that where, as Quincy discovered, the statutes were often unpublished!
Quincy was convinced of the need of a professional literature that was uniquely colonial, if not American, hence his Reports.210 While in South Carolina, he sought to buy any printed colonial sources, and also spent several days transcribing the manuscript law reports of Edward Rutledge (1749–1800).211 His own legal training, as represented by the Law Commonplace, focused on exactly the “collections of ancient cases” and “English practices” that Wood described as ignored in South Carolina.212
Of course, even the Massachusetts judges were, until Edmund Trowbridge’s appointment in 1767, laymen. But they were obsessed with legal precedents, both English and colonial, often asking the lawyers to find “more authority.”213 While Quincy’s Reports reveal a bench that was often “results driven,” men like Chief Justice Hutchinson were alert to precedent and authority, perhaps worrying even more than the lawyers about legal technicalities.214 In the Southern Journal, Quincy told an entertaining tale about Lord Mansfield and a wine glass. “[T]wo gentlemen being at a tavern. One of them gave the Pretender’s heath, the other refused to drink it, upon which he who gave the toast threw his glass of wine in the refuser’s face. For this an action of trepass was brôt …” Mansfield took a characteristically pragmatic approach, throwing out the case as “a most trifling affair,” to the horror of the plaintiff’s barrister—who exclaimed “[I]f the Jury don’t hear law from the Court, they shall from the Bar.”215 Quincy thought this a most instructive episode, and asked Pinckney “several times to repeat that I might be the better able to relate it,”216 comparing Mansfield’s action “with some maneuvers of the little GODS of the North.”217
One of Quincy’s greatest objections to the South Carolina legal establishment was appointment of judges by the Crown. This he blamed on the legislature’s foolishness in passing judicial salaries without ensuring life tenure for the native judges, “men of abilities, fortune and good fame.”218
Mark the sequel. No Assistant Judges had ever before been nominated in England. Immediately upon the king’s approving this last act, Lord Hillsborough in his zeal for American good forthwith sends over, one Chief Justice, and two assistant Justices, Irishmen, the other two, was the one a Scotchman, and the other a Welshman. How long will the simple love their simplicity? And ye, who assume the guileful name, the venerable pretext of friends to Government, how long will ye deceive and be deceived.219
Compensation and appointment of the judiciary was to become a major issue in Massachusetts, as well. Quincy could work with a lay judiciary that had the security of a quam diu se bene gesserint (good behavior) tenure, but a judiciary of placemen was an insult to his professionalism.220
Quincy was no egalitarian, and he respected the elitist hierarchy of the South Carolina bar, at least “the three first-lawyers in the Province; James Parsons, John Rutledge “and Old Charles Pinckney,”221 although he thought the bar overpaid.222 But he also deeply distrusted the lack of learning and professional literature in the colony. In his view, the lack of judicial tenure was a result of this culture of patronage and power.
The Gentlemen (planters and merchants) are mostly men of the turff and gamesters. Political enquiries and philosophie disquisitions are too laborious for them: they have no great passion for to shine and blaze in the forum or Senate.223
But part of the problem was slavery itself. Quincy’s outrage at the summary execution laws, “for free as well as slave—Negroes and molattoes … Curious laws and policy!,” reflected his conviction that no common law system was secure without an underpinning of fundamental rights.224 An elegant and wealthy legal profession aside, this precondition, of a rule of law in colonial South Carolina, was the hostage of racism. “[B]ut the Judges have forgot a maxim of English law—Jura naturalia sunt immutabilia [“the laws of nature are unchangeable”] and they would do well to remember that no laws of the (little) creature supercede the laws of the (great) creator.”225
South Carolina represented a flawed legal system to Quincy, but North Carolina represented no legal system, “no C[our]ts of any kind sitting or even being in the province.”226 Ravaged by the Regulator campaign of 1771 and the retaliation of the Tryonists after the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771, the colony was, legally, in terrible shape. Quincy carefully copied a royal decree of February 4, 1772, directed to the Governor of North Carolina prohibiting collection of debts from those outside the colony “otherwise than is allowed by law in Cases of a like nature within our kingdom of Great Britain.”227 He found the premise questionable, and the decree pointless.
The present state of No[rth] C[arolina] is really envious: there are but 5 laws in force thro’ the Colony, and no Courts at all in being. None can recover their debts except before a single magistrate where the sums are within his jurisdiction, and offenders escape with impunity. The people are in great consternation about the matter: What will be the consequences are problematical: many people, as Lord Bottetourt says “augur ill” on the occasion.228
Assuming the “5 laws” were the “Six Confirmed Laws” of 1715, Quincy was being a little unfair, as these were “really a codification of all statutes prior to that year.”229 But Quincy was diligently looking for a legal culture, and found a vacuum. “There being no C:[our]ts of any kind in this province and no laws in force by which any could be held, I found little inclination or incitement to stay long in Edenton, tho’ a pleasant town.”230 The formal presence of laws on the books was irrelevant without such a culture. As Quincy observed of both Carolinas, “’Tis certainly to the last degree false politicks to have laws in force which the legislators, judges and executive officers not only break themselves, but practically and too often openly and avowedly deride. Avowed impunity to all offenders is one sign at least that the Law wants amendment or abrogation.”231 Quincy enjoyed riding through the North Carolina countryside in the Spring (“[e]xcellent farms and charming large cleared tracts … Peach-trees … I had them all-along in their proudest bloom.”).232 But legally, the province was a desert.
Quincy’s visit to Virginia would seem particularly exciting, both to him and to historians today. After all, this was the colony that could, with the most justification, rival the North. The College of William and Mary, with a royal charter of 1693, was second only to Harvard in seniority. It would be there, in 1779, that George Wythe (1726–1806) would be appointed “professor of law and police,” the first “law professor” in America.233 And it would be Wythe who would be “law preceptor” to Thomas Jefferson.234 But, in 1773, it was a disappointment to Quincy, “’Tis inferior much to my expectation.”235
Williamsburg was, in general, not impressive. “Nothing of the population of the North, or the magnificence and splendor of the South.”236 The College itself was a true disappointment. “The College in this place is in a very declined state.”237 The architecture was handsome, “but in the rear it is scandalously out of repair.”238
Quincy, nevertheless, immediately set about seeking law books, and was successful in obtaining The Acts of Assembly published in Williamsburg in 1769, “a very handsome Edition.”239 In addition, he was greatly impressed by the law library of the State House Council Chamber, “a large, well chosen, valuable collection of Books; chiefly of law.”240 He also, as was his custom, attended the courts.
These were also unimpressive. Like a good common lawyer, Quincy was wary of the equity jurisdictions, and other special jurisdictions, particularly those that combined executive with judicial power.241 In Massachusetts, the Superior Court of Judicature had jealously defended its jurisdiction against the Vice-Admiralty Court, and colonial lawyers well knew that the Crown preferred the latter, which evaded local juries.242 The situation in Virginia was far worse.
The Constitution of the Courts of Justice and equity in this colony is amazingly defective, inconvenient and dangerous, not to say absurd and mischievous. This motley kind of Court called the Gen:1 Court is composed of the Governor and Council, who are appointed and created by mandamus [direct prerogative order] from the Crown, and hold bene placito [as long as it “pleased” the Crown]. I am told that it is no uncommon thing for this Court to set one hour and hear a cause as a Court of Law; and the next hour, perhaps minute, to set and audit the same matter as a Court of Chancery and equity: and if my information is good, they very frequently give directly contrary decisions.243
As Quincy well knew, equity jurisdiction should be barred where there was an adequate remedy at Law. Concurrent equity jurisdictions undercut common law authority, and replaced it with the discretion of judges appointed at royal discretion.244
It was a matter of speculation with me how such a constitution and form of judicial administration could be tolerable: I conversed with divers who seemed to have experienced no inconvenience and of course to apprehend no danger from this quarter; yet they readily gave into my sentiments upon the subject, when I endeavored to show the political defects and solecism of this constitution. However I saw none who gave me any satisfactory account of the true reason that more mischievous consequences had not flowed from this source.245
Quincy wished to learn more about what, to him, was a dangerous system. But in Virginia, Quincy’s “web of gentility,” his system of introductory letters, failed him.
Perhaps it was owing to my misfortune in having no Letters to any of the Bar, and but one to any Gentlemen within many miles of Williamsburgh, tho’ I had many to persons of distinction expected in town next week. I could only regret, but many circumstances deprived me of remedying, this inconvenience.246
Even so, Quincy “spent the Evening with two of the Councils of the Province,” and was obliged to decline an introduction to the Governor, the Earl of Dunmore, the next day.247
It has been mentioned before that Quincy was alert to gender issues. He was particularly concerned about the effect of the entail, which tended to limit inheritance to issue of the blood and prevent free alienability.248 Many entails created an interest “in tail male,” restricting the estate to male heirs of the blood; this could effectively bar women from holding property. Massachusetts had, by colonial law, replaced primogeniture, which favored the eldest male, with coparcenage, which gave women equality of inheritance, and the Superior Court of Judicature had looked cautiously on efforts to replace this relatively egalitarian jurisprudence by leaving property entailed. Even in England, free alienation had been encouraged by a judicial fiction, the “Common Recovery,” which permitted a tenant in tail in possession to bar the entail and sell a free title.249 But Virginia, to Quincy’s dismay, was even more conservative than the home country. “An Aristocratical spirit and principle is very prevalent in the Laws policy and manners of this Colony, and the Law ordaining that Estates-tail shall not be barred by Common Recoveries is not the only instance thereof.”250 All in all, Virginia had not lived up to its reputation.
D. Maryland and Pennsylvania
Quincy was deeply interested in Maryland agriculture, particularly tobacco. He was also deeply interested in Pennsylvania politics. But his comments on the law became sparse, even though he “spent about 3 hours in company with the famous Daniel Dulany, Esq. [1722–1797, educated at Eton, Cambridge, and the Middle Temple] the Attorney General of the province [Maryland] and several others of the Bar, and Gentlemen of the province.”251 In particular, his efforts to observe Maryland courts were disappointing.
I attended the Supreme (called the Provincial) Court on two Days, but no one cause or motion was argued, and I had therefore no good opportunity to judge of the talents of the Bar, but from some little specimens and appearances I conjecture here is not much of the superlative.252
In Pennsylvania, he “[f]easted with the Superior Court Judges and all the Bar on Turtle etc.,” and had a letter of introduction to Joseph Reed (1741–1785), another leader of the bar educated at the Middle Temple in London.253 He was “waited upon … for about an hour by Chief Justice [William] Allen [1704–1780] and his sons.”254 He even attended the Superior Court for three days, of which he had a low opinion.255
I attended 3 several days the setting of the Superior Court, (which is as contemptible a one as I ever saw.) Without learning, dignity and order a Court will soon loose much of it’s authority and more of it’s repute.256
But except for a few summary remarks, “[t]he Bar are a very Respectable body.”257 Quincy’s Pennsylvania interests had switched from law to politics and religion.258 What interested him about Chief Justice Allen was Allen’s attack on Franklin, including the Chief Justice’s outrageous accusation that “Dr. Franklin was the first proposer of the Stamp Act.”259 Quincy’s interest in New York would run more to the theater than the law, and he would have nothing to say about the Rhode Island legal system either.
Quincy was an American Whig. As Bernard Bailyn has observed, “The ultimate origins of this distinctive ideological strain lay in the radical social and political thought of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth period; but its permanent form had been acquired at the turn of the seventeenth century and in the early eighteenth century, in the writings of a group of prolific opposition theorists, “country” politicians and publicists.260 Excerpts from these writers filled Quincy’s Political Commonplace Book of 1770–1774, and their vocabulary of civic responsibility and public virtue filled the pages of the Southern Journal.261
One way to define Quincy’s politics is to compare him to Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), with whom Quincy’s life was to become closely linked. Quincy was initially very suspicious of Benjamin Franklin, “a very trimmer—a very courtier,”262 and recorded negative reports about him from Chief Justice Allen and others in Pennsylvania. “I find men who are very great foes to each other in this province, unite in their doubts, insinuations and revilings of Franklin.”263 But in two years, Quincy would be working in close cooperation with Franklin on the mission that would end Quincy’s life. In the margin of the Southern Journal, next to his original notes, Quincy added, “I am now fully convinced [Franklin] is one of the wisest and best of men upon Earth.”264
This switch is hardly surprising, because, at the core, Quincy and Franklin shared a closely matched politics—a pragmatic politics that sought to avoid risk and conflict, when possible, and to get things done by emphasizing common ground and building coalitions.265 They also came to see the relative strengths and weaknesses of the colonies in the same way, and developed a similar strategy in how to confront British claims. Only very late in the day did they both become convinced that conflict was inevitable and then they faced very real danger with a patriotic courage.266
With “twenty-twenty” historical hindsight it is easy to overlook or belittle the efforts of those on both sides of the Atlantic who sought a negotiated political solution. Indeed, such a solution today almost seems unpatriotic. But Franklin and Quincy were both men of cold courage—they stayed in England long after it was safe to do so—and were devoted with all their hearts to the colonial cause. As my co-editor, Neil L. York, has powerfully demonstrated, there was no structural reason why the Revolution was inevitable. Speaking of Lord Dartmouth, a man of “conscience”267 who sought a “solid, honourable, and lasting” reconciliation,268 York observes, “[t]hat a solution eluded him had much more to do with practical than theoretical concerns, with the breakdown of political trust rather than with constitutional impossibility.”269 “Anglo-American relations lacked what Hans Kelsen has called a grundnorm, a complementary set of interests and a shared identity.”270 All this. of course. was only obvious after the fact, while the dangers of war were only too apparent.
In addition, Quincy had some of his own concerns about “political trust” and “grundnorm”—on the colonial side. It was clear that his Southern journey had its own political agenda. Quincy was a member of the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and almost certainly delivered more letters than he noted in the Southern Journal.271 “The plan of Continental correspondence highly relished, much wished for and resolved upon, as proper to be pursued.”272 But more importantly, Quincy was concerned about whether, as a practical matter, the colonies had enough shared interests and trust to work together.273 And, like Franklin, he was well aware of the danger to the colonial cause if the British became more skilled in exploiting mutual suspicion between the colonies. Even at the end of his Southern journey, Quincy lamented, “the prevalent and extended ignorance of one colony of the concerns of another.”274
A. Hunter, the Dishonest Purser
The first major discussion of politics in the Southern Journal took place under very odd conditions. One of Quincy’s shipmates was John Alexander Hunter, the former “purser on board his majesty’s 20 gun ship of war lying in Boston,”275 who had been caught stealing. Quincy, quoting a well-known poem of Sir Samuel Garth, observed. rather kindly, “see Little villains hung by great.”276 Quincy was very seasick, but could not resist a political debate.
Good GOD! … why do I complain? What reason had I to expect any thing better. A government that is arbitrary is always unjust: a tyranny in one or more is always cruel and unrighteous.277
Quincy could not resist the opportunity to test Hunter’s enlightenment.
Hunter was a man of good natural powers; considerably acquainted with essays and the Belles Lettres, tho’ not learned or conversant with the severer studies. I took this opportunity to start the controversy between G[reat] B[ritain] and the Colonies. I spoke of the conduct of both; of present measures and of the probable consequences. I hoped hence to draw the general opinions of his Core and also what must have frequently transpired in his company for the last 7 years.278
Hunter rose to the challenge
Very true, said he, Mr. Q[uincy] we all know this. Great Britain has no right to tax you. The ministry know it as well as you, but money must be had some where. Every thing is strained to the utmost at home. The people of England see, as well as you, that N[orth] America must one day be independent, and tis her interest and most certainly of the present administration to prevent this as much as possible: And they will prevent it for a much longer time than you imagine. For you can’t contend with the powers of Britain, whose navy conquers the World; and your first men are all bought off and will be more and more so in proportion as the ministry are wise and well informed. And who can blame them for it, they are in the right of it to do it, and you are in the right of it to make opposition, but all will not do. You must submit for a great while yet to come. Why all the world are slaves, and N[orth] America can’t hope to be free.279
This, of course, really aggravated the good Whig in Quincy and his inherent belief in civic virtue. “I almost stormed. The agitation did my health good, if nothing more; for I wanted my blood to circulate.”280
Upon my telling him, that the present steps of the British government were to the last degree iniquitous, repugnant to the first notions of right and wrong:—“Oh (Mr. Q[uincy] (he replied) what do you tell of that for, there can be no government without fraud and injustice!—All government is founded in corruption. The British government is so. There is no doing without it in State-affairs.”281
Now Quincy was really furious, observing that “this was a clencher.”282 He replied:
“Well I hope Mr. H[unter] you will never more complain of arbitrary proceedings and wrong and cruelty seeing such is the government you have served and are now raging to be employed by. ‘Yes, yes, when it touches one’s-self, we have rights to complain. Damn it, was ever any one served as I have been? Admiral M. has himself to my knowledge done ten times as bad, and yet the rascal, the scoundrel persecuted me with unrelenting, brutal cruelty.”283
Quincy then “let matters drop,”284 but concluded with an observation which would prove deeply troubling in retrospect. “How little variant is this Gentleman from those Zealots for Liberty, who are the Enslavers of Negroes?”285 Of course, Quincy was on his way to see exactly such people in South Carolina. The matter came up again, in England when Colonel Isaac Barré observed that two-thirds of the English thought, “Americans were all negroes.”286 Quincy replied, “I did not the least doubt it, for if I was to judge by the late acts of Parliament, I should suppose that a majority of the people of Great Britain still thought so, for I found that their representatives still treated them as such.”287 Quincy’s exchange with Hunter demonstrated the deep sources of Quincy’s political culture, his enlightenment Whiggism, and his profound belief in the triumph of civic virtue over special interests.288 But it also revealed the greatest challenge to that political faith, slavery. As Richard Beeman has observed, slavery shaped the attitude of colonists, particularly in the South “toward power and authority.”289 As a future age would say, there was the potential for a “train wreck.”
South Carolina would repeat Hunter’s challenge to Quincy’s political faith in immediate and harsh terms. On the one hand, British policies—particularly the dumping of placemen like Hunter on the colony—had created resentment.290 But there was also deep suspicion of the North.291
To begin, there was a stronger British presence. Quincy met a number of British “natives,” as he called them. “Nothing that I now saw raised my conceptions of the mental abilities of this people: but my wrath enkindled when I considered a King’s Gov[ernment].”292 Some of these also took Quincy on directly in political debate, such as Mr. Thomas Shirley, “a hot sensible flaming tory.”
Politicks started before dinner: a hot sensible flaming tory, one Mr. Thomas Shirley (a native of Britain) present: he had advanced that G[reat] B[ritain] had better be without any of the Colonies; that she committed a most capital political blunder in not ceeding Canada to France: that all the Northern Colonies to the Colony of New York and even NY also were now working the Bane of G[reat] B[ritain]: that GB would do wisely to renounce the Colonies to the North and leave them a prey to their continental neighbors or foreign powers: that none of the political writings or Conducts of the Colonies would bear any examination but Virginia and none could lay any claim to [e]ncomium but that province etc.293
Regional suspicions and jealousies were exploited.
[Shirley] [s]trongly urged that the Massachusetts were aiming at sovereignty over the other provinces; that they now took the lead, were assuming, dictatorial etc. “You may depend upon it (added he) that if G[reat]B[ritain] should renounce the Sovereignty of this Continent or if the Colonies shake themselves clear of her Authority that you all (meaning the Carolinas and the other provinces) will have Governors sent you from Boston; Boston aims at Nothing less than the sovereignty of the whole continent; I know it.”294
It was easy to see the drift of this discourse: I remarked that all this was new to me; that if it was true, it was a great and good ground of distrust and disunion between the colonies; that I could not say what the other provinces had in view or thôt but I was sure that the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts paid a very great respect to all the Sister provinces, that she revered, almost, the leaders in Virginia and much respected those of Carolina.295
This, of course, was tactful fabrication. As we have seen, Quincy’s view of Carolina leadership was far from respectful.296 And Quincy’s response certainly did not thwart Shirley.
Mr. Shirley replied, when it comes to the test Boston will give the other provinces the shell and the shadow and keep the substance. Take away the power and superintendency of Britain, and the Colonies must submit to the next power. Boston would soon have that—power rules all things—they might allow the other a paltry representation, but that would be all.297
“The Company seemed attentive—and incredulous” and “were taking sides” when dinner was called.298 Quincy believed that Shirley suspected him. “From his singular looks, and behavior I suspected he knew my political path.”299
Quincy carefully observed the South Carolina House of Assembly. Like the British Parliament, there was a mace laid before the speaker to begin the sessions, and the Speaker was “robed in black and has a very large Wigg of State, when he goes to attend the Chair (with the Mace borne before him) on Delivery of speeches etc.”300 But the conduct of the members was less impressive. They used “singular expressions for a member of parliament” and were sloppy.
The members conversed, lolled, and chatted much like a friendly jovial society, when nothing of importance was before the house:—nay once or twice while the Speaker and clerk were busy in writing the members spoke quite loud across the room to one another.—A very unparliamentary appearance.301
More importantly, Quincy’s Whig politics distrusted any society that relied on a paternal aristocracy, described by Richard Beeman as “complacent oligarchs.”302 Despite Quincy’s own consciousness of gentility, and of his own gentility, his was a profoundly middle-class politics. Civic virtue required education, diligence, and a responsible “yeomanry.”303 In South Carolina, “[t]he inhabitants may well be divided into opulent and lordly planters, poor and spiritless peasants and vile slaves.”304 The legislature was dominated by the planter aristocracy, almost all of whom actually lived in Charleston “during the sickly months.”305
’Tis true they have a house of assembly: but who do they represent? The laborer, the mechanic, the tradesman, the farmer, husbandman or yeoman? No. The representatives are almost if not wholly rich planters:—the Planting interest is therefore represented but I conceive nothing else (as it ought to be.)306
While many of the Assembly were “staunch Colonists,” they were vulnerable.307 Their allegiance was based on “bad policy on the other side of the water.”308 That could change. At the moment the British were packing the “Council Judges and other great officers” with placemen “disconnected and obnoxious to the people.”309
Let us suppose a change in British policy. Compose the Council of the first planters, fill all the Public offices with them—give them the honour of the State, and tho’ they don’t want them, give them it and emoluments also:—introduce Baronies and Lordships—their enormous estates will bear it What will become of Carolinian freedom?310
In short, these could be unreliable allies.
The whole body almost of this people seem averse to the claims and assumptions of the British Legislature over the Colonies; but you will seldom hear even in political conversations any warm or animated expressions against the measures of administration. Their fiercer passions seem to be employed upon their slaves …311
North Carolina was initially more reassuring to Quincy, despite a dearth of laws and almost no functioning legal system.312 There were fewer slaves and “[y]ou see husbandmen, yeomen, and white laborers scattered thro’ the country instead of herds of Negroes and tawny slaves.”313 “Healthful countenances and numerous families become more common as you advance North.”314 “Property much more equally diffused,”315 and the people seemed better educated. “Arts and sciences are certainly better understood …”316
But Quincy was unable to make much sense of the colony’s recent political troubles. In coastal South Carolina, he had heard accounts of the back-country “Regulator” uprising. These accounts favored, naturally enough, Governor Tryon and the coastal forces of “law and order.”317 Now he encountered both “sensible Tryonists”318 and others of a very different opinion, those who supported the Regulators.319
Quincy stayed with William Hill, Esq., one of the men interested in the Committee of Correspondence. He was a curious mix of Crown officer and “staunch whig and colonist.” “Hot and zealous in the Cause of America he relished the proposed Continental correspondence, promised to promote it and write me by the first opportunity.”320
Hill gave Quincy a “Tryonist” account of the uprising.
This Gentleman gave me at night a 3 hours minute relation of the motives, views and proceedings of the Regulators, with a particular account of the battle of Allamanze [Alamance, May 16, 1771], and the proceedings of both parties before and after the action. Being on the field he was able to give me a good account. I begun to change my opinion of the Regulators and Governor Tryon.321
The Whig in Quincy had sided with the back countrymen who had resisted the royal governor and his corruption. But he was also hostile to mob violence and disruption of the courts and the law. Hill appealed to that side of Quincy’s nature. But, the next day, Quincy heard a different account.
But as is common on the next day. Breakfasted with Col. Dry, the Collector of the Customs and one of the Council.—A friend to the Regulators and seemingly warm against the measures of British and Continental administrations he gave me an entire different account of things. I am now left to form my own opinion322
Quincy’s ambivalence was symbolic of the danger that separatist movements would present to the new Republic. As Richard Beeman’s excellent account of the Regulator Movement has pointed out, an independence movement predicated on resisting authority, like the American Revolution, could not, at the same time, tolerate divisions that could be exploited by the British or other enemies.323 The Regulator Movement, eventually, was so exploited by the British, and a similar uprising, Shays’ Rebellion (1786–1787), was to occur in Quincy’s own state after the Revolution.324 As Beeman noted, all such movements “were testimony to the existence of at least an underlying threat to political integration within the new nation.”325
In any event, Quincy found the aftermath of the uprising “problematical.”326 Sympathy for resistance to royal authority was one thing, but here “[n]one can recover their debts …” a point of importance to a wealthy man like Quincy.327 “The people are in great consternation about the matter.”328 Nor did any of this bode well for colonial unity. Even North and South Carolina had little in common. “There is very little, if any kind, of commerce or intercourse between the No[rth] and So[uth] prov of Carolina, and there is very little, if any more, of regard in the Inh[abitan]ts of the one Colony for those of the other.”329
No wonder Quincy took a pragmatic view of the struggle for colonial autonomy!
C. Proprietorial Politics: Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania
At the conclusion of the Southern Journal, Quincy “hazard[ed] an eccentric Conjecture.”330 It was “that the Penn, Baltimore or Fairfax familys will hereafter contend for the dominion—and one of them perhaps attain the sovereignty—of North America.”331 This extraordinary idea, from a man whose views of the future were often prescient,332 was based on his experiences in the three colonies dominated by actual proprietorship parties, in the case of Pennsylvania and Maryland, or the de facto proprietorship of the Fairfax family in Virginia.333
Although Quincy visited Williamsburg and “Spent the Evening with two of the Councils of the Province, and our conversation was wholly political (and inquisitive),”334 there is very little about Virginian politics that has survived in the Southern Journal. (The two excised pages, cut from the Southern Journal, were in the section on Virginia.)335 Quincy had to turn down an offer to meet the Governor, the Earl of Dunmore, and most of his attention was directed to defects in the court systems336 and the sorry state of religion.337
It is particularly frustrating that pages 125 and 126 were cut out, as the next words are directed to Quincy’s view of the Virginian constitution.
safe-guard from future invasions and oppressions. I am mistaken in my conjecture, if in some approaching day Virginia does not more fully see the capital defects of her constitution of gov:t and rue the bitter consequences of them.338
It is possible that Quincy was continuing to refer to the General Court, with its “amazingly defective, inconvenient and dangerous, not say absurd and mischievous” mixture of common law jurisdiction with discretionary equitable relief, discussed above.339 But Quincy may also have addressed the serious political problems of Virginia’s pre-revolutionary elite, so well described by Beeman as the “pursuit of the deferential ideal.”340 Certainly the power of the Fairfax and Carter families in the House of Burgesses would have been disquieting to a Whig. And Quincy had a poor view of the Virginia gentry. “They have several wise men and patriots; but even these are much belied, if they have not been guilty of practices inconsistent with common honesty.”341 The yeomanry was little better. The average man was a good farmer, but not well educated or politically sophisticated. “The Commonality and farmers thro’ this province were vastly more ignorant and illiterate kind of people than with us …”342
The “commonality” of Maryland appeared to be an improvement.
The commonality seem in general thro’ this province to be well dispositioned and friendly towards strangers, and pretty industrious: But I saw nothing to lead me to suppose they in any measure surpassed the New Englanders in either of these respects.343
But that colony was also locked in internal divisions. There was “the very bitter, important contest” about the clergy tax, already discussed.344 In addition, two of the colony’s most prominent men, “men of prodigious fortunes,” were locked in a political battle “with amazing mutual hatred and bitterness.”345 The two protagonists were Daniel Dulany (1722–1797), the Attorney General of the Province, and Charles Carroll (1736–1832). “[T]heir families have been at open enmity many years.”346
A most bitter and important dispute is subsisting and has long subsisted in this province touching the fees of this officers of the colony and the Governor’s proclamation relative thereto.—At the conference of the two houses (which I have in print) the Dispute was conducted (by it is universally said) by Daniel Dulany of the Council and the Speaker Tillingman and [blank] of the Lower House. This dispute tho’ managed with good sense and spirit, breaths an acrimony, virulence, and unmannerly invective not honorary to the parties and inconsistent with the rules and dignity of parliament.347
The two men attacked each other regularly in the press, Dulany writing as ‘Antilon’ and Carroll as ‘First Citizen.’348 Carroll was a leader of the colony’s “upwards of 5000 Roman Catholicks,”349 and Quincy observed that Carroll and his father “each of them [kept] a Priest and Private Chapel in their respective houses.”350 Carroll would become a leading patriot, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, while Dulany would later lose his property as a loyalist.351
The irony in all this is Quincy was an admirer of Dulany!
I spent about 3 hours in company with the famous Daniel Dulany, Esq. (author of the Considerations) [Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies (1765)] the Attorney General of the province and several others of the Bar, and Gentlemen of the province. Dulany is a Diamond of the first water:—a gem that may grace the cap of a patriot or the turban of a Sultan.352
In fact, Quincy’s entire account of the Dulany-Carroll conflict seems little concerned with the merits, on which one would assume Quincy would favor Carroll’s position. Rather, Quincy’s real concern was focused on the simple inappropriateness, “not honorary [sic] to the parties,” of the political invective.353 This, of course, would be consistent with Quincy’s sense of “gentry” and genteel conduct, which caused him to conceal his outrage during Charleston dinner parties.354 But it also was consistent with Quincy’s fear of internal dissensions within the colonies. Indeed, here was another example of internal dissension within the colonies which—as it turned out—would again play itself out during the Revolution, with Carroll the patriot, and Dulany the loyalist.
Quincy did not like Baltimore, “poor, diminutive, little city” making “a very contemptible appearance,”355 but he saw Pennsylvania as a model of good government. “As soon as you enter Pennsylvania—government the regularity, goodness, and the strait, advantageous disposition of Public Roads are evidences of the good policy and laws of this well regulated province.”356 In Pennsylvania, Quincy met with important colonial leaders, such as “The Farmer,” John Dickinson (1732–1802),357 Joseph Reed (1732–1802),358 and Jonathan Smith (1742–1812).359 He also met with men who would be loyalists, such as Jared Ingersoll (1722–1781).360 “Our Discourse altogether political, polite and entertaining.”361 It was here that Quincy encountered criticism of Benjamin Franklin from the likes of Chief Justice William Allen (1704–1780) and others.362 This was ironic, and not just because of Quincy’s later close collaboration with Franklin, for Franklin was one of the chief architects of the Whig nature of Philadelphia so attractive to Quincy.363 The people were prosperous, and even the streets were orderly:
The streets of Philadelphia intersect each other at right angles, and it is probably the most regular and best laid out city in the world:—perhaps equal to Babylon of Old; and peradventure in other less-eligible respects may equal it, within the compass of two centuries:—I mean in numbers, wealth, splendor, luxury and vice.—364
But “wealth, splendor, luxury and vice” did not deflect these hardworking burghers from the solid middle-class values so central to Quincy’s Whig ideology.
The Pennsylvanians as a body of people may be justly characterized as industrious, sensible and wealthy: the Philadelphians as commercial, keen and frugal: their economy and reserve have sometimes been censured as civility and avarice, but all that we saw in this excellent city was replete with benevolence, hospitality, sociability and politeness, joined with that prudence and caution natural to an understanding people who are alternately visited by a variety of strangers differing in rank, fortune, ingenuity and character.365
This was combined with a liberal toleration for differences in religion, an investment in public buildings, and a legislative body acting “in names of the Governor by and with the consent and advice of the freeman of the prov:[ince]….” Here was much to be admired.366
But all was not well. Quincy, like Franklin, saw civic virtue constantly undermined by the special interests of the proprietary party, acting under the influence of the Penn establishment: John, Thomas and Richard Penn.367
There is a proprietary influence in this prov:[ince] destructive of a liberal conduct in the legislative branch and of [blank] in the executive authority here. The House of Representatives are but 36 in number, as a body held in great, remarkable and general contempt: much despised for their base acquiescence with the laws and measures of the proprietary party, and singularly odious for certain provincial maneuvers too circumstantial to relate.368
This infected the legislative system with “influence,” i.e., the special interests that Quincy detested as the antithesis of civic virtue. Even the sessions were secret.
Their debates are not public, which is said now to be the Case of only this house of Commons throughout the Continent. Many have been the attempts to procure an alteration in this respect but all to no purpose. The influence which governs this house is equal if not superior to anything we hear of but that which governs the British parliament; and the proprieter is said to have as dead a set [“Fix”] in a Pennsylvania Assembly as Lords Bute or North in the English house of commons. This Government is in great danger from this quarter.369
Fortunately, the Penn aristocracy was crippled by weakness of character and ability. “But a lineal successive defeat of capacity, want of policy, glaring avarice and oppressive measures in the Penn-family is said to have prevented and guarded against much of the mischief which might otherwise have taken place.”370 But there was always a danger that a Penn of real ability might “arise from this [stalk].”371
But should a subtle and genuine keen modern statesman (a Sir Robert Walpole for Instance) arise from this stoic [stalk], great and important maneuvers may be expected. This family lost much of their Prov:[incia]l influence by renouncing the Religion of their Ancestors and of the Colony in general for that of Episcopacy.372
The political power of the Proprietor was often offset by the Quakers, but when the two interests combined, the result was worrisome.
Notwithstanding the Prop:[rietor]y influence before spoken of, there is a certain Quaker Int:[eres]t which operates much against the Proprietor in land causes in the Courts of Common law, where the Jury frequently give verdicts against the opinion of the judges. In the house of Reps the Leaders of the Quaker party are often of the Proprietory likewise. All general questions and points are carried by the Quakers: that is, by their union they defeat the operations of all other sects in questions which any way relate to or may in the end affect religious concerns.—But they are very public-spirited.373
Like Franklin, Quincy feared what he saw of the “proprietary influence,”374 hence his observations about a “sovereignty of North America” for the “Penn, Baltimore or Fairfax families” at the conclusion of the Southern Journal.375 On the other hand, the Quakers and the Moravians opposed a militia, another potential problem for the colonial resistance.
There is no militia in the prov:[ince] and of course no seeking after petty commissions, etc.—The advantages and disadvantages of this is a topick of doubtful disputation:—we shall never all think alike on this head.—Many of the Quakers and all of the Moravians hold defensive war lawful; offensive otherwise.376
But, all in all, Pennsylvania appealed deeply to Quincy’s Whig faith. “There is … throughout the whole province among the husbandmen a spirit of industry and useful improvement.”377 It was the natural capital of the colonies—a great concession from a Bostonian! “This city & prov:[ince] are in a most flourishing state: and if numbers of buildings, men, artificers, and trade is to settle the point, Philadelphia is the Metropolis of this Northern region.”378 And, most importantly for Quincy, there was an absence of the internal civil strife that was so worrisome in the Carolinas and Maryland. “The political state of Pennsylvania is, at this time, the calmest of any on the Continent.”379 Franklin would have been proud.
There is a sea of secondary accounts about the origins of the American Revolution, but relatively few accessible original sources.380 Among these, Quincy’s Southern Journal is remarkable for its candor, authenticity, breadth of interest and—dare I say it—sensitivity. As an evidentiary account, it certainly cannot be seen as “typical” or “representative,” because Quincy was none of these things. He was unusual, even as an example of his social class and his Whig ideology, because of his intelligence and perception. But the picture painted by the Southern Journal, like a remarkably original poem or sketch, remains a compelling insight to the world of the American patriots in 1773.
Quincy understood clearly the risks facing the colonial cause. The very challenge of the geography, the distances and the hardship so graphically described by the Southern Journal, worked against it. So did the separate evolution of the colonial governments, reinforced by these barriers. Even in the Carolinas, there was a wall between North and South. “There is very little, if any kind, of commerce or intercourse between the No[rth] and So[uth] prov of Carolina, and there is very little, if any more, of regard in the Inh[abitan]ts of the one Colony for those of the other.”381 Worse, Quincy witnessed the bitter disputes that divided the colonies internally. For example, there was the war between the Regulators and the Tryonists in the Carolinas, that pitted the coast against the back country. Then there was the “very bitter, important contest” over the clergy in Maryland382 and the “acrimony, virulence and unmannerly invective”383 between the Dulany and Carroll factions in the legislature. And there were the fierce family, class, and proprietorial disputes that divided Virginia and Pennsylvania. What Quincy saw of religious differences also concerned him deeply and what he saw of civic corruption or—as in North Carolina—actual lawlessness, concerned him even more. Finally, there was the horror of slavery, “the peculiar curse of this land.”384
Today we see the path to Revolution as inevitable, and its glorious success as preordained. Our predetermined evolutionary view of history, so popular with our Whig ancestors, sees to that. But the cards did not look that way to Quincy in 1773. British mistakes, “bad policy on the other side of the water,”385 was the strongest card in the colonial hand. The immediate danger of “a different policy,”386 a better British strategy, designed to divide the colonies against each other, and to exploit internal rivalries within each colony, seemed obvious to Quincy.387 The barriers were huge; the risk of failure, great.
It is popular for historians today to eschew what is called ‘diachronic’ history, and to prefer ‘synchronic’ history.388 ‘Diachronic’ is simply a fancy term for the old idea, popular with Whigs and lawyers, that we should trace important ideas and political forces as they develop through time—such as the link between the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Due Process Clause as interpreted today—and to invest these developments with a presumption of inevitability. Quincy himself, as a good Whig lawyer, thought and wrote that way.389 ‘Synchronic’ history, on the other hand, focuses intently on a particular point in time, and attempts to demonstrate the broad interaction of politics, ideology, social forces, law, religion, and other forces on that defined period.
The irony is that Quincy, the good Whig, produced, in the Southern Journal, a synchronic source beyond compare. Here is a snapshot of a crucial moment in time, the overture of the American Revolution, which incorporates geography, sociology, gender, race, religion, law, and politics, recorded by a sensitive, nuanced, and sophisticated mind. Now add the other surviving products of that mind, Quincy’s Political Commonplace Book (1770–1774), his Law Commonplace (1763), his Reports (1761–1772), and his London Journal (1774–1775), all being published as part of this five-volume Quincy Project, and you have a ‘synchronic’ historian’s dream.
But the most striking of that rich mix is the Southern Journal. It vividly demonstrates three things. First, how fortunate we are, as Americans, in our national identity. This is not just a question about the outcome of the Revolution, but, ultimately, about the survival of the Union itself—faced at its very core with the menace of slavery and inherently torn by geopolitical division. Quincy clearly foresaw all this danger in 1773.
Secondly, there was the countervailing strength of American notions of civic virtue, public dignity, and classical patriotism. These defined Quincy’s genteel political faith. Initially, these were the ideas, even the conceits, of a narrow elite. But their appeal grew to all classes, and, eventually, they drove the ideology of the American Revolution itself.
The most lasting impression, however, is one of cold courage, the cold courage with which patriots like Quincy faced the drama of our nation’s birth. Quincy risked his life in his voyage to Charleston to help overcome “the prevalent and extended ignorance of one colony of the concerns of another.”390 He risked his life again in his complicity with the colonial cause in Boston.391 He risked it again, and lost it, on his mission to London.392 This was without any reassurance that he was on one of history’s great winning teams. Rather, even at the moment of Quincy’s death, he only knew the hand of cards he described in the Southern Journal, the strengths and deep weaknesses of the patriot cause throughout the colonies. It was a dangerous, gambler’s hand.