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Selected Letters of John and Abigail Adams, 1774-1783

by John & Abigail Adams

“Dearest Friend”


1. John Adams

York,1 29 June, 1774.

I have a great deal of leisure, which I chiefly employ in scribbling, that my mind may not stand still or run back, like my fortune. There is very little business here, and David Sewall, David Wyer, John Sullivan and James Sullivan, and Theophilus Bradbury, are the lawyers who attend the inferior courts, and consequently, conduct the causes at the superior.

I find that the country is the situation to make estates by the law. John Sullivan, who is placed at Durham in New Hampshire, is younger both in years and practice than I am. He began with nothing, but is now said to be worth ten thousand pounds lawful money, his brother James allows five or six or perhaps seven thousand pounds, consisting in houses and lands, notes, bonds, and mortgages. He has a fine stream of water, with an excellent corn mill, saw mill, fulling mill, scythe mill, and others, in all six mills, which are both his delight and his profit. As he has earned cash in his business at the bar, he has taken opportunities to purchase farms of his neighbors, who wanted to sell and move out farther into the woods, at an advantageous rate, and in this way has been growing rich; under the smiles and auspices of Governor Wentworth, he has been promoted in the civil and military way, so that he is treated with great respect in this neighborhood.2

James Sullivan, brother of the other, who studied law under him, without any academical education (and John was in the same case), is fixed at Saco, alias Biddeford, in our province. He began with neither learning, books, estate, nor anything but his head and hands, and is now a very popular lawyer and growing rich very fast, purchasing great farms, etc., and a justice of the peace and a member of the General Court.

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