THE COLONIAL ARISTOCRACY
LET NO TRIFLING DIVERSION, OR AMUSEMENT . . . ; NO GIRL, NO gun, no cards, no flutes, no violins, no dress, no tobacco, no laziness, decoy you from your books."1
Writing this stern injunction in his diary, a young man starting life in Braintree, Massachusetts, in the 1750's, a young man destined to be the second President of the United States, was guarding himself against what he considered the growing laxity of the age in which he lived. For in his attitude toward amusements, in his discipline of himself, John Adams was very much the Puritan. The changes that had come over the habits of New England, and especially of what had become the New England aristocracy, were a cause for his anxious, although probably not prayerful, concern.
He was highly scornful of the fashionable vogue for frivolous and idle diversions. "Let others waste their bloom of life at the card or billiard table among rakes and fools." Nor could he tolerate the ball-room: "I never knew a dancer good for anything else." He did not go so far as to "conclude peremptorily against sending sons or daughters to dancing, or fencing, or music," but he declared emphatically that he would rather they should be "ignorant of them all than fond of any one of them."2
But John Adams was swimming against that strong tide which we have already seen beating against the crumbling rock of Puritan intolerance. The simple country folk of New England were asserting their right to play, the more wealthy and leisured class was even less restrained by earlier prejudice. Prosperity induced a more liberal attitude, and the barriers which once